Mark Twain’s Latest Invention, 1889
Mark Twain was the greatest ever American writer, as far as I’m concerned. Not only a genius-level author, he was a thinker, and a very funny man to boot. His mind was as independent of its time as far as that is possible – just read the incredible ending to The Mysterious Stranger, an attack on the hypocrisy of organised religion.
His mind was always on the go, and here, in the 1889 Manchester Courier, is the report of his latest invention, a self-pasting scrapbook. I have suddenly realised this is exactly what I need for my recipe scrapbook – a copy of River Song’s diary from Doctor Who that I used to paste in recipes I find from newspapers and magazines. I certainly identify with the “barrels and barrels of profanity” when finding my Pritt stick is “so hard it is only fit to eat.”
Here he is, in typically amusing fashion.
MARK TWAIN’S LATEST INVENTION
Not long ago, Mark Twain took the public into his confidence as to the achievements of a marvellous type-setting arrangement which he had devised. He now offers another boon to mankind in the shape of a scrap-book for newspaper cuttings, in which it is only necessary to wet the gummed columns in order to affix the cutting. The inventor modestly speaks of his achievement as follows: – “I hereby certify that during many years I was afflicted with cramps in my limbs, indigestion, salt rheum, enlargement of the liver, and periodic attacks of inflammatory rheumatism complicated with St Vitas’ dance, my sufferings being so great that for months at a time I was unable to stand upon my feet without assistance or speak the truth with it. But as soon as I had invented my self-pasting scrap-book and begun to use it in my own family, all these infirmities disappeared. In disseminating this universal healer among the world’s afflicted you are doing a noble work, and I sincerely hope you will get your reward – partly in the sweet consciousness of doing good, but the bulk of it in cash.” The following remarks are extracted from a letter to the publishers of the “notion”: – You know that when the average man wants to put something in his scrap-book he can’t find his paste – then he swears; or if he finds it, it is dried so hard it is only fit to eat – then he swears; if he uses mucilage, it mingles with the ink, and next year he can’t read his scrap – the result is barrels and barrels of profanity. If you still wish to publish this scrap-book of mine, I shall be willing. It is a sound moral work, and this will commend it to editors and clergymen, and, in fact, to all right-feeling people. If you want testimonials, I can get them, and of the best sort and from the best people. One of the most refined and cultivated young ladies in Hartford (daughter of a clergyman) told me herself, with grateful tears standing in her eyes, that since she began using my scrap-book she has not sworn a single oath. Truly yours, MARK TWAIN