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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 Out.

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 gracefully put.

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 elaborate train."

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 new:

"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 you.
BOX & PLANT,
Undertakers."

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 healed!

"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.
BRIDGET."

These washerwomen have no sentiment. I scorn valentines from washer women.



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, 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.


VINNIE REAM

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 ever more.



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