The £1,000,000 Bank Note and Other New Stories
First edition cover
|Publisher||Chatto and Windus|
|Preceded by||Those Extraordinary Twins|
|Followed by||Tom Sawyer Abroad|
The collection was published in 1893, in a disastrous decade for the United States, a time marked by doubt and waning optimism, rapid immigration, labor problems, and the rise of political violence and social protest.
It was also a difficult time for Twain personally, as he was forced into bankruptcy and devastated by the death of his favorite daughter, Suzy. Yet the title story still brims with confidence and optimism, marking the moment of hope just before Twain turned to the grim stories of his later years.
"The £1,000,000 Bank-Note" charts the magical rags-to-riches ascent of a virtuous and resourceful mining broker's clerk from San Francisco who arrives in London with a single dollar in his pocket, and proceeds to ultimate and splendid financial success and fame in London society—a paean to ingenuity and a celebration of its cunning confidence-man narrator. It is illustrated by Daniel Carter Beard. The other pieces include "Mental Telegraphy," a serious essay reflecting Twain's continuing interest in the occult—he and his wife would later try several seances, poignantly and unsuccessfully, to contact their daughter Suzy; "The German Chicago," contrasting Berlin of his era with the American city, "About All Kinds of Ships," about steamboats old and new; plus a tongue-in-cheek "Petition to the Queen of England" for relief from taxes. Also included are: "A Cure for the Blues," "The Enemy Conquered; or Love Triumphant," "Playing Courier," and "A Majestic Literary Fossil."
Photo at right shows the cover of the Charles L. Webster and Company American First Edition, published by Twain, himself.