Mark Twain's scathing letter to a patent medicine purveyor.

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Mark Twain's scathing letter to a patent medicine purveyor.

Post by Parvati » Fri Nov 25, 2011 6:51 pm

The Letters of Note web site (featuring material gathered by Shaun Usher for his upcoming book) contains a scathing letter from an ailing Mark Twain in which he flambés a patent medicine pusher.
In No­vem­ber of 1905, an en­raged Mark Twain sent this su­perb let­ter to J. H. Todd, a patent med­i­cine sales­man who had just at­tempted to sell bogus med­i­cine to the au­thor by way of a let­ter and leaflet de­liv­ered to his home. Ac­cord­ing to the lit­er­a­ture Twain re­ceived (p1,p2,p3,p4), the 'med­i­cine' in ques­tion - The Elixir of Life - could cure such ail­ments as menin­gi­tis (which had pre­vi­ously killed Twain's daugh­ter in 1896) and diph­the­ria (which had also killed his 19-month-old son). Twain, him­self of ill-health at the time and very re­cently wid­owed after his wife suf­fered heart fail­ure, was un­der­stand­ably fu­ri­ous and dic­tated the fol­low­ing let­ter to his sec­re­tary, which he then signed.

You are an idiot of the 33rd de­gree


J. H. Todd
1212 Web­ster St.
San Fran­cisco, Cal.

Dear Sir,

Your let­ter is an in­sol­u­ble puz­zle to me. The hand­writ­ing is good and ex­hibits con­sid­er­able char­ac­ter, and there are even traces of in­tel­li­gence in what you say, yet the let­ter and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing ad­ver­tise­ments pro­fess to be the work of the same hand. The per­son who wrote the ad­ver­tise­ments is with­out doubt the most ig­no­rant per­son now alive on the planet; also with­out doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd de­gree, and scion of an an­ces­tral pro­ces­sion of id­iots stretch­ing back to the Miss­ing Link. It puz­zles me to make out how the same hand could have con­structed your let­ter and your ad­ver­tise­ments. Puz­zles fret me, puz­zles annoy me, puz­zles ex­as­per­ate me; and al­ways, for a mo­ment, they arouse in me an un­kind state of mind to­ward the per­son who has puz­zled me. A few mo­ments from now my re­sent­ment will have faded and passed and I shall prob­a­bly even be pray­ing for you; but while there is yet time I has­ten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poi­son by mis­take, and enter swiftly into the damna­tion which you and all other patent med­i­cine as­sas­sins have so re­morse­lessly earned and do so richly de­serve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain
"The risk in becoming very intimate with a moldie Parvati is that she may unexpectedly become a Kali and take your head."--Rudy Rucker, Freeware
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“Most men would kill the truth if truth would kill their religion.”--Lemuel K. Washburn.