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Amended Obituaries

Story


TO THE EDITOR:


Sir,--I am approaching seventy; it is in sight; it is only three
years away. Necessarily, I must go soon. It is but matter-of-course
wisdom, then, that I should begin to set my worldly house in
order now, so that it may be done calmly and with thoroughness,
in place of waiting until the last day, when, as we have often seen,
the attempt to set both houses in order at the same time has been
marred by the necessity for haste and by the confusion and waste
of time arising from the inability of the notary and the ecclesiastic
to work together harmoniously, taking turn about and giving each
other friendly assistance--not perhaps in fielding, which could
hardly be expected, but at least in the minor offices of keeping
game and umpiring; by consequence of which conflict of interests
and absence of harmonious action a draw has frequently resulted
where this ill-fortune could not have happened if the houses had been
set in order one at a time and hurry avoided by beginning in season,
and giving to each the amount of time fairly and justly proper to it.

In setting my earthly house in order I find it of moment that I
should attend in person to one or two matters which men in my
position have long had the habit of leaving wholly to others,
with consequences often most regrettable. I wish to speak of only
one of these matters at this time: Obituaries. Of necessity,
an Obituary is a thing which cannot be so judiciously edited by any hand
as by that of the subject of it. In such a work it is not the Facts
that are of chief importance, but the light which the obituarist
shall throw upon them, the meaning which he shall dress them in,
the conclusions which he shall draw from them, and the judgments
which he shall deliver upon them. The Verdicts, you understand:
that is the danger-line.

In considering this matter, in view of my approaching change,
it has seemed to me wise to take such measures as may be feasible,
to acquire, by courtesy of the press, access to my standing obituaries,
with the privilege--if this is not asking too much--of editing,
not their Facts, but their Verdicts. This, not for the present profit,
further than as concerns my family, but as a favorable influence
usable on the Other Side, where there are some who are not friendly
to me.

With this explanation of my motives, I will now ask you of your
courtesy to make an appeal for me to the public press. It is my
desire that such journals and periodicals as have obituaries of me
lying in their pigeonholes, with a view to sudden use some day,
will not wait longer, but will publish them now, and kindly send
me a marked copy. My address is simply New York City--I have no
other that is permanent and not transient.

I will correct them--not the Facts, but the Verdicts--striking out
such clauses as could have a deleterious influence on the Other Side,
and replacing them with clauses of a more judicious character.
I should, of course, expect to pay double rates for both the omissions
and the substitutions; and I should also expect to pay quadruple
rates for all obituaries which proved to be rightly and wisely worded
in the originals, thus requiring no emendations at all.

It is my desire to leave these Amended Obituaries neatly bound
behind me as a perennial consolation and entertainment to my family,
and as an heirloom which shall have a mournful but definite
commercial value for my remote posterity.

I beg, sir, that you will insert this Advertisement (1t-eow, agate,
inside), and send the bill to

Yours very respectfully.

Mark Twain.


P.S.--For the best Obituary--one suitable for me to read in public,
and calculated to inspire regret--I desire to offer a Prize,
consisting of a Portrait of me done entirely by myself in pen and ink
without previous instructions. The ink warranted to be the kind
used by the very best artists.












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