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Twain, Mark - from Mental Telegraphy 05
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Mental Telegraphy (extract)
Mark Twain, 1891
The following statement, which I have clipped from a newspaper, is true. I had the facts from Mr. Howells's lips when the episode was new:
A remarkable story of a literary coincidence is told of Mr. Howells's Atlantic Monthly serial, "Dr. Breen's Practice." A lady of Rochester, New York, contributed to the magazine after "Dr. Breen's Practice" was in type, a short story which so much resembled Mr. Howells's that he felt it necessary to call upon her and explain the situation of affairs in order that no charge of plagiarism might be preferred against him. He showed her the proof-sheets of his story, and satisfied her that the similarity between her work and his was one of those strange coincidences which have from time to time occurred in the literary world.
I had read portions of Mr. Howells's story, both in Ms. and in proof, before the lady offered her contribution to the magazine.
Here is another case. I clip it from a newspaper:
The republication of Miss Alcott's novel Moods recalls to a writer in the Boston Post a singular coincidence which was brought to light before the book was first published: "Miss Anna M. Crane, of Baltimore, published Emily Chester, a novel which was pronounced a very striking and strong story. A comparison of this book with Moods showed that the two writers, though entire strangers to each other, and living hundreds of miles apart, had both chosen the same subject for their novels, had followed almost the same line of treatment up to a certain point, where the parallel ceased, and the denouements were entirely opposite. And even more curious, the leading characters in both books had identically the same names, so that the names in Miss Alcott's novel had to be changed. Then the book was published by Loring."
Four or five times within my recollection there has been a lively newspaper war in this country over poems whose authorship was claimed by two or three different people at the same time. There was a war of this kind over "Nothing to Wear," "Beautiful Snow," "Rock me to Sleep, Mother," and also over one of Mr. Will Carleton's early ballads, I think. These were all blameless cases of unintentional and unwitting mental telegraphy, I judge.