posted by Heather McShane

Letters

June 7, 2010

posted by Heather McShane

I used to write many letters. I heard rumors about the U.S. Postal Service recently, and so I am starting again, beginning with what I have and what I owe. Here is what I made this morning:

                                           
posted by Caroline Picard; more of this correspondence can be seen 
(including letter no. 2 and so on) going here. 

einstein-l

                                             Albert Einstein
                                             Old Grove Rd.
                                             Nassau Point
                                             Peconic, Long Island

                                             August 2nd 1939

F.D. Roosevelt
President of the United States
White House
Washington, D.C.

Sir:

      Some recent work by E.Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been com-

municated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uran-

ium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the im-

mediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem

to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part

of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring

to your attention the following facts and recommendations:

      In the course of the last four months it has been made probable -

through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in

America - that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction

in a large mass of uranium,by which vast amounts of power and large quant-

ities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears

almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.

      This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs,

and it is conceivable - though much less certain - that extremely power-

ful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this

type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy

the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However,

such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by

air.
                                 -2-

      The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate

quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia.

while the most important source of uranium is Belgian Congo.

      In view of the situation you may think it desirable to have more

permanent contact maintained between the Administration and the group

of physicists  working on chain reactions in America. One possible way

of achieving this might be for you to entrust with this task a person

who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an inofficial

capacity. His task might comprise the following:

      a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the

further development, and put forward recommendations for Government action,

giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of uran-

ium ore for the United States;

      b) to speed up the experimental work,which is at present being car-

ried on within the limits of the budgets of University laboratories, by

providing funds, if such funds be required, through his contacts with y

private persons who are willing to make contributions for this cause,

and perhaps also by obtaining the co-operation of industrial laboratories

which have the necessary equipment.

      I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium

from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should

have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground

that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizs├Ącker, is

attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the

American work on uranium is now being repeated.

                                            Yours very truly,
                                             signature
                                            (Albert Einstein)

Writings on California

November 9, 2008

Because I’m out west, I suppose, it struck me that it’d be worth finding a few places where folks had talked California. Afterall, it’s a strange place with it’s own culture, Mark Twain was here (you can read some of his letters here) in the 1800’s.

mark_twain_es

To Bret Harte, in San Francisco:

WESTMINSTER HOTEL, May 1, 1867. DEAR BRET,–I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well and hope these few lines will find you enjoying the same God’s blessing.

The book is out, and is handsome. It is full of damnable errors of grammar and deadly inconsistencies of spelling in the Frog sketch because I was away and did not read the proofs; but be a friend and say nothing about these things. When my hurry is over, I will send you an autograph copy to pisen the children with.

I am to lecture in Cooper Institute next Monday night. Pray for me.

We sail for the Holy Land June 8. Try to write me (to this hotel,) and it will be forwarded to Paris, where we remain 10 or 15 days.

Regards and best wishes to Mrs. Bret and the family. Truly Yr Friend MARK.

To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:

WESTMINSTER HOTEL, May 1, 1867. DEAR FOLKS,–Don’t expect me to write for a while. My hands are full of business on account of my lecture for the 6th inst., and everything looks shady, at least, if not dark. I have got a good agent–but now after we have hired Cooper Institute and gone to an expense in one way or another of $500, it comes out that I have got to play against Speaker Colfax at Irving Hall, Ristori, and also the double troupe of Japanese jugglers, the latter opening at the great Academy of Music–and with all this against me I have taken the largest house in New York and cannot back water. Let her slide! If nobody else cares I don’t.

I’ll send the book soon. I am awfully hurried now, but not worried. Yrs. SAM.

The Cooper Union lecture proved a failure, and a success. When it became evident to Fuller that the venture was not going to pay, he sent out a flood of complimentaries to the school-teachers of New York City and the surrounding districts. No one seems to have declined them. Clemens lectured to a jammed house and acquired much reputation. Lecture proposals came from several directions, but he could not accept them now. He wrote home that he was eighteen Alta letters behind and had refused everything. Thos. Nast, the cartoonist, then in his first fame, propped a joint tour, Clemens to lecture while he, Nast, would illustrate with “lightning” sketches; but even this could not be considered now. In a little while he would sail, and the days were overfull. A letter written a week before he sailed is full of the hurry and strain of these last days.

To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:

WESTMINSTER HOTEL, NEW YORK, June 1, 1867. DEAR FOLKS,–I know I ought to write oftener (just got your last,) and more fully, but I cannot overcome my repugnance to telling what I am doing or what I expect to do or propose to do. Then, what have I left to write about? Manifestly nothing.

It isn’t any use for me to talk about the voyage, because I can have no faith in that voyage till the ship is under way. How do I know she will ever sail? My passage is paid, and if the ship sails, I sail in her–but I make no calculations, have bought no cigars, no sea-going clothing –have made no preparation whatever–shall not pack my trunk till the morning we sail. Yet my hands are full of what I am going to do the day before we sail–and what isn’t done that day will go undone.

All I do know or feel, is, that I am wild with impatience to move–move –move! Half a dozen times I have wished I had sailed long ago in some ship that wasn’t going to keep me chained here to chafe for lagging ages while she got ready to go. Curse the endless delays! They always kill me–they make me neglect every duty and then I have a conscience that tears me like a wild beast.

I wish I never had to stop anywhere a month. I do more mean things, the moment I get a chance to fold my hands and sit down than ever I can get forgiveness for.

Yes, we are to meet at Mr. Beach’s next Thursday night, and I suppose we shall have to be gotten up regardless of expense, in swallow-tails, white kids and everything en regle.

I am resigned to Rev. Mr. Hutchinson’s or anybody else’s supervision. I don’t mind it. I am fixed. I have got a splendid, immoral, tobacco- smoking, wine-drinking, godless room-mate who is as good and true and right-minded a man as ever lived–a man whose blameless conduct and example will always be an eloquent sermon to all who shall come within their influence. But send on the professional preachers–there are none I like better to converse with. If they’re not narrow minded and bigoted they make good companions.

I asked them to send the N. Y. Weekly to you–no charge. I am not going to write for it. Like all other, papers that pay one splendidly it circulates among stupid people and the ‘canaille.’ I have made no arrangement with any New York paper–I will see about that Monday or Tuesday. Love to all Good bye, Yrs affy SAM.

The “immoral” room-mate whose conduct was to be an “eloquent example” was Dan Slote, immortalized in the Innocents as “Dan” –a favorite on the ship, and later beloved by countless readers.

There is one more letter, written the night before the Quaker City sailed-a letter which in a sense marks the close of the first great period of his life–the period of aimless wandering–adventure –youth.

Perhaps a paragraph of explanation should precede this letter. Political changes had eliminated Orion in Nevada, and he was now undertaking the practice of law. “Bill Stewart” was Senator Stewart, of Nevada, of whom we shall hear again. The “Sandwich Island book,” as may be imagined, was made up of his letters to the Sacramento Union. Nothing came of the venture, except some chapters in ‘Roughing It’, rewritten from the material. “Zeb and John Leavenworth” were pilots whom he had known on the river.

To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family in St. Louis:

NEW YORK, June 7th, 1867. DEAR FOLKS, I suppose we shall be many a league at sea tomorrow night, and goodness knows I shall be unspeakably glad of it.

I haven’t got anything to write, else I would write it. I have just written myself clear out in letters to the Alta, and I think they are the stupidest letters that were ever written from New York. Corresponding has been a perfect drag ever since I got to the states. If it continues abroad, I don’t know what the Tribune and Alta folks will think. I have withdrawn the Sandwich Island book–it would be useless to publish it in these dull publishing times. As for the Frog book, I don’t believe that will ever pay anything worth a cent. I published it simply to advertise myself–not with the hope of making anything out of it.

Well, I haven’t anything to write, except that I am tired of staying in one place–that I am in a fever to get away. Read my Alta letters–they contain everything I could possibly write to you. Tell Zeb and John Leavenworth to write me. They can get plenty of gossip from the pilots.

An importing house sent two cases of exquisite champagne aboard the ship for me today–Veuve Clicquot and Lac d’Or. I and my room-mate have set apart every Saturday as a solemn fast day, wherein we will entertain no light matters of frivolous conversation, but only get drunk. (That is a joke.) His mother and sisters are the best and most homelike people I have yet found in a brown stone front. There is no style about them, except in house and furniture.

I wish Orion were going on this voyage, for I believe he could not help but be cheerful and jolly.

I often wonder if his law business is going satisfactorily to him, but knowing that the dull season is setting in now (it looked like it had already set in before) I have felt as if I could almost answer the question myself–which is to say in plain words, I was afraid to ask. I wish I had gone to Washington in the winter instead of going West. I could have gouged an office out of Bill Stewart for him, and that would atone for the loss of my home visit. But I am so worthless that it seems to me I never do anything or accomplish anything that lingers in my mind as a pleasant memory. My mind is stored full of unworthy conduct toward Orion and towards you all, and an accusing conscience gives me peace only in excitement and restless moving from place to place. If I could say I had done one thing for any of you that entitled me to your good opinion, (I say nothing of your love, for I am sure of that, no matter how unworthy of it I may make myself, from Orion down you have always given me that, all the days of my life, when God Almighty knows I seldom deserve it,) I believe I could go home and stay there and I know I would care little for the world’s praise or blame. There is no satisfaction in the world’s praise anyhow, and it has no worth to me save in the way of business. I tried to gather up its compliments to send to you, but the work was distasteful and I dropped it.

You observe that under a cheerful exterior I have got a spirit that is angry with me and gives me freely its contempt. I can get away from that at sea, and be tranquil and satisfied-and so, with my parting love and benediction for Orion and all of you, I say goodbye and God bless you all–and welcome the wind that wafts a weary soul to the sunny lands of the Mediterranean! Yrs. Forever, SAM.

VII.

LETTERS 1867. THE TRAVELER. THE VOYAGE OF THE “QUAKER CITY”

Mark Twain, now at sea, was writing many letters; not personal letters, but those unique descriptive relations of travel which would make him his first great fame–those fresh first impressions preserved to us now as chapters of The Innocents Abroad. Yet here and there in the midst of sight-seeing and reporting he found time to send a brief line to those at home, merely that they might have a word from his own hand, for he had ordered the papers to which he was to contribute–the Alta and the New York Tribune–sent to them, and these would give the story of his travels. The home letters read like notebook entries.

Letters to Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:

FAYAL (Azores,) June 20th, 1867. DEAR FOLKS,–We are having a lively time here, after a stormy trip. We meant to go to San Miguel, but were driven here by stress of weather. Beautiful climate. Yrs. Affect. SAM.

GIBRALTAR, June 30th, 1867. DEAR FOLKS,–Arrived here this morning, and am clear worn out with riding and climbing in and over and around this monstrous rock and its fortifications. Summer climate and very pleasant. Yrs. SAM.

TANGIER, MOROCCO, (AFRICA), July 1, 1867. DEAR FOLKS, Half a dozen of us came here yesterday from Gibraltar and some of the company took the other direction; went up through Spain, to Paris by rail. We decided that Gibraltar and San Roque were all of Spain that we wanted to see at present and are glad we came here among the Africans, Moors, Arabs and Bedouins of the desert. I would not give this experience for all the balance of the trip combined. This is the infernalest hive of infernally costumed barbarians I have ever come across yet. Yrs. SAM.

AT SEA, July 2, 1867. DR.

FOLKS,–We are far up the intensely blue and ravishingly beautiful Mediterranean. And now we are just passing the island of Minorca. The climate is perfectly lovely and it is hard to drive anybody to bed, day or night. We remain up the whole night through occasionally, and by this means enjoy the rare sensation of seeing the sun rise. But the sunsets are soft, rich, warm and superb!

We had a ball last night under the awnings of the quarter deck, and the share of it of three of us was masquerade. We had full, flowing, picturesque Moorish costumes which we purchased in the bazaars of Tangier. Yrs. SAM.

MARSEILLES, FRANCE, July 5, 1867. We are here. Start for Paris tomorrow. All well. Had gorgeous 4th of July jollification yesterday at sea. Yrs. SAM.

The reader may expand these sketchy outlines to his heart’s content by following the chapters in The Innocents Abroad, which is very good history, less elaborated than might be supposed. But on the other hand, the next letter adds something of interest to the book- circumstances which a modest author would necessarily omit.

To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:

YALTA, RUSSIA, Aug. 25, 1867. DEAR FOLKS,–We have been representing the United States all we knew how today. We went to Sebastopol, after we got tired of Constantinople (got your letter there, and one at Naples,) and there the Commandant and the whole town came aboard and were as jolly and sociable as old friends. They said the Emperor of Russia was at Yalta, 30 miles or 40 away, and urged us to go there with the ship and visit him–promised us a cordial welcome. They insisted on sending a telegram to the Emperor, and also a courier overland to announce our coming. But we knew that a great English Excursion party, and also the Viceroy of Egypt, in his splendid yacht, had been refused an audience within the last fortnight, so we thought it not safe to try it. They said, no difference–the Emperor would hardly visit our ship, because that would be a most extraordinary favor, and one which he uniformly refuses to accord under any circumstances, but he would certainly receive us at his palace. We still declined. But we had to go to Odessa, 250 miles away, and there the Governor General urged us, and sent a telegram to the Emperor, which we hardly expected to be answered, but it was, and promptly. So we sailed back to Yalta.

We all went to the palace at noon, today, (3 miles) in carriages and on horses sent by the Emperor, and we had a jolly time. Instead of the usual formal audience of 15 minutes, we staid 4 hours and were made a good deal more at home than we could have been in a New York drawing- room. The whole tribe turned out to receive our party-Emperor, Empress, the oldest daughter (Grand-Duchess Marie, a pretty girl of 14,) a little Grand Duke, her brother, and a platoon of Admirals, Princes, Peers of the Empire, etc., and in a little while an aid-de-camp arrived with a request from the Grand Duke Michael, the Emperor’s brother, that we would visit his palace and breakfast with him. The Emperor also invited us, on behalf of his absent eldest son and heir (aged 22,) to visit his palace and consider it a visit to him. They all talk English and they were all very neatly but very plainly dressed. You all dress a good deal finer than they were dressed. The Emperor and his family threw off all reserve and showed us all over the palace themselves. It is very rich and very elegant, but in no way gaudy.

I had been appointed chairman of a committee to draught an address to the Emperor in behalf of the passengers, and as I fully expected, and as they fully intended, I had to write the address myself. I didn’t mind it, because I have no modesty and would as soon write to an Emperor as to anybody else–but considering that there were 5 on the committee I thought they might have contributed one paragraph among them, anyway. They wanted me to read it to him, too, but I declined that honor–not because I hadn’t cheek enough (and some to spare,) but because our Consul at Odessa was along, and also the Secretary of our Legation at St. Petersburgh, and of course one of those ought to read it.

The Emperor accepted the address–it was his business to do it–and so many others have praised it warmly that I begin to imagine it must be a wonderful sort of document and herewith send you the original draught of it to be put into alcohol and preserved forever like a curious reptile.

They live right well at the Grand Duke Michael’s their breakfasts are not gorgeous but very excellent–and if Mike were to say the word I would go there and breakfast with him tomorrow. Yrs aff SAM.

P. S. [Written across the face of the last page.] They had told us it would be polite to invite the Emperor to visit the ship, though he would not be likely to do it. But he didn’t give us a chance–he has requested permission to come on board with his family and all his relations tomorrow and take a sail, in case it is calm weather. I can, entertain them. My hand is in, now, and if you want any more Emperors feted in style, trot them out.

The next letter is of interest in that it gives us the program and volume of his work. With all the sight seeing he was averaging a full four letters a week–long letters, requiring careful observation and inquiry. How fresh and impressionable and full of vigor he was, even in that fierce southern heat! No one makes the Mediterranean trip in summer to-day, and the thought of adding constant letter-writing to steady travel through southern France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey in blazing midsummer is stupefying. And Syria and Egypt in September!