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Mark Twain returned to American to find himself scarcely less than famous. His Alta and Tribune letters had been widely copied and were universally known. Not many Americans had traveled in those days, and they eagerly read about ancient lands. They had even read the sanctimonious drivel of certain doctors of theology who had been sent abroad by their “flocks” to see and report – what they carried with them rather than what they found in fact. Mark Twain’s letters had struck a new note. They had the ring of sincerity, truth. They destroyed sham where they found it, and they were sinfully readable. A Big Hartford publisher wanted to make a subscription book of them – the book which would be named The Innocents Abroad, or the New Pilgrim’s Progress, and make his fame secure
He went to Washington, ostensibly as Secretary to Senator Stewart, really to write Washington letters for New York papers. His next notebook begins:
Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.
Didn’t drink much on that ship – was like Congress – prohibit it save in committee rooms – carry it in demijohns and carry it out in demagogues.
Acquainted with General Grant – said I was glad to see him – he said I had the advantage of him.
Brief Impressions of Washington, Senators, and Congressmen
Washburn[e] of Ill. – gray, unshaved, fleshy a little.
Fernando Wood – iron-gray hair – white moustache.
Jas. Brooks – gray and spectacles.
Woodward (Dem.) of Pa. – bald, specs, unshaved.
Eldr[e]dge of Wis. – leading and malignant copperhead.
Alison of Iowa – sack-coat, light-blue pants – looks like a village law student – plays for handsome looks – 30 – hands in pockets – excessively ordinary-looking man – large flat foot – light handsome brown hair – youngest-looking member – essentially ornamental – stands around where woman can see him.
John Buckland (O.) – large bald, never says anything – clothes ungainly on his shapeless body.
Thad. Stevens – very deep eyes, sunken unshaven.
Cheeks, thin lips, long and strong mouth, long, large, sharp nose – whole face sunken and sharp, full of inequalities – dark wavy hair – Indian – club-footed – ablest man.
Logan – black eyebrows – long black implacable straight hair, without a merciful curve in it – big black moustache – pleasant-looking eye often – even makes bad jokes sometimes, but tigers play in a ponderous sort of way. Splendid war record – 15th army corps and Army of Tenn. – 1 of Sherman’s generals – better suited to war than making jokes.
Thomas of Md. – belongs to another age – Whig – old style – hermit in every way – woman-hater – lives up in the mountains along in N.W. Maryland – one of the oldest reps. – is a radical – white hair laid in folks – hair comes Washington forward over his forehead in 2 white converging waves over a bare worn rock.
Judge Shellabarger – able.
Bingham, Ohio – nervous, severe and ready debater.
Garfield – young, able and scholarly – was chief of Rosecrans staff – preacher
Care [ Cary] of Ohio (8 hour) witty speech – large face – a little full – Indian – long iron-gray hair turned back and not parted – heavy, large, portly man – shaven – long, thin, strong mouth – slow of movement – ponderous every way – his strong suit his persistence, no doubt.
Bingham, Conn. [Ohio] – eloquent – commands attention of House – silky very light hair, just touched with gray – kinky or rather curvy – turned back loosely so as to suggest, apparently with a harrow – large, high broad fore-
Head, slightly wrinkled – little gray whiskers – eyes that have a drawn appearance of having been strained to the focus of glasses – a sharp beak of a nose – chews nervously, and when gets fagged out poking around, sits down – is generally around elsewhere than in his seat.
Horace Maynard, Tenn. – one of purest men in Congress – Union from first – very gentlemanly, talented and fine speaker. Remarkable-looking man – very tall and very slim – long black hair, combed flat and behind ears gives him a trim, shrewd,, “cleared for action” old-style look. Indian. Pleasant look in face. Very little black moustache.
John D. Baldwin (of Mass.) – Prop. Worcester Spy – unblemished character – one of the best read men – very large – specs gold – light gray hair – dark goatee and moustache – patriarchal look.
Ben Butler – forward part of his bald skull looks raised like a water-blister – its boundaries at the sides and at its base in front is marked by deep creases – fat face – small dark moustache – considerable hair behind and on the side – one reliable eye. Is short and pursy – fond of standing up with hands in pants pockets and looking around to each speaker with the air of a man who has half a mind to crush them and yet is rather too indifferent. Butler is dismally and drearily homely, and when he smiles it is like the breaking of a hard winter.
Robinson, Brooklyn – hair kinky, thick, pretty long – in odd stripes of rich brown and silver – glossy. [Ed Note: One of the earliest Washington correspondents.]
One wishes these notes might continue – thumb-nail sketches – vivid likenesses. The break off short. Complications over the Alta let-
ters (their book use) seemed to make it advisable for their author to return to San Francisco. He decided to do his book there. If he made any notes of the outward voyage they are lost. He left early in 1868, arranged all matters with the Alta, finished his book, at top speed, lectured in San Francisco on the Quaker City trip, covered his old Nevada circuit and returned triumphantly with his manuscript by midsummer.