Mark Twain’s Complaint Letters


The following is a letter written by Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) to Hartford City Gas Light Co.:


There are but two places in our whole street where lights could be of any value, by any accident, and you have measured and appointed your intervals so ingenious as to leave each of those places in the centre of a couple of hundred yards of solid darkness. When I noticed that you were setting one of your lights in such a way that I could almost see how to get into my gate at night, I suspected that it was a piece of carelessness on the part of the workmen, and would be corrected as soon as you should go around inspecting and find it out. My judgment was right; it is always right, where you are concerned. For fifteen years, in spite of my prayers and tears, you persistently kept a gas lamp exactly half-way between my gates, so that I couldn’t find either of them after dark; and then furnished such execrable gas that I had to hang a danger signal on the lamp-post to keep teams from running into it, nights. Now I suppose your present idea is, to leave us a little more in the dark.

Don’t mind us — out our way; we possess but one vote apiece, and no rights which you are in any way bound to respect. Please take our electric light and go to—but never mind, it is not for me to suggest; you will probably find the way and anyway you can reasonably count on divine assistance if you lose your bearings.

S, L. Clemens.

Twain did not send this letter.

Most of the complaint letters Twain wrote remained unsent. He understood the futility of sending this kind of letters as in his experience, seldom anyone cared about the sentiment of a single person. So, his complaint letters usually ended up in a trashcan or his shelf. Those letters served as a tool for him to vent his frustrations. Afterward, he would write a new letter with a more subdued and civil tone and would send it instead.

However, there were times when he would go all out and not care about formalities. Here is a letter which he did send:

Hartford, Feb. 12, 1891

Dear Sirs:

Some day you will move me almost to the verge of irritation by your chuckleheaded Goddamned fashion of shutting your Goddamned gas off without giving any notice to your Goddamned parishioners. Several times you have come within an ace of smothering half of this household in their beds & blowing up the other half by this idiotic, not to say criminal, custom of yours. And it has happened again to-day. Haven’t you a telephone?

S Clemens

Here, Twain’s anger is understandable as the Hartford City Gas Light Co. shut off their service in the middle of winter without prior notice.

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

7 thoughts on “Mark Twain’s Complaint Letters

  1. I feel the same way about the traffic lights in my town and have composed many a snarkastic letter in my head, but I have little confidence in the reading comprehension skills of those who work at the city.


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