... an excerpt from Twain's
post editorial, "One of Mankind's Bores" (1871):
I suppose that if there is one thing in the world more hateful than another to all of us, it is to have to write a letter. A private letter especially. And business letters, to my thinking, are very little pleasanter. Nearly all the enjoyment is taken out of every letter I get by the reflection that it must be answered. And I do so dread the affliction of writing those answers, that often my first and gladdest impulse is to burn my mail before it is opened. For ten years I never felt that sort of dread at all because I was moving about constantly, from city to city, from State to State, and from country to country, and so I could leave all letters unanswered if I chose, and the writers of them would naturally suppose that I had changed my post office and missed receiving my correspondence. But I am "cornered" now. I cannot use that form of deception any more. I am anchored, and letters of all kinds come straight to me with deadly precision.
They are letters of all sorts and descriptions, and they treat of everything. I generally read them at breakfast, and right often they kill a day's work by diverting my thoughts and fancies into some new channel, thus breaking up and making confusion of the programme of scribbling I had arranged for my working hours. After breakfast I clear for action, and for an hour try hard to write; but there is no getting back into the old train of thought after such an interruption, and so at last I give it up and put off further effort till next day.
It comes natural to me in these latter years to do all manner of composition laboriously and ploddingly, private letters included. Consequently, I do fervently hate letter-writing, and so do all the newspaper and magazine men I am acquainted with.
The above remarks are by way of explanation and apology to parties who have written me about various matters, and whose letters I have neglected to answer. I tried in good faith to answer them—tried every now and then, and always succeeded in clearing off several, but always as surely left the majority of those received each week to lie over till the next. The result was always the same, to wit: the unanswered letters would shortly begin to have a reproachful look about them, next an upbraiding look, and by-and-by an aggressive and insolent aspect; and when it came to that, I always opened the stove door and made an example of them. The return of cheerfulness and the flight of every feeling of distress on account of neglected duty, was immediate and thorough.
Regular posting and contributing to my own comment threads will resume shortly. Had I more time, I'd comment on the post-like quality of 90 percent of Twain's Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches and Essays. Crushed as I am, this will have to do.