Mark Twain in the late night streets of Washington [Mental Telegraphy: A Manuscript With a History.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, (Dec. 1891) p. 96.]

Mark Twain, 1907. Library of Congress

Mark Twain, 1907. Library of Congress

Nighttime always haunted Twain’s restless psyche, keeping him awake while others slept. In his seventies he wrote, “[I]n my age, as in my youth, night brings me many a deep remorse. I realize that from the cradle up I have been like the rest of the race – never quite sane in the night.”[i] Writing in Harper’s Monthly Magazine in 1891, Twain recalled a late summer evening spent in Washington in the 1870s when he was then staying at the Arlington Hotel. In his room, he “read and smoked until ten o’clock; then finding I was not yet sleepy, I thought I would take a breath of fresh air. So I went forth in the rain, and tramped through one street after another in an aimless and enjoyable way.”[ii] Although allegedly undirected and careless in his wandering, Twain “knew that Mr. O —-, a friend of mine, was in town, and I wished I might run across him; but I did not know where he was stopping.”[iii] Around midnight the streets were deserted and to avoid his lonesomeness Twain “stepped into a cigar shop far up the Avenue, and remained there fifteen minutes, listening to some bummers discussing the national politics.”[iv] Suddenly a “spirit of prophecy” came over Twain and he knew that if he walked outside he would run into Mr. O, which he did.[v]


[i] Twain, Mark. “Chapters From My Autobiography. XVII” North American Review, May 3, 1907, p. 7.

[ii] Twain, Mark. “Mental Telegraphy: A Manuscript With a History.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine [Dec. 1891], p. 96.

[iii] ibid

[iv] ibid

[v] Ibid

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