The Coming Man

Mark Twain

The Galaxy/February, 1871

GENERAL DEWLAP G. LOVEL, minister to Hong-Wo, has resigned and returned to this country. His successor will not be appointed at present. Some of General Lovel’s friends are nominating him for the vacant English mission. [Item in all the papers.]

What a jar it gave me! For as I am a true man, I thought it meant my old fellow-soldier in the Nevada militia, General Dunlap G. Lovel. And so I read it again, and again, and once more, and repeatedly—and with ever augmenting astonishment. But at last I grew calmer and began to scrutinize the “internal evidences” of this item. They were equal—part for, and part against my Lovel. For instance, my Lovel, who always thought gunpowder tea was made from ordinary gunpowder boiled instead of burned (and will still think so until he sees this paragraph), is guileless enough to go on wearing a military title gained as brigadier in a militia which never saw service even in a Fourth of July procession, and consider it a distinction far from ridiculous. Consequently this general is as likely to be as general as another’s. But then the remaining point of evidence is against us—namely, that this Minister Lovel has resigned. So it is not my Lovel after all. For my Lovel would not have resigned.

No; my Lovel is a man who can always be relied upon—a man who would be faithful to the death. If entrusted with an office, he would cling to that office until it was abolished. I am acquainted with my Lovel.

The distinct evidence is against my Lovel, and yet that lifting of a serene, unblinking gaze aloft to the awful sublimity of St. James’s, from the remote insignificance of the U.S. embassage to Hong-Wo, with its candle-box for an official desk, and boiled beans three times a day for subsistence, and peanuts on Sunday for grandeur, is so precisely like my Lovel!

But with sorrow I own that this General Lovel is Dewlap G., while mine is only Dunlap G. Consequently they are not the same—far from it. Yet it is possible that a kind word from me may attract attention and sympathy to my poor Lovel, and thus help a deserving man to fortune. So let me go on.

General P. Edward O’Connor has done the highest and faithfullest and best military service in Mormondom, that ever has been rendered there for our country. For about seven years or such a matter he has made both Brigham and the Indians reasonably civil and polite. Well—. However, I see by the papers that General O’Connor has not been appointed Governor of Utah, as the Pacific coast desired. I cannot think how I came to wander off to General O’Connor, for he has nothing whatever to do with my General Lovel. Therefore I will drop him and not digress again. I now resume.

When the nation rose, years ago, Dunlap G. Lovel of Virginia, Nevada (Territory), flew to arms and was created a Brigadier-General of the territorial militia; and with his hand on his heart he swore an oath that he never would budge from his post till the enemy came. Colonel O’Connor flew to arms and put down the Indians and the Mormons, and kept them down for years—and fought his gallant way up through bullets and blood to his brigadier-generalship. But this is not a biography of General O’Connor. Hang General O’Connor! It is General Lovel I desire to speak of.

General Lovel—how imposing he looked in his uniform! He was a very exceedingly microscopic operator in wild-cat silver-mining stocks, and so he could not wear it every day; but then he was always ready when a fireman was to be buried or a relative hung. And he did look really beautiful, any of the old citizens will say that. It was a fine sight when all the militia turned out at once. The territorial population was some 20,000 then, and the territorial militia numbered 139 persons, including regimental officers, three major and eleven brigadier-generals. General Lovel was the eleventh.

I cannot now call to mind distinctly the several engagements General Lovel was in, but I remember the following, on account of their peculiar prominence:

When Thompson Billings the desperado was captured, Lovel’s brigade guarded the front door of the jail that night. It was well for Billings that he left by the back door; for it was always thought that if he had come out the front way he would have been shot.

At the great Sanitary Ball in Carson City, General Lovel was present in his uniform.

When the legislature met in 1863, General Lovel and brigade were promptly on duty, either to do honor to them or protect the public, I have forgotten which.

He was present in his uniform with his men, to guard the exit of the legislature of 1862, and let the members retire in peace with the surplus steel pens and stationery. This was the legislature that confirmed his appointment as Brigadier General. It also elected as enrolling clerk of its House of Representatives a militia chieftain by the name of Captain G. Murphy, who could not write. This was a misunderstanding, however, rather than a blunder, for the legislature of 1862 did not know it was necessary he should know how to write.

When the Governor delivered his farewell address, General Lovel and brigade were there, and never gave way an inch till it was done.

General Lovel was in several other engagements, but I cannot call them to mind now.

By-and-by the people began to feel that General Lovel’s military services ought to be rewarded. So someone suggested that he run as an independent candidate for U. S. Senator (for Nevada was become a new-fledged state by this time). Modest as this old soldier was, backward as he was, naturally diffident as he was, he said he would do it, and he did. It was commonly reported and steadfastly believed by everybody that he spent the bulk of his fortune, which was fifteen or twenty thousand dollars, in “putting up” a legislative delegation from Virginia City which should fight under his Senatorial banner. AND YET THAT MAN WAS NOT ELECTED. I not only state it, but I swear to it. Why, unless my memory has gone entirely crazy, that polluted legislature never even mentioned his name!

What was an old public servant to do after such treatment? Shake the dust from his sandals and leave the state to its self-invited decay and ruin. That was the course to pursue, and that was the one he did pursue. He knew a land where worth is always recognized, a city where the nation’s faithful vassal cannot know the cold hand of neglect—WASHINGTON. He went there in Andrew Johnson’s time. He probably got Captain John Nye to use his “influence” for him—ha! ha!

What do we behold a grateful nation instantly do? We see it send General O’Connor—no, I mean General Lovel—to represent us as resident minister at oriental Hong-Wo!

No, no, no—I have got it all wrong again. It is not my Dun-lap, but somebody’s Dew-lap that was sent.

But might it not—no, it cannot be and is not my Lovel whose “friends” are pointing him towards august St. James’s. The first syllable of the name is so different. But my Lovel would do very well indeed for that place. I am aware that he knows no French, and is not certain of his English. But then our foreign representatives seldom know the “language of diplomacy” anyhow. I do not know that he has any education to speak of—am confident he has not—but cannot a man learn? I am not even certain that he knows enough to come in when it rains, but I say it again, and repeat and reiterate it, cannot a man learn? We need a person at such a lordly court as the British who is well-bred and gentlemanly in his appearance and address, a man accustomed to the dignities and proprieties of the highest and best society. There is not a barkeeper, a desperado, an editor, or an Indian in Nevada but will speak in terms of respect of Dun-lap G. Lovel, and say that he always worthily bore himself among the very cream of society in that critical and exacting community. We want no mere unconsidered “Mr.” at the Court of St. James’s; we want a person with a title to his name—a General, nothing less. My General would answer. He could tell those old field-marshals from India and Abyssinia something about soldier-life which would be new to them, perhaps. But above all, we want a great-brained, profound diplomatic genius at the Court of St. James’s—a man surcharged with experience likewise. Now if this deep, this bottomless Hong-Wooian diplomat were only Dun-lap G. Lovel—but no, it is Dew-lap. But my General would be a great card for us in England, and I wish we could have him. Contemplate him in Motley’s place. Think of my dainty Lilliputian standing in Brobdingnag Motley’s shoes, and peeping out smartly over the instep at the Great Powers. It would be a thing to bless and honor a heedful Providence for—this consummation.

Who are the “friends” who desire the appointment of that other Lovel, I wonder! If that Lovel were my Lovel, I should think the term “friends” referred to “Captain” John Nye, of the lobby, Washington, a man whom I love to call “the Wheels of Government,” because if you could see him backing members up into corners by the button-hole, and “influencing” them in favor of this, that, and the other Lovel whom the back settlements have cast up undigested, you would believe as I do, that our government could not proceed without him.

But sorrow to me, this Lovel is Dew-lap, and mine is totally another man—Dun-lap. Let it go. I care not. And yet my heart knows I would worship that President who should show my fading eyes and failing life the spectacle of “General” Dun-lap G. Lovel, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James’s, and “Captain” John Nye, of the lobby, Washington, Secretary of Legation. I would be content to die then—entirely content. And so with loving zeal I add my name to the list of “General Lovel’s friends” who are “nominating him for the vacant English mission.”

Me.—EDITOR MEMORANDA.

(Source: Project Gutenberg Australia, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks09/0900821h.html)

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