Sam's Shorts

If you’ve ever wanted to dive deeper into Twain's works but haven't known where to start, Sam’s Shorts is your opportunity!

Each month, we’re bringing you a brief passage from one of his less-familiar works, including his speeches, essays, short stories, and letters, and inviting you to read, reflect, and respond. Then we’ll share what we learned from your responses, answer some of your questions, and tell you a bit more about the background and context of the piece. Your responses help us develop new programs for adults and teach Twain’s writing to students. They’ll also help us pick new shorts for you to read and enjoy!

You can also read all previous Sam’s Shorts selections with reader feedback and additional context, and learn more with our companion podcast.

Excerpt from "Jeff Davis," published in the Alta California, June 16, 1867

New York

May 17th 1867


IT WAS just a lucky circumstance that I happened to be out late night before last, else I might never have been permitted to see the chief of the late Confederacy in life. I was standing in front of the New York Hotel at midnight, or thereabouts, talking with a clerk of the establishment, when the Davis party arrived, and I got a tolerably good look at the man who has been raising such a dust in this country for years. He is tall and spare – that was all I could make of him – and then he disappeared.

There was no crowd around, no torchlight processions, no music, no welcoming cannon – and better than all, no infuriated mob, thirsting for blood and vengeance. The man whose arrival in New York a year or two ago would have set the city wild with excitement from its centre to its circumference, had ceased to rank as a sensation, and went to his hotel as unheralded and unobserved as any country merchant from the far West. He was a fallen Chief, he was an extinguished sun – we all know that – and yet it seemed strange that even an unsuccessful man, with such a limitless celebrity, could drop in our midst in that way, and go out as meekly as a farthing candle.

Yesterday it was the same. There were no lion-hunters gaping around the hotel doors, inquiring in infamous grammar, “Which is him?” The autographers were not on hand. A few personal friends called on the ex-President. That was all. The news papers gave column after column of songs of praise to the old worn-out, played-out, ragged, and threadbare sensation of eight months ago . . . And only a dozen meagre lines to Jefferson Davis, head, and heart, and soul of the mightiest rebellion of modern times . . . Verily, some things are stranger than others, and man is but grass, and a very poor article of grass at that. I am glad I am not Jefferson Davis, and I could show him a hundred good reasons why he ought to be glad he ain’t me.

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Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, and the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign and its Travelers Arts Impact Grant program with major support from The Travelers Foundation.