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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Robert Hirst <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 12 Apr 2005 17:20:13 -0700
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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>Given the way that the early SF DRAMATIC CHRONICLE operated, with
>reporters like Clemens writing anonymous squibs aimed at each other,
>I would agree that the note mentioned before is a typical jab, possibly
>total fiction, more likely based on seeing SLC and his friend weaving
>down the street after tippling a few.
>If smoking anything other than tobacco was something Sam might have done
>(and I have never seen any contemporary hint that he did), than opium
>than hashish would surely have been easier to get in San Francisco in 1865.

Well, you can lead a horse to water, but . . .

The Chronicle article is, of course, just such a "contemporary hint" that
Clemens smoked something besides tobacco. It's a mistake to characterize
its squibs as showing its reporters jabbing "at each other." Johns and
Clemens both worked for the Chronicle at this time, albeit on an informal
basis. They don't make fun of each other, their critical jibes are aimed
outward, at reporters like Albert Evans and other hapless, non-bohemian
types. There is no *evidence* that this report is "total fiction," let
alone that it is "more likely" a sighting of drunkenness. The person who
wrote it was on the scene, at the time, and made the simple point that the
"star" couldn't tell what the cause of intoxication was. It's a mistake to
assume that smoking hashish was even remotely as sinful as it is today
(hence no real cause for a "jab"-- the comic point of the item is the
confusion of the policeman). Until some evidence is produced that shows the
reporter was lying, or making it up, or misunderstanding the situation, his
report has more raw evidentiary value than a basketful of modern
skepticism. It is an uncontradicted eye-witness account, against which
nothing that I would call *evidence* has so far been mentioned. The only
thing more conclusive than a contemporary report like it would be Clemens's
own recollection of the facts, which we do not have. Evidence that he read
Ludlow, that he liked Ludlow, that Ludlow liked him, that he owned Ludlow's
book, that he did or didn't write in its margins, etc. etc. is all less
relevant and less powerful evidence than a report of an eye-witness, who
actually counted on the truth of what he wrote for the point of publishing
it in the first place. Satire which makes up the object of its ridicule is
more than a little dull....Not that I expect any of this to make the horse