Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field/On Literary Friendships


Mark Twain always liked to talk about "La Mouche, Heine's girl-friend-to-the-death." One morning, at the British Museum, he made me hunt through dozens of books, French, German and Italian, for her real name: Camille Seldon.

"So she wasn't German," he said. "I thought so, for a German girl, by her innate heaviness, might have spoiled that nimbleness of language we admire in Heine. Goethe's girls, as their portraits show, were all beefy things—no, not all, I except Gretchen—hence Goethe's Olympian periods, his ponderous style. It's wrong, I think, to credit Camille with mere physical influence on Heine. Her limpid French conversation, I take it, aided in imparting to his French verse that airy, fairy lightness which a foreigner rarely commands."

Some one reminded Clemens that Camille also had been the friend of Taine.

"A lucky girl! The most poesy-saturated of poets and the Father of English literature! I call him the Father," he added, "because he made so many people read serious books which without his advice and encouragement they would never have tackled."