Illustration of George Washington Cable, Grover Cleveland, and Mark Twain
from SUNDAY MAGAZINE of the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND DENVER TIMES, 8 December 1907.
From the Dave Thomson collection.
During the time that we were living in Buffalo in '70 and '71, Mr. Cleveland was sheriff, but I never happened to make his acquaintance, or even see him. In fact, I suppose I was not even aware of his existence. Fourteen years later, he was become the greatest man in the State. I was not living in the State at the time. He was Governor, and was about to step into the post of President of the United States. At that time I was on the public highway in company with another bandit, George W. Cable. We were robbing the public with readings from our works during four months -- and in the course of time we went to Albany to levy tribute, and I said, "We ought to go and pay our respects to the Governor."
So Cable and I went to that majestic Capitol building and stated our errand. We were shown into the Governor`s private office, and I saw Mr. Cleveland for the first time. We three stood chatting together. I was born lazy, and I comforted myself by turning the corner of a table into a sort of seat. Presently the Governor said,
"Mr. Clemens, I was a fellow citizen of yours in Buffalo a good many months, a good while ago, and during those months you burst suddenly into a mighty fame, out of a previous long continued and no doubt proper obscurity -- but I was a nobody, and you wouldn`t notice me nor have anything to do with me. But now that I have become somebody, you have changed your style, and you come here to shake hands with me and be sociable. How do you explain this kind of conduct?"
"Oh," I said, "it is very simple, your Excellency. In
Buffalo you were nothing but a sheriff. I was in society. I couldn`t afford
to associate with sheriffs. But you are a Governor, now, and you are on
your way to the Presidency. It is a great difference, and it makes you
Of all our public men of today he stands first in my reverence & admiration,
& the next one stands two-hundred-&-twenty-fifth. He is the only statesman
we have now. ... Cleveland drunk is a more valuable asset to this country
than the whole batch of the rest of our public men sober. He is high-minded;
all his impulses are great & pure & fine. I wish we had another of this
- Letter to Jean Clemens, 19 June 1908
He was a very great President, a man who not only properly appreciated the
dignity of his high office but added to its dignity. The contrast between President
Cleveland and the present occupant of the White House is extraordinary; it is
the contrast between an archangel and the Missing Link. Mr. Cleveland was all
that a president ought to be; Mr. Roosevelt is all that a president ought not
to be -- he covers the entire ground.
- Autobiographical dictation, 26 June 1908. Published in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 3 (University of California Press, 2015)
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