[Hartford, Connecticut]: October 21, 1874. 2 pages on 1 sheet measuring 4.5x7 inches. Minor toning; fold-lines with small splitting; strong and legible signature “Mark.” Very Good condition.
Original autograph letter signed by Twain to publisher Elisha Bliss regarding the work of Louise Chandler Moulton, an author and literary critic whose Boston salon was frequented by writers including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Regarding her book Some Women’s Hearts, which featured stories centered on female characters and their interior lives, Twain writes in full: “Friend Bliss: Mrs. Moulton is a pleasant body & one you might write directly to, or go & see her if you prefer. If there’s nothing in it, there’s no harm done. I would like to see them all quit the ‘trade’—still, if they prefer to stick to the ‘trade’ nobody is much damaged but themselves. I hope you will sell a pile of Howells’s book when it comes out.--& Harte’s. The effect will be good. Mrs. Moulton is still stringing out her summer at Pomfret, Conn. We are going to try to make the play run 200 night in New York. Yrs Mark.”
Roughly a week before this letter, on October 12 and 13 of 1874, Twain and Moulton had exchanged a copy of Some Women’s Hearts and corresponded about it. Moulton, a family friend as well as a noted book critic for the New York Tribune and the Boston Sunday Herald, had asked Twain to “flatter her” by reading the book. And in his tongue-in-cheek response, Twain had balanced condescension with flattery regarding her stories of female characters desirous of adventure and life beyond the home (“Your dainty volume came last night…I was so touched my voice would have done me treachery, & I find it necessary to be manly & ferocious”). This letter shows a similar balance. Twain on the one hand is flippant about Moulton’s work and women generally within the trade; but at the same time, he provides Bliss with multiple methods for contacting Moulton, praises her character, mentions her name among those of male authors Bliss is promoting, and circles back to the woman author at the end. Moulton’s influence as a critic and salon host may have urged Twain to take her work seriously, and Some Women’s Hearts was published by Roberts Brothers later that year.
An interesting and important glimpse into a female author’s place within Twain’s literary circle. (Item #1814)