Monday, November 29, 2010

Mark Twain pens a letter of regret to Peirce College's founder

It's not often that you want to tell everyone that someone rejected you. But when that someone is Mark Twain, and you have the letter of regret he dropped in the mail in 1885, it suddenly seems like something worth sharing. :)

And since the first of three volumes of the "Autobiography of Mark Twain" was just published this month, we think there's no time like the present to share the letter he wrote to Peirce 125 years ago.

In the spring of 1885, Peirce founder Thomas May Peirce wrote to Samuel Langhorne Clemens requesting that he speak at the College's commencement ceremony. Clemens was a famous American author who went by a much more recognizable pen name -- Mark Twain. In 1885, just one year had passed since he'd published "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

Unfortunately, "the father of American literature" (as William Faulkner called him) was unavailable for the speaking engagement. He explained as much in a letter addressed to the Peirce founder that has become a piece of the College's history. As "keeper of the archives," I'm sharing it with you!

Read on for the full text, and download a copy of the original document by clicking the image to the right.

Hartford, Apl. 7/85 
Thomas May Peirce,
Dear Sir:
Yes, unfortunately I have plans for June of the utmost definiteness, + they will permit no absences from my desk + work -- which latter has been thrown behind hand by my late 4-months' campaign on the platform. If the thing acquired were a mere "reading," such as I do on the public platform, we should doubtless have no trouble as to price, if I were situated otherwise than I am as to time; but an address is another matter. I would deliver none but one which should satisfy me, personally, -- + such a piece of work would require time + pains. The price I should charge would be simply an outrage, + we couldn't agree. But I am wandering from the point, since matters are as set forth on my other page. 
Truly Yours, 
S. L. Clemens