Mark Twain's letter
The Chicago Republican, February 19, 1868
Final Defeat of the Impeachment Project in the House.
How to Describe a Fashionable Party -- Some New Terms.
Mark's Valentines -- Discomforts of Too Much Popularity.
How Miss Vinnie Ream Got Into the Capitol, and Won't be Turned
Special Correspondence of the Chicago Republican.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14.
In this city, Feb. 13, at his lodgings in the chamber of the
House Reconstruction Committee, our beloved brother, IMPEACHMENT DIED.
The malady of deceased was general debility. A short time ago his
health had improved so much that a bright hope cheered the land
that he would soon walk forth healthful and strong; but alas! we
know not what a day may bring forth. A great fear came upon his
physicians in the crisis of his disease. The weariness of watch-
ing overpowered the nurses, so that they fell asleep and neglect-
ed him -- and lo! a relapse!
Then came the physicians to his bed side again with a new confi-
dence that had been born to them of late, and said, Behold, we
have other samples, that be of greater worth; we will give these
unto our brother, and he shall be healed. And even as they had
said, so also went they about to do.
And it came to pass that about the third hour, certain of the
nurses that watched him, even Mrs. Farnsworth, and also Mrs.
Boutwell, and also Mrs. Stevens, the same that is called Thad,
spoke unto the other nurses, saying hearken unto us, ye that
watch with us, even Mrs. Bingham, and also Mrs. Beaman, and also
Mrs. Paine, and also Mrs. Hulburd, and also Mrs. Brooks, and
likewise Mrs. Beck: The physicians and the people have faith that
the new medicines wherewith they have provided us, can heal Him
that suffereth before us here; therefore, let us make haste to do
with them as they have bidden us. But straightway Mrs. Bingham,
being sore afraid, cried with a loud voice, saying: Mind not the
people, O ye of little nous! the doctors desire not that he shall
live, for they be troubled in spirit and tormented day and night
with a mighty fear. Are not we servants of the doctors, who have
set this work for us to do, and is it not meet that we should do
their will? Stay the hand -- set thou the medicine upon the table
and let him die! And so, these six, that were Mrs. Bingham, being
stronger than they that were with Mrs. Stevens, called Thad,
suffered not the medicine to pass the lips of him that lay sick.
And in the self-same hour he died.
So endeth the second farce. The ancient school-boy phrase best
describes the position of the Congressional bodies in this matter: "One's afraid and 't'other darn't."
Senator Chandler's Party
The event of the week, in the social circle, was the entertain-
ment at Senator Chandler's residence, to celebrate the "coming
out" of his daughter, Miss Chandler. It was very brilliant. I am
not easily overcome by pure gorgeousness, because I am too much
accustomed to it in my own palace; I feel deeply, it is true, yet
I inflexibly crush those emotions and refrain from gushing even
in times when it would be the greatest relief to me to gush. But
when I find another man expressing exactly what I felt, and
exactly what I would have expressed if I had yielded to the
impulse to gush, I always borrow what that man says, and thank
him kindly for saying it, and give to his paper due and proper
credit, with the compliments of the undersigned. This paragraph
is from the Chronicle:
"The Senator's large and elegant parlors, newly furnished, and in
exquisite taste, with rare old paintings on the walls, were
highly decorated with exotics of chaste and highly original
designs. The brilliant scarlet leaves of the Mexican Poinsetta,
with its golden center; the pure white, pink, and variegated
camelias; the fragrant heliotrope and the modest violet; the
gentle primrose and the drooping and graceful fern, were grouped
together and arranged in vases and rustic baskets, while the
niches in the walls of the staircase were tastefully decorated
with camelia trees in full bloom -- presenting, with their pure
colors and the green and waxen leaves, a most agreeable contrast
with the blazing light from the numerous jets of gas that illumi-
nated a scene of wonderous splendor."
That is all correctly stated, and with a spirit which the subject
was in every way entitled to. I do not find fault with "exotics,
of highly original design ;" because I know that the Deity de-
signed them, and that to call attention in an influential daily
newspaper to the happy originality of the conception, was a
compliment which was as well deserved as it was well meant and
I add the following paragraph because the ladies of the West must
surely take a particular interest in knowing how their represen-
tatives dress at the capital of the country, and because I know
so well that they take a thrilling general interest in the fash-
ions that obtain in this or any other city in the land. The
technicalities that bloom so bewilderingly in these lines are
altogether too abstruse for me, but I have no doubt at all that
they are accurately set down. Nobody could dash off the curious
phraseology of millinery science in that kind of style, but a
person who was master of his subject even in its nicest details:
"Mrs. Chandler was gracefully arrayed in a dress of the finest
taste -- a heavy rep pearl colored silk, empress waist, short
sleeves, and low corsage, trimmed with a narrow piping of white
satin, bordered with deep fringes composed of crystal beads. Her
extensive train was trimmed a la passe menterie, with folds of
the same material of the dress, cut in points and trimmed with
pure white satin, with fold edging, the voluminous skirt arranged
in the same manner. She wore a handsome set of pearls, her hair
dressed with fusettes in front, rolled off her forehead with
French twist and numerous plaited coils, and, surmounting, a
diadem of May roses, with long pendants of buds and green leaves.
Miss Chandler, a fair brunette, with golden locks, which were
slightly powdered with silver, wore a chignon, over which depend-
ed a small bunch of curls, and the only ornament connected there-
with was a narrow band of gold and a small piece of black lace
worn on the top of the head. She wore gold jewelry, with a heavy,
short necklace, with charm attached -- a style that is rapidly
coming into vogue. Her dress was a tunic of bright, rose-colored
silk. Empress waist, short sleeves, trimmed with a rich, deep
fringe of a similar shade, looped up on either side over a skirt
of white silk of the most elegant description, and, of course, an
A "fair brunette with golden locks" is a combination which is as
rare as it is necessarily striking and picturesque. I never saw a
"fair" brunette in my life. And I never saw a brunette with
golden locks, either. I think there must be some mistake about
this. If so, no doubt it was owing to the hurry of writing up the
entertainment for the morning paper. One has not time to be very
particular under such circumstances. I know a good deal about
that from experience.
St. Valentine s Day.
For the last sixty years I have never seen this day approach
without emotion. It was generally too deep for utterance, too.
The day always brings me an armful of dainty notes from young
women whom I have stricken with my destructive eye. Eyes, would
have been more proper. I generally bring down a couple at a
time . Strabismus enables me to do that. I usually receive notes
with pictures in them; pictures of deformed shoemakers; pictures
of distorted blacksmiths, pictures of cadaverous undertakers;
pictures of reporters taking items at a fire and stealing
clothes; and oftenest, pictures of asses, with ears longer than
necessary, writing letters to newspapers. These letters are
usually directed in an execrable masculine hand. The pictures and
the handwriting are both intended to conceal the real passion
that is consuming the young women who send them -- but they fail.
I have not lived three-quarters of a century for nothing.
I counted on a renewal of these little attentions today, and
suffered no disappointment. Twenty-seven valentines are to hand,
thus far, but none of them have pictures in them. They are all of
a new design and very peculiar. Some of the more cautious young
women have appended masculine names in place of their own. It may
be well enough to offer a specimen or two since their fashion is
"SIR: Our metallic burial cases have taken the premium at six
State Fairs in this country, and also at the great Paris Exposi-
tion. Parties who have used them have been in every instance
charmed with them. Not one has yet entered a complaint. Our
walnut and mahogany coffins are the delight of the people. A
large stock kept constantly on hand, and orders promptly filled
with pleasure. Families supplied at reduced rates. Articles in
our line may be exchanged if not satisfactory. We would be glad
to secure your custom, and shall be greatly pleased to hear from
BOX & PLANT,
I hope these parties will manage somehow to wait till they do
hear from me. I always did hate to be in a hurry in matters of
business. But, really, some girl's lacerated heart is hidden
under that deftly-worded valentine.
Here is another:
"SIR: Our patent Cancer-Eradicator arouses the admiration of all
whose happy fortune it has been to be in a condition to use it.
Nothing can with stand its enchanting influence. Excrescences of
all kinds upon the body disappear before it as by magic. If you
have warts, if you have cancers, if you have a wen, come and be
"We fervently hope to receive your custom.
BLISTER & CARVE, Patentees"
I fervently hope you won't. So far, I have no artificial attrac-
tions such as wens, cancers, and warts, and am satisfied to
remain homely. But that whole valentine is nothing but the trans-
parent covering to some girl's breaking heart. Let it break. Mine
has been broken often enough -- it don't hurt me. Once more:
"SIR: We beg to recommend to you our patent double-back action,
chronometer-balance, incombustible wooden legs. You will find
them superior to anything in the market. The dismantled soldiers
of our beloved country are extravagant in their praises of them.
Give them a trial. You cannot regret it. Be pleased to forward us
your measure at once, and let us furnish you with an outfit.
PEG & HOOP, Proprietors."
It pains me to decline, but I shall have to do it. I don't want
any "outfit." If it were a patent head, we could trade -- but as
it is, you had better go after Weston. But what is it that those
mysterious wooden legs so ingeniously conceal, in reality?
Blighted affection. It is hardly worth while for this young woman
to try to deceive me with her poor fraudulent wooden legs. I see
through the flimsy ruse -- blighted affection is behind it.
The remainder of the twenty-seven offer tinware, and stationery,
and baker's bread, and grave-stones, and chewing gum, and patent
varnish, and real estate, and railroad literature, dry goods,
harness, Spaulding's glue, ready made clothing, plantation bit-
ters, and a dozen other commodities -- all so many veils where-
with to hide the fatal admiration that burns in the bosoms of the
young women who have sent them. They must perish. Others have
gone before. Let them travel the same old road. They cannot lose
the way. They will find it pretty well "blazed."
But this last one, which has just come in, I feel is fraught with
a world of happiness for me. It -- it says:
"SIR: You better pay for your washing.
These washerwomen have no sentiment. I scorn valentines from
Retrenchment breeds strange legislation. Or rather, the weak
things that are done in its name breed it. They couid not impeach
the President -- because, as Mr. Stevens says -- they were
afraid. But what of it? They have triumphed anyhow. They have won
a dazzling victory. For they have taken away his private Secre-
taries! It was wonderful strategy. He cannot write any more long
letters to Gen. Grant, now. He cannot spin out any more inter-
minable messages to Congress. He will not find the time. He will
have to cut everything down to the Scriptural yes, yes, and nay,
This measure was certainly undignified. It does not become a
Congress that has been battling with the colossal artillery of
impeachment to descend to throwing mud. Such conduct is neither
royal, republican, nor democratic; it is simply boys' play. It
isn't worth while to say that the reduction of the President's
clerical force was made in the virtuous interest of retrenchment,
for the stupidest of us all know better than that. Its moving
spring was an unworthy and an ungraceful little spite. They might
as well have estimated the capabilities of the Chief Magistrate's
kitchen force, and discharged a cook or two. There is not any
wisdom in this kind of warfare. The people cannot applaud it.
Everybody is willing to see a fair stand-up fight between the
President and his Congressional master, but nobody is willing to
see either of them descend to scratching and hair-pulling. These
parties stand for the United States. They represent the American
nation, and it is not a nation that fights in that way.
This is the shrewdest politician of them all. With a mild talent
for sculpture, but with hardly as much claim upon the patronage
of the Government as had even the poorest of the artists that
have canvassed and frescoed our beautiful capitol with their
curious nightmares at a liberal so-much an acre (they painted by
the acre, likely), she has procured from Congress an interminable
contract to build a bronze statue of President Lincoln for ten
thousand dollars. That is well enough, for she can build statues
as well as those other parties can swab frescoes -- a remark
which cannot by any possibility be tortured into the semblance of
a compliment -- but that she should succeed in getting hold of
and hanging on to a choice chamber in the crowded Capitol, where-
in to build Mr. Lincoln, when a tract of ground, four or five
times as large as England, together with its tax-paying popula-
tion of two hundred thousand souls, is trying to get into that
Capitol, are perfectly aware that they ought to be allowed to
enter there and yet cannot succeed, is a very, very, very, very
interesting mystery to the subscriber. Really, does it not look a
little singular that nine accredited delegates of nine great
Territories should be obliged to stand out in the cold, month
after month, in order that pretty, and talkative, and winning
little Miss Vinnie Ream may have a sumptuously furnished chamber
in the Capitol to build her Mr. Lincoln in? I ask this in no
spirit of vindictiveness, for I surely bear Miss Vinnie Ream no
malice. I just simply ask it as a man and a brother.
I said she was the shrewdest politician of them all -- and verily
she is. The Government never gave her permission to bring her
mud, and her naked, scandalous plaster models, and set up her
little shop in the Temple of Liberty, and go to building Mr.
Lincoln there. No, she just talked pretty, girlish talk to some
of those impotent iron-clad old politicians -- Congressmen, of
course -- and got out her mud and made busts of some of the
others; and she kept on in this fashion until she over-mastered
them all with her charming little ways, and they told her to go,
take a room in the Capitol, build Mr. Lincoln, and be happy.
She took a room. It had defects that interfered with the proper
building of Mr. Lincoln, and she laid siege to those Congressmen
again. In the goodness of their hearts, and the general feeble-
ness of their firmness, they compassed a certain House Committee
round about and delivered them into the hands of Vinnie Ream. She
took their fine committee room, and they went elsewhere.
But here lately those nine delegates from the Territories have
talked so plainly of the discourtesy that is being shown them in
having allowed no resting-place in the Capitol, that at last the
Congressmen have felt obliged to look around and see what could
be done in their behalf. What could they do? Manifestly, since
every solitary room in the building was already occupied in a
legitimate manner, except the one occupied by Miss Ream, there
was nothing left to do but go after that. They little knew their
antagonist. They went -- and found on the door this notice, just
pasted up: "Miss Ream is absent from the city -- for two weeks!"
by which time the storm will have blown over, the Congressmen
will have forgotten it, and the nine delegates become reconciled
to the open air, and hopeless of ever getting that storm awakened
again. It would take but little to turn my sympathies in favor of
the Artful Dodger.
That studio is hers yet, and I think, may be, it will so remain.
And her little, one-legged broken armed, battered-nose mud gods
and crippled plaster angels will remain there also; and like wise
the awful apparition of Mr. Lincoln, naked as mud could make him,
which she has built up in the corner behind a screen, will remain
there, too, to gaze reproachfully upon its swollen and mutilated
hand and frighten away discontented Territorial delegates for
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