New York: 11 October 1903.
5 pp. pen and ink on laid paper, folded bifolium letterhead of The Grosvenor, Fifth Ave. & Tenth St., and an added sheet. 1 vols. 8vo. ‘gone where the woodbine twineth’. Fine. With mailing envelope addressed in Clemens’ hand (soiled). In custom green half morocco case Item #304226
Excellent and substantial Clemens letter, to John Y. MacAlister (1856-1925), Librarian and Secretary of the Royal Society of Medicine, and a pioneer in education for librarians in Britain. MacAlister was a friend Clemens and a fellow investor in Plasmon.
Reading in part:
“Thank you for ever so much for the statistics. … Whenever my dividend is ready, let it go to Florence. I shall be able to give you the address about 10 days hence, I think … We learned by cable 4 or 5 days agao that we had secured a villa … All superstitions fail in a dry time. I have long been intending to write you & Bergheim, but superstition forbade me until I should succeed or fail in my effort to concentrate all my books in a single house. I give up. … I was dazed, dead, & of no use to you & your boy, when I ought to have been alert and alive, & brimming with interest and comradeship — well, I am still in the same situation. It has lasted more than 4 months, & still those Harpers are obstructing the settlement”
Clemens outlines the basic terms of the agreement: “Harper & I were to buy from Bliss my contracts in 8 books for $50,000, I paying half … & Harper the same. … Harper to guarantee me not less than $25,000 a year for five years.” There was a catch in the fine print concerning ownership of certain titles in the event of failure. Clemens was pragmatic: “Mr Rogers refuses to listen to that parenthesis up there but I told him this morning that if they would enlarge the guaranty to a fair & just sum, say $40,000 a year, so as to force them to use some energy, I shouldn’t object to that clause. … I have found to my cost that with publishers it is No guaranty, no work. The guaranty proposed by the Harpers is only half as large as it ought to be.”
A notable Clemens letter, with allusions to his wife’s ailing health and their move to the Villa di Quarto in Florence and his ill-fated investments in Plasmon with Henry Butters, “it is $32,500 gone where the woodbine twineth, I think”. More significantly, there is mentions of his friend and adviser H.H. Rogers, and details of the major publishing agreement of Clemens’ final decade. It was in Florence that he began dictating the Autobiography.
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