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Edward William Bok (1863–1930). The Americanization of Edward Bok. 1921.


Page 204


EDWARD BOK was always interested in the manner in which personality was expressed in letters. For this reason he adopted, as a boy, the method of collecting not mere autographs, but letters characteristic of their writers which should give interesting insight into the most famous men and women of the day. He secured what were really personality letters.

One of these writers was Mark Twain. The humorist was not kindly disposed toward autograph collectors, and the fact that in this case the collector aimed to raise the standard of the hobby did not appease him. Still, it brought forth a characteristic letter:

I hope I shall not offend you; I shall certainly say nothing with the intention to offend you. I must explain myself, however, and I will do it as kindly as I can. What you ask me to do, I am asked to do as often as one-half dozen times a week. Three hundred letters a year! One’s impulse is to freely consent, but one’s time and necessary occupations will not permit it. There is no way but to decline in all cases, making no exceptions, and I wish to call your attention to a thing which has probably not occurred to you, and that is this: that no man takes pleasure in exercising his trade as a pastime. Writing is my trade, and I exercise it only when I am obliged to. You might make your request of a doctor, or a builder, or a sculptor, and there would be no impropriety in it, but if you asked either of those for a specimen of his

XIX. Personality Letters
 

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