"MY IRREVERENCE & DISRESPECT ARE PRETTY EXCLUSIVELY FOR HER, NOT FOR HER FLOCK. I BELIEVE THE FLOCK TO BE HONEST & SINCERE, & THAT SHE IS NEITHER": EXTRAORDINARY AUTOGRAPH LETTER BY MARK TWAIN IN WHICH HE REJECTS THE IDEA OF CORRECTING HIS NEGATIVE STATEMENTS ON CHRISTIAN SCIENCE FOUNDER MARY BAKER EDDY, WRITTEN, SIGNED, AND INITIALED ENTIRELY IN TWAIN'S OWN HAND
TWAIN, Mark. Autograph letter signed. Riverdale, New York, December 5, 1902. Two unlined sheets of paper, each measuring 5-3/4 by 9 inches; pp. 2.
Fascinating autograph letter written entirely in Mark Twain's hand to the New York leader of Christian Science's Committee on Publication, William McCrackan, concerning his attempt to get Twain to recant his statements on Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy and Twain's firm rejection of any possibility of that happening, signed and initialed by Twain.
The letter, written entirely in Twain's hand to Christian Science author William McCrackan and dated "Riverdale, Dec. 5/02," reads, in full: "Dear Sir: I am glad to have the book & the other printed matter, & I thank you. But as helps in 'verifying or correcting statements of fact' in my articles they will not be of service to me. I have made no statements of fact that require that sort of doctoring. Now that you are going to write an article—& that is certainly the best course—I will leave all the correcting to you. I suppose you will 'correct' by assertion—as you did in the MS which you left here yesterday. It is the easiest way. The book which I am going to publish will be set up and printed in February. It is not a book on Xn Science—that is only a part of it; it will contain matter on various subjects—stories, essays, etc. If your article shall turn out to be very brief, I shall hope to get it in, but not otherwise, for there is not going to be much room to spare; particularly if I should conclude to finish my series with a Portrait of Mrs. Eddy 'drawn with her own pen'—a thing which I want to do if I find the time; for my irreverence & disrespect are pretty exclusively for her, not for her flock. I believe the flock to be honest & sincere, & that she is neither. If I have room for your article, I will put it in. Yours very truly, S.L. Clemens. I am suggesting to Munro that he get your article into the Feb number—otherwise, short or long, it might be too late for my book. P.S. In the meantime, can you send me 'Retrospection & Introspection?' SLC." This letter was written to William McCrackan, who headed the New York contingent of Christian Science's Committee on Publication. It appears to have been written in response to a complaint about Twain's article in the December 1902 issue of North American Review (with a follow-up article in 1903), in which Twain criticized Christian Science. Twain's polemics against the movement dated back to 1899, when he published his first piece on Christian Science in Cosmopolitan. In attacking the Christian Scientists—specifically Mary Baker Eddy—Twain was going up against a formidable movement. In 1901, there were 485 Church of Christ, Scientist churches in the United States making it the fastest growing religion of its time. Twain even called Mary Baker Eddy a "shameless old swindler," viewing Christian Science as a cash-grab and a cult of personality. Throughout this period, McCrackan—an author in addition to his official role within the Church—maintained a well-established correspondence with Twain. Although their initially rocky relationship grew warmer over time, Twain was never able to reconcile the idea that McCrackan could be both a good person and a follower of Mary Baker Eddy. For his part, McCrackan was always, in the end, loyal to Eddy's church. In fact, he wrote a furious critique of Twain's articles and secured publication in the North American Review. His constant arguments about the validity of Christian Science were unsuccessful in altering Twain's perspective. However, public support was not entirely behind Twain. As the letter discusses, Twain was anticipating a 1903 publication date for his book on Christian Science. That book proved to be the target of the first successful censorship campaign waged by the Church of Christ, Scientist. While Harper & Brothers advertised and took orders for the book, they withdrew it under pressure. It would not be released until 1909, during a period of public antipathy against the movement. See Caroline Frasier, God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church.