Twain, Mark - from Mental Telegraphy 12
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Mental Telegraphy (extract)
Mark Twain, 1891
My next incident will be set aside by most persons as being merely a "coincidence," I suppose. Years ago I used to think sometimes of making a lecturing trip through the antipodes and the borders of the Orient, but always gave up the idea, partly because of the great length of the journey and partly because my wife could not well manage to go with me. Toward the end of last January that idea, after an interval of years, came suddenly into my head again - forcefully, too, and without any apparent reason. Whence came it? What suggested it? I will touch upon that presently.
I was at that time where I am now - in Paris. I wrote at once to Henry M. Stanley (London), and asked him some questions about his Australian lecture tour, and inquired who had conducted him and what were the terms. After a day or two his answer came. It began:
The lecture agent for Australia and New Zealand is par excellence Mr. R. S. Smythe, of Melbourne.
He added his itinerary, terms, sea expenses, and some other matters, and advised me to write Mr. Smythe, which I did - February 3d. I began my letter by saying in substance that, while he did not know me personally, we had a mutual friend in Stanley, and that would answer for an introduction. Then I proposed my trip, and asked if he would give me the same terms which he had given Stanley.
I mailed my letter to Mr. Smythe February 6th, and three days later I got a letter from the selfsame Smythe, dated Melbourne, December 17th. I would as soon have expected to get a letter from the late George Washington. The letter began somewhat as mine to him had begun - with a self-introduction:
Dear Mr. Clemens. - It is so long since Archibald Forbes and I spent that pleasant afternoon in your comfortable house at Hartford that you have probably quite forgotten the occasion.
In the course of his letter this occurs:
I am willing to give you [here he named the terms which he had given Stanley] for an antipodean tour to last, say, three months.
Here was the single essential detail of my letter answered three days after I had mailed my inquiry. I might have saved myself the trouble and the postage - and a few years ago I would have done that very thing, for I would have argued that my sudden and strong impulse to write and ask some questions of a stranger on the under side of the globe meant that the impulse came from that stranger, and that he would answer my questions of his own motion if I would let him alone.
Mr. Smythe's letter probably passed under my nose on its way to lose three weeks traveling to America and back, and gave me a whiff of its contents as it went along. Letters often act like that. Instead of the thought coming to you in an instant from Australia, the (apparently) unsentient letter imparts it to you as it glides invisibly past your elbow in the mail-bag.