To Mary E. (Mollie) Clemens.
To Mary E. (Mollie) Clemens
12? September 1861 — Carson City, Nev. Terr.
(MS, damage emended: NPV)
well, although I believe I never had the pleasure of her acquaintance,) and left for California the same day; and I told him plainly that I did not believe it, and wouldn't, if he
w swore it — for I didn't, Mollie, and did[n't] think Billy could be as stupid as that. On the contrary, I thought he was the most talented boy that Keokuk had ever produced. But when I got back, Orion confirmed Billy's statement — so, you see, I am forced to believe that — (that they are both liars.) If I ever were to marry, I should would certainly stay at home a week, even if the Devil were in town with a writ for my arrest.
Why don't Ma and Pamela write? Please kiss Jennie for me —
(P. S. — And tell her when she is fifteen years old, I will kiss her myself —)
(P. S. — If she is good-looking.)
P. S. — Don't get "huffy."
P. S. — Write.
Sam. L. Clemens
1. Clemens knew William Horace Clagett (1838-1901) while Clagett was studying law in Keokuk in 1856 and 1857. Admitted to the bar in September 1858, Clagett "practiced law in Keokuk and made his first political speeches for [Stephen] Douglas in the campaign of 1860. In the spring of 1861 he was married to Miss Mary E. Hart. On the day of his marriage he, with his brother George, started across the plains for California. He had a hard trip across the plains, and finding nothing better to do, went to work cutting and hauling wood near Dayton, Nevada" (Dixon, 249-50; see also Andrew J. Marsh, 698). Clagett briefly practiced law in Carson City before accompanying Clemens to the Humboldt district in December 1861, eventually settling in Unionville. Mary Clagett (b. 1840 or 1841) was the daughter of a Keokuk merchant. In the fall of 1862 she accompanied Mollie Clemens to Nevada when both women came to rejoin their husbands (Keokuk Census, 48; MEC to OC, 1 Sept 62, CU-MARK). Clemens's remarks on marriage may have been evoked in part by a 2 August letter in which Mollie informed Orion of her sister's imminent wedding (see the next letter, n. 6). Mollie's letter reached Carson City on 9 September, and Clemens could have seen it on the twelfth, the estimated date of his return from Aurora.
2. Jennie Clemens's sixth birthday, on 14 September 1861, presumably was the occasion for Clemens's "kiss" and the joking that follows.