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The New York Times, March 9, 1890



Edward H,. House, the invalid playwright, has won in his suit against Samuel L. Clemens, (Mark Twain.) Judge Daly in the Court of Common Please yesterday handed down a decision enjoining Daniel Frohman from producing Mrs. Abby Sage Richardson's dramatization of the wealthy Hartford humorist's novel. "The Prince and the Pauper," which recently was seen in this city on the stage of the Broadway Theatre.

It is a great victory for Mr. House and a personal vindication of his honor, as the issue developed in court into one of the individual veracity between him and Mr. Clemens. The playwright's attorney, Senator Eugene S. Ives, fully appreciated this. The decision was not handed down until noon. Mr. Ives at once got the necessary papers and sent an officer to Albany, where the piece was presented three previous nights of last week, to serve them. The officer left on the 2 o'clock train. He should have been in Albany before 7 o'clock.

The enjoined parties have a remedy at law, however, which will enable them to put the play on again on Monday. They can appeal to the General Term, and pending the confirming or reversing of Judge Daly's decision they can produce the play by filing the necessary bond.

There has not been a theatrical lawsuit for years that has awakened the general interest that this case has. This was both owing to the prominence of the parties involved and to the fact that there was such a wide difference between the stories told by Mr. House and Mr. Clemens that it was very evident that somebody was wandering farther from "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," than was consistent with the oath that forms so important a part of legal testimony.

The case is not one that can be called involved or intricate. Briefly it is a story of an alleged injustice done to an author and playwright in straitened circumstances because of physical infirmity by a very wealthy author and publisher. Like the majority of writers, Mr. House is not eminent in commercial ability and business shrewdness. Mr. Clemens is a writer who is a notable exception to his rule. His is possessed of business sagacity that has made him a millionaire. On Mr. Clemens's paramount ability over Mr. House in this regard the tale of woe told by Mr. House in court seems to hang.

Briefly, Mr. House's allegation was that in the year 1886 he had agreed on the suggestion of Mr. Clemens to dramatize the latter's book "The Prince and the Pauper." When he had substantially finished the dramatization and was only waiting for a suitable person in whom the characters of the Prince and the Pauper could be united. Mr. Clemens brought out the play in its present form, Abby Sage Richardson having dramatized it. Mr. Hose's application to the Court of Common Pleas was for an injunction to restrain the further productions of the play until his rights could be judicially determined.

The fight in court was a bitter one. Senator Eugene S. Ives appeared for Mr. House, Messrs. Alexander and Green for Mr. Clemens, and Mr. Hummel for Daniel Frohman and Mrs. Richardson. Mr. House could show no formal contract to dramatize "The Prince and the Pauper," but had had a most formidable bundle of correspondence that had passed between himself and Mr. Clemens on the subject. The most important of these letters have already been published in THE TIMES. Substantially the correspondence began with a letter from Mr. Clemens to Mr. House offering him one-half to two-thirds of the profits of the play if he would dramatize the book. Clemens acknowledged that he had tried to do it and made a botch of it. The correspondence then traced the course of the work as it progressed in Mr. House's hands and referred to a visit of the dramatist to the author's home to consult over the finishing touches of the work.

The idea that is mainly responsible for whatever success "The Prince and the Pauper" has attained, that of the dual role, was advanced by Mr. House in this correspondence and insisted upon. It is a strange feature of the case that this and other leading features of Mr. House's dramatization were somehow mysteriously suggested to the mind of Mrs. Abby Sage Richardson and embodied in her dramatization.

Mr. Clemens's reply to the allegation was a general denial in the form of an affidavit. He admitted that he had consulted with Mr. House on the dramatization, but declared that he never made any sort of an agreement with him.

Judge Daly's decision is uncompromisingly in favor of Edward H. House. The decision is, like all that Judge Daly hands down, exceedingly exhaustive, thoroughly reviewing the case, and abounding in legal references. He quotes extensively from the correspondence that passed between House and Clemens, and finds that Clemens made a proposition to House to dramatize "The Prince and the Pauper," and that House accepted it, or in other words, that correspondence passed between the two which formed a binding contract. The question of veracity between Mr. House and Mr. Clemens was very sharply drawn by the radically different accounts they gave of certain conversations that passed between them. In his decision Judge Daly discriminates between what he considers was the truth and what was not the truth in a most delicate kid-gloved style, by saying that Mr. House would be much more likely to remember exactly what was said, he being an invalid and accustomed to doing everything very methodically, while Clemens was a busy man, a popular author, and therefore not so likely to remember with exactness the details of a conversation.

The following is the most interesting portion of the decision: "The fact that the plaintiff has no adequate remedy in law is clear. A claim for damages will afford him no relief. It would not be possible to ascertain what sum the plaintiff should have for a breach of the defendant's contract. There is no basis for estimating what profits would accrue from the performances of the plaintiff's dramatization, and therefore, no basis exists for computing damages. It is undoubtedly true that the court can not practically enforce the performance of this contract by compelling the defendant to put the plaintiff's dramatization on the stage. But a remedy by injunction will do substantial justice by obliging the defendant to carry out his contract or to lose all benefit of the breach."

In other words, the decision says, that while the law cannot lay its hand on Mr. Clemens and force him to produce Mr. Houses' dramatization of "The Prince and the Pauper," so that Mr. House can obtain the stipulated share of the profits, it can prevent him from profiting by the breaking of his contract by enjoining him from producing any other than Mr. House's version of the play. It is very unfortunate for Mr. House that he cannot obtain material damages, as is infirmity is one that confines him to his house and renders him entirely dependent on his pen. He has been receiving an annuity, but it has expired, and he was practically depending n the months of labor he expended on the dramatization of "The Prince and the Pauper" for an income to replace this annuity.

Manager Dan Frohman was in the Fifth Avenue Theatre last night when a representative of the victorious side of the case came in and served him with the papers enjoining him from producing "The Prince and the Pauper." Mr. Frohman said he was not surprised at the result, but those who knew Mr. Frohman are not surprised that he is not surprised, for it is doubtful if he would give any exterior symptoms of emotion if a house fell on him. He did not believe that night's performance in Albany would be interfered with, but he had received no information as to whether it had been or not. He said that on Monday the lawyers representing himself and Mr. Clemens would carry the case to the General Term on appeal. If they again meet with defeat there they will go to the Court of Appeals. If they should be defeated there he supposed they would have to drop the flag unless some settlement was made with Mr. House. They would file bonds on Monday so that the performances could go on until the case was settled.

Related articles concerning the Prince and Pauper:

Related article in the New York Herald

Articles from The New York Times

January 21, 1890 - ELSIE LESLIE [review of opening of "The Prince and The Pauper"]
January 27, 1890 - MARK TWAIN HAULED UP.
January 28, 1890 - AFFIDAVITS THAT CLASH.
January 31, 1890 - IS HIS WORD TWAIN ALSO
March 11, 1890 - A STAY OF PROCEEDINGS
March 12, 1890 - HOUSE MAKES TERMS
March 16, 1890 - Untitled editorial on lawsuit
September 7, 1890 - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER.

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