I guess we've got a perfect machine at last. We never break a type, now, and the new device for enabling the operator to touch the last letters and justify the line simultaneously works, to a charm. With love to you both, MARK
The year closed gloomily enough. The type-setter seemed to be perfected, but capital for its manufacture was not forthcoming. The publishing business of Charles L. Webster & Co. was returning little or no profit. Clemens's mother had died in Keokuk at the end of October, and his wife's mother, in Elmira a month later. Mark Twain, writing a short business letter to his publishing manager, Fred J. Ball, closed it: "Merry Xmas to you!--and I wish to God I could have one myself before I die."
LETTERS, 189I, TO HOWELLS, MRS. CLEMENS AND OTHERS. RETURN TO LITERATURE. AMERICAN CLAIMANT. LEAVING HARTFORD. EUROPE. DOWN THE RHINE
Clemens was still not without hope in the machine, at the beginning of the new year (1891) but it was a hope no longer active, and it presently became a moribund. Jones, on about the middle of February, backed out altogether, laying the blame chiefly on Mackay and the others, who, he said, had decided not to invest. Jones "let his victim down easy" with friendly words, but it was the end, for the present, at least, of machine financiering.
It was also the end of Mark Twain's capital. His publishing business was not good. It was already in debt and needing more money. There was just one thing for him to do and he did it at once, not stopping to cry over spilt milk, but with good courage and the old enthusiasm that never failed him, he returned to the trade of authorship. He dug out half- finished articles and stories, finished them and sold them, and within a week after the Jones collapse he was at work on a novel based an the old Sellers idea, which eight years before he and Howells had worked into a play. The brief letter in which he reported this news to Howells bears no marks of depression, though the writer of it was in his fifty-sixth year; he was by no means well, and his financial prospects were anything but golden.
HARTFORD, Feb. 24, '91 DEAR HOWELLS,--Mrs. Clemens has been sick abed for near two weeks, but is up and around the room now, and gaining. I don't know whether she has written Mrs. Howells or not--I only know she was going to--and will yet, if she hasn't. We are promising ourselves a whole world of pleasure in the visit, and you mustn't dream of disappointing us.
Does this item stir an interest in you? Began a novel four days ago, and this moment finished chapter four. Title of the book
"Colonel Mulberry Sellers. American Claimant Of the Great Earldom of Rossmore' in the Peerage of Great Britain."