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Mark Twain’s latest production is a letter giving Ids opinion of private secretaries, in which he sits down rather hard upon Mr. Kirby, private secretary to Postmaster-General Key, The letter has caused a great deal of amusement among Mv. Kirby’s associates in the post-office, and that gentleman feels very much tom up in consequence, and probably will not be anxious to tackle the subject again, at least not for some time. Some days ago Mr. Kirby took occasion to write a letter to Mr. Clemens (Mark Twain) in which he had the temerity to criticise some comments made by that gentleman upon a recent order of the post-office department, saying that “it was to meet just such hardened cases as yours ; and I also send you a copy of the postal laws, and hope you will take the trouble to look into the matter thoroughly.” It seems in the letter received in reply that Mr. Clemens did look into the matter thoroughly, and Mr. Kirby thinks now that he made too searching a study of it. Among other things in hia letter Mr. Clemens says : “My callow friend, when you shall have outgrown the effervescence of youth, and acquired a bit of wordly experience, you will cease to make mistakes like that. This is, you will recognise, the simple wisdom of minding your business. You seem to think you have been called to account. This is a great error. It is the post-office department of the United States that has been called to account. There is a difference here which you seem to have overlooked. I will point it out. You are not the post-office department, but only an expensive and unnecessary appendage to it. Grave, elderly public instructors like me do not call private secretaries to account. The mistake you have made is simple ; you imagined yourself the dog, whereas you are only the tail. You endeavored to wag the dog. This was injudicious. You should have hung quiesent until the dog wagged you. You seem to have gathered the impression, somehow, that you are a member of the Cabinet. This is an error. Your chief is one of the guns of that battery ; you are not. You are not a gun, nor a load, nor even a ramroad ; neither do you supply ammunition ; you only serve as a stick to fire it off. you are not a barrel of molasses, but only the faucet through which the molasses is discharged. You are not a boot, but a boot-jack. Do you perceive 1 The thing lam trying to convey to you is that it does not become you to assume functions that do not belong to you. The newspaper slip which you enclosed to me I will return by one of my private secretaries. I keep eleven of these things, not for use, but for display.

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Bibliographic details

Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 119, 29 June 1880

Word Count

MARK TWAIN’S LATEST. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 119, 29 June 1880