Mark Twain Vs. Blondin

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Most people at Niagara remembered Blondin fondly, but to Mark Twain, who in 1869 bought a one-third interest in the Buffalo Express , the great Frenchman was merely “that adventurous ass.” A certain Professor Jenkins was then in the news for crossing the gorge on a velocipede, and on August 26 Twain wrote and published the following satirical letter, signing it “Michael J. Murphy, Reporter”:

To the Editor of the Express:

I borrowed Jenkins’ velocipede and tried the slack wire performance over the Niagara, but it was only a partial success. I have got to the middle, two hundred and twenty feet above the river, as well as Jenkins or any other man could do it, but I cannot get any farther. I stopped like that other ass to have my picture taken, and I can’t get her started again. I cannot back up or go ahead. I have been roosting between heaven and earth for a matter of eighteen hours now. My position is exceedingly ridiculous, not to say uncomfortable. Nearsighted English sportsmen are practicing on me with shotguns and such things because they take me for some sort of curious bird—and I am—I am a rooster. They have torn my clothes a good deal. How am I going to get out of this? I have been suspended long enough—I wish to suspend the expedition for a while, now. But if this thing is going to be permanent, please send me an umbrella. It is warm here.

P.S.—Does my salary go on? Because I was instructed to try this atrocious experiment by one of the Express firm. He said it would be a good card for the paper if I succeeded—but this wretched thing won’t budge, you understand. I was to have been married today. I wish I was out of this.