Mark Twain, Business Man

Mark Twain, Business Man

Mark Twain, Business Man

Mark Twain, Business Man

Excerpt

Mark Twain was over seventy when he dictated to Albert Bigelow Paine the final installments of a rambling autobiography that he had started writing by hand in the Eighties, and continued at intervals thereafter. His idea was that this would be the first true autobiography ever written, but once he started talking his imagination took him in hand and facts were not allowed to cloud the document.

A portion of this dictation was published by Paine after Mark Twain's death, but the sections dealing with his experiences as a publisher were not printed until 1940, when they appeared as a chapter of Mark Twain in Eruption. In this part of his story, which he never reread and never wanted referred to again, Mark Twain attributes the failure of his publishing house, Charles L. Webster and Company, entirely to my father, Charles L. Webster -- who had retired six years before the failure occurred. I have a detailed record of the activities of the publishing house, one of the foremost in America, up to the time my father retired, a record in Mark Twain's own letters -- some four or five hundred of them -- written at the time the events he describes took place, or rather didn't take place. This collection of letters is the basis of the latter part of the present book.

Throughout his story of the publishing venture, Mark Twain kept in the background the real culprit -- the Paige Type-setting Machine, into which he poured the money made by the Webster Company. When, in a panic year, the publishing house, which had supported his family, his charities, and the typesetter, could no longer stand the drain, he held it responsible for the sins of the world -- his own and the typesetter's. Moreover, he has a way of referring to the "Webster" debts which suggests that his financial breakdown was due to my father. The truth is that my father had done the spadework in starting the publishing house and was head of it through its most successful . . .

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