"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
Sam, named after his father's father, was the sixth of seven children. His birth was two months premature; he weighed five pounds, and his mother doubted he would live. "A lady came in one day," Jane Clemens wrote later, and "said you don't expect to raise that babe do you. I said I would try. But he was a poor looking object to raise."
Sam later described his mother:
She was of a sunshine disposition, and her long life was mainly a holiday for her. She always had the heart of a young girl. Through all of the family troubles she maintained a kind of perky stoicism which was lighted considerably by her love of gossip, gaudy spectacles like parades and funerals, bright colors, and animals.An older brother, Pleasant, had died as an infant six years before Sam's birth. His sister Margaret (1833–1839) died when he was three, and his brother Benjamin (1832–1842) died three years later. He was closest to his younger brother, Henry, who was the youngest of the children, born three years after Sam.
“You can hardly imagine what it meant to a boy in those days . . . to see those steamboats pass up and down, and never take a trip on them.”
Marshall Clemens built a two-story frame house at 206 Hill Street in 1844. As a youngster, Samuel was often kept indoors because of poor health. However, by age nine, he seemed to recover from his ailments and joined the rest of the town's children outside. He attended a private school in Hannibal, as there were no public schools at that time.
After that time, the family did not own any more slaves, but rented them for household work:
At first my father owned slaves but by and by he sold them and hired others by the year from the farmers. For a girl of fifteen he paid twelve dollars a year . . . for a negro woman of twenty-five, as a general house servant, he paid twenty-five dollars a year . . . for a strong negro woman of forty, as cook washer, etc., he paid forty dollars a year . . . and for an able-bodied man he paid from seventy-five to a hundred dollars a year.
. . . We had a little slave boy whom we had hired from someone, there in Hannibal. He was from the eastern shore of Maryland and had been brought away from his family and his friends halfway across the American continent and sold. He was a cheery spirit, innocent and gentle, and the noisiest creature that ever was, perhaps. All day long he was singing, whistling, yelling, whooping, laughing-it was maddening, devastating, and unendurable. At last, one day, I lost all my temper and went raging to my mother and said Sandy had been singing for an hour without a single break and I couldn’t stand it, and wouldn’t she please shut him up. The tears came into her eyes and her lip trembled, and she said something like this. "Poor thing, when he sings it shows that he is not remembering, and that comforts me; but when he is still I am afraid he is thinking and I cannot bear it. He will never see his mother again; if he can sing I must not hinder it, but be thankful for it. If you were older you would understand me; then that friendless child’s noise would make you glad." It was a simple speech and made up of small words, but it went home and Sandy’s noise was not aIn his book, Following the Equator, Sam Clemens wrote about his father punishing a slave boy the family had leased to work around the house. Sam remembered how the boy's "trifling little blunders and awkwardnesses" provoked John Marshall Clemens to "cuff" him. In the original manuscript he had used the word "lashed", but in the margin his wife, Livy, wrote "I hate to have your father pictured as lashing a slave boy." Sam Clemens answered, "it's out, and my father is whitewashed."
trouble to me anymore.
In Missouri there was less agricultural use for slaves than in the Deep South; instead, slaves were considered to be investments. Slave owners got profit from their slaves by leasing them to other people as household servants. Slavery was common in Missouri: having a slave in the house was like having an electric dishwasher today–virtually everyone middle class or above had one. The majority of families in the county owned or rented slaves. Although slaves could be rented by the week or month, most leases were yearly and ran from Christmas to Christmas. The obligation to provide clothing to the leased and owned slaves gave rise to a class of cheap products designed for use by slaves, "negro" goods, which included clothing, shoes and bedding. Emma Knight, who was born in slavery on the farm of Will and Emily Ely near Florida, Missouri, participated in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) slave narrative project, and recalled:
We didn't have hardly any clothes and most of the time they was just rags. We went barefoot until it got real cold. Our feet would crack open from the cold and bleed. We would sit down and bawl and cry because it hurt so. Mother made moccasins for our feet from old pants. Late in the fall master would go to Hannibal or Palmyra and bring us shoes and clothes. We got those only once a year. I had to wear the young master's overalls for underwear and linseys for a dress.Slaves were also an extremely important source of revenue for local and state governments. Slaves, like land, were taxed; taxes on slaves accounted for more than 10 percent of Marion County revenue. But as Terrell Dempsey writes in Searching for Jim:
The impact of slavery was not merely economic. Government, law, religion, economics, and social status were all inextricably tied to slavery, and just as each institution in Hannibal was supported in some fashion by slavery, so each institution had a stake in its perpetuation.
|Map of Missouri and Illinois|
|The Abolitionists in Prison in Palymra, Missouri; |
Palmyra was the couny seat of Marion County
It becomes our duty to notify the people of the means which may be employed to beguile, betray, and even decoy away our slaves from our very doors, to the end that all may be on the watch - that if there are Abolitionists among us who would employ such artifice for the purpose of effecting their infamous purposes, that they may be detected and brought to merited punishment.
. . . We have another object in view also, in publishing the manner of the capture of those men - it is, that all Abolitionists everywhere may be notified of the condition of our slaves and the estimation in which they hold them and their doctrines - that Abolitionists everywhere may learn from the conduct of those slaves in the capture of those men, that they need none of their aid, and are ready to refuse their ill-timed assistance - that slaves as they are, they know too much of the effect of Abolition doctrines upon the condition of slaves elsewhere . . . that they have no confidence in men who advise a violation of all law, human and divine - who disseminate far and wide a system whereby the bonds of slavery, which, before the introduction of their wicked schemes, were worn without oppression, are drawn closer and closer, and which will be rendered more and more intolerable to the slave . . . Let the Abolitionist, with all his boasted love of Virtue and Philanthropy, learn from the lessons of fidelity, patriotism and honest evinced in the conduct of those slaves.The court waived the usual rule forbidding black testimony against whites; the slaves entered evidence against the abolitionists, who were from the Mission Institute just across the Mississippi River in Quincy, Illinois. The Missouri Legislature had already declared the doctrine of abolition illegal in the state of Missouri. The case drew national attention. The citizens of Hannibal favored hanging the three men, but finally accepted with "considerable applause" the sentences of 12 years at hard labor. Twenty men from Hannibal attended the sentencing, intending to lynch the men if they were not satisfied with the judgment. Sam remembered how proud the town was of his father's leadership in the case.
Thomas L. Anderson, one of the prosecuting attorneys in the case, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri, and later made a speech supporting the institution of slavery:
The removal of the negro to this country is to him an inestimable blessing, for in no country whatever, does he enjoy so many comforts and blessings as in our own. . . . He is not sufficiently endowed with the intellect, to enable him to contend successfully with the more gifted races of men in the struggles of life. If left in a community to themselves, tho' they may have been previously civilized, they son retrograde and become literally companions for brutes, as history abundantly confirms.
. . . That which the Bible sanctions is right, and hence it is regarded, by all men in Christian lands, as an infallible guide in all their actions. Having thus premised I now aver that if the Bible is true, slavery is morally right.People in Illinois who were anti-abolition were upset at the unrest across the river., and in 1842 held a meeting at the Quincy courthouse. A committee was elected to draft resolutions to reassure their neighbors in Missouri:
RESOLVED, That whatever rights the Creator may have endowed man at his creation, we believe that it is inconsistent with his providence and contrary to the moral laws of his universe for two people so widely different as the blacks and white - different in complexion - in their physical structure, and the organization of their minds, result from natural, moral and physical causes, to mingle together in the enjoyment of the same civil, political, and social privileges - and that we will oppose to the utmost of our power, all schemes having this object in view, as contrary to nature - degenerating to virtue - repulsive to sound and enlightened policy, and contrary to every dictate of patriotism.As slaves continued to run away, the Palmyra Missouri Whig newspaper called for citizens "to form associations, such as exist in other states for the detection of horse thieves" to catch runaway slaves and abolitionists. An association was formed by men from Marion and Ralls counties, with a fixed system of rewards. Governor Thomas Reynolds of Missouri, wrote:
The Penitentiary for life, seems a punishment scarcely too sever for the perpetrators of such atrocious offences.The following year, the Marion County meeting called for the removal of free Negroes from the county. Slaveholders did not want their slaves to see other Negroes enjoying even limited freedom. The committee resolved to tell free Negroes to depart Missouri as soon as possible, and "upon refusal after due notice and time for preparation, said committee are hereby required to take all lawful means to effect their removal." Hannibal received national attention when a New York newspaper reported on another meeting there:
TROUBLE AMONG SLAVEHOLDERS - The incessant flight of fugitive slaves, and the insecurity of investment in such moveable property have awakened the zealous indignation among the slave holders in Missouri. A mass meeting of the citizens of the counties of Lewis, Clark, Scotland, Shelby, Monroe, Ralls and Marion, has been called to meet at Hannibal on the 21st August, to take measures to protect their slave property against the operations of the abolitionists. The abolitionists residing in Illinois have become emboldened by success, and so frequent and unremitting are their exertions, that the slaveholders have no security whatever against their efforts to carry off their slaves to Canada.As Terrell Dempsey writes in his book about Missouri slavery, Searching for Jim:
The meeting reaffirmed the popular idea that Missouri slavery was a state institution, guarded and protected by the U.S. Constitution, and the power to abolish it rested solely with the people of Missouri. Citizens of one sovereign state had no business interfering with another. Despite the legal language and appeals to the Constitution, the real bond between Illinois anti-abolitionists and Missouri slave culture was something visceral. The common bond was racism.In 1843, John Marshall Clemens sued William Beebe in Hannibal, and got a judgment against him. Since Beebe did not have the cash to pay the judgment, Clemens collected his debt in the form of a nine year-old slave girl (who, at the time, was the same age as Sam Clemens), and sold her at public auction.
William Wells Brown reported seeing a white slave woman being put aboard a riverboat in Hannibal in 1844. She was accompanying a coffle of fifty to sixty slaves who were being sold south. Such women brought a premium in the slave markets of the south, and the girl's future was to serve as a mistress or to work in a brothel.
A beautiful girl, apparently about twenty years of age, perfectly white, with straight light hair and blue eyes. . . . She had been on the boat but a short time before the attention of all the passengers, including the ladies, had been called to her, and the common topic of conversation was about the beautiful slave-girl. She was not in chains. The man who claimed this article of human merchandise was a Mr. Walker, - a well known slave trader, residing in St. Louis. . . . Her master kept close by her side . . When we reached St. Louis, the slaves were removed to a boat bound for New Orleans . . .
In my schoolboy days I had no aversion to slavery. I was not aware that there was anything wrong about it. No one arraigned it in my hearing; the local papers said nothing against it; the local pulpit taught us that God approved it, that it was a holy thing, and the doubter need only look in the Bible if he wished to settle his mind — and then the texts were read aloud do us to make the matter sure. If the slaves themselves had an aversion to slavery they were wise and said nothing.At any given time there were up to a dozen slave traders in Hannibal. Melpontian Hall, four blocks from the Clemens house, was one of the main locations for slave auctions. Sam later wrote:
I vividly remember seeing a dozen black men and women chained to one another, once, and lying in a group on the pavement, awaiting shipment to the Southern slave market. Those were the saddest faces I have ever seen.
When I was ten years old I saw a man fling a lump of iron-ore at a slave-man in anger, for merely doing something awkwardly — as if that were a crime. It bounded from the man's skull, and the man fell and never spoke again. He was dead in an hour. I knew the man had a right to kill his slave if he wanted to, and yet it seemed a pitiful thing and somehow wrong, though why wrong I was not deep enough to explain if I had been asked to do it . . . Nobody in the village approved of that murder, but of course no one said much about it.He saw an abolitionist attacked by a mob that would have lynched him had not a Methodist minister defended him on a plea that he must be crazy.
In those old slave-holding days the whole community was agreed as to one thing--the awful sacredness of slave property. To help steal a horse or a cow was a low crime, but to help a hunted slave, or feed him or shelter him, or hide him, or comfort him, in his troubles, his terrors, his despair, or hesitate to promptly to betray him to the slave-catcher when opportunity offered was a much baser crime, & carried with it a stain, a moral smirch which nothing could wipe away. That this sentiment should exist among slave-owners is comprehensible--there were good commercial reasons for it--but that it should exist & did exist among the paupers, the loafers the tag-rag & bobtail of the community, & in a passionate & uncompromising form, is not in our remote day realizable. It seemed natural enough to me then . . . though it seems now absurd. It shows that that strange thing, the conscience--the unerring monitor--can be trained to approve any wild thing you want it to approve if you begin its education early & stick to it.
A correspondent writing for the Hannibal Journal in 1849 published his reaction to three whippings he had recently seen:
I just happen to think of three cases of unmerciful flogging that have come within the limited range of my observation. All three were whipped on slight suspicious and as it turned out were innocent. The back of one was almost literally cut to pieces, and the others were so mangled that it took skillful medical aid to preserve life. One of these latter belonged to a "good Christian lady" of the upper ten who stood by and saw every strip well laid on, the other to a leading member of the church. And what was done? Why a few dared to whisper that they thought those persons rather cruel; and that was all.John Rogers, who became a famous sculptor in the 19th century, worked in Hannibal in the 1850s as an engineer on the railroad. His letters to his family in Massachusetts were descriptive of the slavery that was going on in the town. He wrote about the actions of an officer of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad:
I heard of a case today which shocked me as I know the parties. The treasurer of the road is quire a wealthy Irishman & lives close by where I board. The other day his wife for some offense, I don't know what it was, threw a bowl of scalding hot preserves in the face of her black woman & then she & her husband beat her most immercifully. . . . As this was done by people I have always considered respectable it shows how mistaken we may sometimes be by a decent exterior.A few years later, when his railroad job ended, Rogers decided to become a sculptor and traveled to Europe to study. Rogers wanted to produce art for ordinary people, and came up with the idea of mass-producing his sculptures. He created original works which he cast in plaster and sold at affordable prices. He made a fortune with statues of Abraham Lincoln, Union soldiers, and scenes from American life. His first commercial sculpture was of a slave auction.
|"The Slave Auction"|
|Grave of Agness Flautleroy|
SLAVE OF Sophia Hawkins
DIED July 15, 1855
Jane and Pamela Clemens were members of First Presbyterian church in Hannibal. In 1845, the Presbyterian general assembly adopted the following resolution in Philadelphia:
That the institution of slavery, existing in these Untied States, is not sinful on the part of civil society.
Sam detested Sunday school as much as he did day-school. Once his brother, Orion, who was ten years older than Sam had threatened to drag him there by the collar. As a thunderstorm got louder, Sam decided that he loved Sunday-school and would go the next Sunday without being invited.
- That slavery, as it exists in these United States, is not a sinful offence.
- That civil government is not bound to abolish slavery in these United States.
- That it is not agreeable to the word of God for any person intentionally to induce those held in slavery to rebel against their masters.
One day when Sam was pulled half-drowned and limp from the river and delivered to his mother (one of nine such occasions he recalled), she simply dosed him up with mullein tea and castor oil, and joked: “I guess there wasn’t much danger. People born to be hanged are safe in water.”
|John Marshall Clemens' Obituary Notice in Hannibal|
When I was about fifteen, I was for a short time a Cadet of Temperance . . . It consisted in a pledge to refrain . . . from the use of tobacco; I mean it consisted partly in that pledge and partly in a red merino sash, but the red merino sash was the main part. The boys joined in order to be privileged to wear it - the pledge part of the matter was of no consequence. . . . The organization was weak and impermanent because there were not enough holidays to support it. We could turn out and march and show the red sashes on May-day with the Sunday-schools, and on the Fourth of July with the Sunday-schools . . . But you can't keep a juvenile moral institution alive on displays of its sash a year. . . . I was enabled to remain steadfast until I had gathered the glory of two displays - May-day and the Fourth of July. Then I resigned . . . I had not smoked for three full months, and no words can adequately described the smoke-appetite that was consuming me. I had been a smoker from my ninth year . . . I was smoking, and utterly happy . . . I do not now know what the brand of the cigar was. It was probably not choice, or the previous smoker would not have thrown it away so soon. But I realized that it was the best cigar that was ever made. The previous smoker would have thought the same, if he had been without a smoke for three months. I smoked that stub without shame. I could not do it now, without shame, because now I am more refined than I was then. But I would smoke it, just the same. I know myself, and I know the human race, well enough to know that.In 1851, Pamela married William Moffett, a commission merchant, and left Hannibal for St. Louis. Sam's brother Orion purchased the Hannibal Journal and renamed it the Hannibal Western Union; Sam began working as a typesetter and contributor of articles. For two years, Orion and Sam operated the press and conducted business on the lower floor of the Clemens home, while their mother took in boarders to try to make ends meet.
Terrell Dempsey writes of Sam's apprenticeship:
Print was set by hand in midcentury. Sam Clemens had to learn to distinguish the 154 different pieces of type at use in the paper and to sort them by sight and feel into the type case. The type was kept in slanted trays on boxes at hand height. The upper case was divided into ninety-eight compartments, which held capital letters, numerals, and various accent and punctuation marks. The lower case held the small letters in fifty-six compartments. It took skill to tell the difference . . . particularly in the dull light of the print shop. . . .
Sam would be given a written article to set . . . With the article before him on a table, he held a small metal tray called a composing stick in his left hand and selected the proper letters one at a time with his right. The job required intelligence, good eyesight, and a good memory. . . . There was more to the job than just selecting the proper letters. Same had to be certain that stories contained the proper spaces between words and sentences. Lines and columns had to be straight. . . . When Same had filled a stick, he had to place the lines of type into the wooden galley tray. When he had set enough type to complete a page, he tied off the black of type with a piece of string and transferred it to the "imposing stone," a flat marble table designed to hold the type perfectly flat. He then made a proof from the page, and Joseph Ament read it, hence the term "proofreading."While Orion was gone to Tennessee in September 1852, Sam printed "three rather outrageous satires on local affairs" and adopted his first pen name - W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab. Sam started an attack on the editor of a rival newspaper; after Orion came back, he would not let Sam publish anything. Then in May 1853, Orion went out of town again and Sam took charge of the paper. He printed some humorous pieces and created new pen names: "the Rambler", "the Grumbler" and "Peter Pencilcase's son, John Snooks". After his return, Orion had to admit that Sam brought subscribers to the paper, and so he gave him a column of his own, "Our Assistant's Column."
Orion was an abolitionist, but when he worked in Hannibal, he kept quiet about his opinions. His true positions were not publicly known until he moved north to the free state of Iowa. Not only would his struggling newspaper have gone bankrupt if it didn't take advertisements for slave sales and notices about escaped slaves, it would have been violently destroyed. Between 1835 when Samuel Clemens was born and 1853 when Orion moved to Iowa, at least three prominent Hannibal men who had publicly questioned slavery, one even in very mild terms, had been driven out of town. While there was an active underground railroad in Hannibal, the operative term was “underground.” Those who made the mistake of being less than subtle were driven out of town, lynched, or sent to prison. Sam despised abolitionists as a teenager.
|Samuel Clemens in 1850, 15 years old,|
wearing his printer's cap
and holding a printer's composing stick with his name spelled in type
A few months after Sam's departure, in September 1853, Orion left Hannibal for Muscatine, Iowa; Jane accompanied him with her youngest son Henry. The following year, when Orion moved to Keokuk in June 1855, Jane went to live with Pamela and her husband in St. Louis.
Sam's life after he left Hannibal is a story of change. He left in 1853 as a supporter of slavery. He was at that time a racist who believed that African Americans were inferior to whites. His letters home reflect his opinions at the time. On August 31, 1853, Sam wrote home from New York complaining of "trundle-bed trash" and "Niggers, mulattoes, quadroons, Chinese" which he refers to as "human vermin."
While he was living in St. Louis, he jokingly set up an abolitionist organization. He wrote to the Boston Vigilance Committee, telling them that he had just been released from prison, where he was incarcerated for helping slaves escape. He wrote that he needed money to live and they sent him $24.50. He thought it was a great joke at the time.
Keokuk, August 5th
My Dear Brother:Sam had read the report "Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon," (1853–54), by William Lewis Herndon and Lardner Gibbon. In 1910, in “The Turning Point of My Life,” Sam recalled that it “told an astonishing tale about coca, a vegetable product of miraculous powers; asserting that it was so nourishing and so strength-giving that the native of the mountains of the Madeira region would tramp up-hill and down all day on a pinch of powdered coca and require no other sustenance.” As a result, Sam
Got your letter, postmarked 5th about two hours ago — come d—d quick, (to be a little profane.) Ward and I have held a long consultation, Sunday morning, and the result was that us two have determined to start to Brazil, if possible, in six weeks from now, in order to look carefully into matters there . . . We propose going via. New York. Now, between you and I and the fence you must say nothing about this to Orion, for he thinks that Ward is to go clear through alone, and that I am to stop at New York or New Orleans until he reports. But that don’t suit me. My confidence in human nature does not extend quite that far. I won’t depend upon Ward’s judgment, or anybody’s. I want to see with my own eyes, and form my own opinion. But you know what Orion is. When he gets a notion into his head, and more especially if it is an erroneous one, the Devil can’t get it out again. . . . Ma knows my determination, but even she counsels me to keep it from Orion. She says I can treat him as I did her when I started to St. Louis and went to New York—I can start to New York and go to South America!
was fired with a longing to ascend the Amazon. Also with a longing to open up a trade in coca with all the world. During months I dreamed that dream, and tried to contrive ways to get to Para and spring that splendid enterprise upon an unsuspecting planet.Between 1853 and 1856 dozens of articles published in the cities where Sam lived extolled the wonders and opportunities of the region and urged that it be opened to commerce. As Orion was still unable to pay wages to his brother, in October 1856 Sam went to Cincinnati, Ohio. Before leaving, Sam signed a contract with the publisher of the Keokuk Post, offering him five dollars for each travel letter he would send. It was his first arrangement to write for money. He sent only three: one from St. Louis and two from Cincinnati, for which he adopted the new pen personality of "Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass."
While training as a pilot, Clemens convinced his younger brother, Henry, to come work on the river with him. Clemens, who served as a cub pilot on the steamboat Pennsylvania from September 27, 1857 until June 5, 1858, arranged a post as "mud clerk" for his brother. Clemens later wrote in his Autobiography:
In 1858, I was a steersman on board the swift and popular New Orleans and St. Louis packet, Pennsylvania, Captain Klinefelter. . . . I had been steering for Mr. Brown, one of the pilots, for about eighteen months . . . I had found a place on the Pennsylvania for my brother Henry, who was two years my junior. It was not a place of profit, it was only a place of promise. He was "mud" clerk. Mud clerks received no salary, but they were in the line of promotion.
. . . The dream begins when Henry had been mud clerk about three months. We were lying in port at St. Louis. . . . The mud clerk had to begin his labors at dawn and continue them into the night, by the light of pine-knot torches. Henry and I, moneyless and unsalaried, had billeted ourselves upon our brother-in-law, Mr. Moffett . . . On the night of the dream Henry started away at eleven . . . In the morning when I awoke I had been dreaming, and the dream was so vivid, so like reality, that it deceived me, and I thought it was real. In the dream I had seen Henry a corpse. He lay in a metallic burial case. He was dressed in a suit of my clothing, and on his breast lay a great bouquet of flowers, mainly white roses, with a red rose in the center. . . .When the pilot, William Brown, accused Henry of not delivering a message to stop at a plantation, abusing him and striking him, Sam responded in Henry's defense, punching Brown on the floor of the pilot-house. Although Sam knew his reaction was a gross violation of rules, the captain knew Brown and quietly approved of Sam's actions. The captain offered to dismiss Brown and give Sam the daylight watch on the return trip from New Orleans to St. Louis, an indication of the high regard in which he was held as a cub-pilot. However, Sam returned upriver on another steamboat, the A.T. Lacey, planning to rejoin the Pennsylvania as soon as Brown could be replaced.
We witnessed one of the most affecting scenes at the Exchange yesterday that has ever been seen. The brother of Mr. Henry Clemens, second clerk of the Pennsylvania, who now lies dangerously ill from the injuries received by the explosion of that boat, arrived in the city yesterday afternoon, on the steamer A. T. LACY. He hurried to the Exchange to see his brother, and on approaching the bedside of the wounded man, his feelings so much overcame him, at the scalded and emaciated form before him, that he sunk to the floor overpowered. There was scarcely a dry eye in the house; the poor sufferers shed tears at the sight. This brother had been pilot on the Pennsylvania, but fortunately for him, had remained in New Orleans when the boat started up.
Henry was asleep ~ was blown up ~ then fell back on the hot boilers, and I suppose that the rubbish fell on him, for he is injured internally. He got into the water and swam to shore, and got into the flatboat with the other survivors. He had nothing on but his wet shirt, and lay there burning up with a southern sun and freezing in the wind till the Kate Frisbee came along. His wounds were not dressed till he got to Memphis, 15 hours after the explosion. He was senseless and motionless for 12 hours after that. But may God bless Memphis, this noblest city on the face of the earth. She has done her duty by these poor afflicted creatures ~ especially Henry, for he has had five ~ aye, ten, fifteen, twenty times the care and attention that any one else has had. Dr. Peyton, the best physician in Memphis sat by him for 36 hours. There are 32 scalded men in that room, and you would know Dr. Peyton better than I can describe him, if you could follow him around and hear each man murmur as he passes ~ May the god of Heaven bless you, Doctor !At eleven o'clock on the sixth night, Dr. Peyton advised Sam, in the event that Henry could not rest, to ask the physician in charge to administer a one-eighth of a grain of morphine. Henry, disturbed by the complaining of the other sufferers, woke and could not rest, growing ever worse. Sam couldn't bare his brother's agony. A young medical student was the only one in attendance, and Sam told him what the doctor had said. The student was unsure how to measure the one-eighth of a grain of morphine, but eventually tried. Henry sank into a heavy sleep and died before morning. Whether he died from an overdose of morphine or from his terrible injuries, Sam blamed himself.
Henry died of his burns and other injuries on June 21. The ladies of Memphis raised funds to provide him with a metallic casket. Henry was laid out wearing Sam's clothes, and on his chest an elderly lady placed a bouquet of white roses with a single red rose in the middle. Curiously, Sam had experienced a chillingly prophetic dream weeks earlier, while staying at Pamela's house in St. Louis, in which he had seen Henry's body in a metallic casket, with white roses and single red bloom on his chest. He was guilt-stricken and held himself responsible for the rest of his life.
In October, Orion wrote one of the women in Memphis who had helped nurse Henry before he died:
KEOKUK, Iowa, October 3, 1858.
MISS WOOD,—My mother having sent me your kind letter, with a request that myself and wife should write to you, I hasten to do so. In my memory I can go away back to Henry's infancy; I see his large, blue eyes intently regarding my father when he rebuked him for his credulity in giving full faith to the boyish idea of planting his marbles, expecting a crop therefrom; then comes back the recollection of the time when, standing we three alone by our father's grave, I told them always to remember that brothers should be kind to each other; afterward I see Henry returning from school with his books for the last time. He must go into my printing-office.
. . . Those were happier days. My mother was as lively as any girl of sixteen. She is not so now. . . . But the boys grew up—Sam a rugged, brave, quick-tempered, generous-hearted fellow, Henry quiet, observing, thoughtful, leaning on Sam for protection; Sam and I too leaning on him for knowledge picked up from conversation or books, for Henry seemed never to forget anything, and devoted much of his leisure hours to reading.
Henry is gone! His death was horrible! How I could have sat by him, hung over him, watched day and night every change of expression, and ministered to every want in my power that I could discover. This was denied to me, but Sam, whose organization is such as to feel the utmost extreme of every feeling, was there.
Both his capacity of enjoyment and his capacity of suffering are greater than mine; and knowing how it would have affected me to see so sad a scene, I can somewhat appreciate Sam's sufferings.
In this time of great trouble, when my two brothers, whose heartstrings have always been a part of my own, were suffering the utmost stretch of mortal endurance, you were there, like a good angel, to aid and console, and I bless and thank you for it with my whole heart. I thank all who helped them then; I thank them for the flowers they sent to Henry, for the tears that fell for their sufferings, and when he died, and all of them for all the kind attentions they bestowed upon the poor boys. We thank the physicians, and we shall always gratefully remember the kindness of the gentleman who at so much expense to himself enabled us to deposit Henry's remains by our father.
With many kind wishes for your future welfare, I remain your earnest friend, Respectfully, ORION CLEMENS.Only three of Samuel Clemens' siblings had survived childhood: his older brother, Orion, his older sister,Pamela and his younger brother Henry.
Clemens studied 2,000 miles of the Mississippi for more than two years before he received his steamboat pilot license in 1859, when he was 24 years old.
|Samuel Clemens, Steamboat Pilot|
Clemens returned to Hannibal, where he enlisted briefly in a local Confederate unit. He later wrote a sketch, The Private History of a Campaign That Failed, which told how he and his friends had been volunteers for two weeks before disbanding their company.
Clemens became a silver prospector, but failed at that. He eventually worked at a Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise, with the writer and friend William Wright, who used the pen name "Dan DeQuille". Clemens first used his pen name on February 3, 1863, when he signed a humorous travel account "Letter From Carson – re: Joe Goodman; party at Gov. Johnson's; music" with "Mark Twain."
|Virginia City, Nevada, 1861|
In May 1864, because of insults he had written, Sam Clemens had almost managed to get himself into a duel with a rival editor; on May 29 he left Nevada and moved to San Francisco, California. His first success as a writer came when his humorous tall tale, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, was published in a New York weekly, The Saturday Press, on November 18, 1865. It brought him national attention.
|Advertisement for Mary Twain's|
Lecture on the Sandwich Islands
|Clemens (circled) with the other passengers on the Quaker City|
It was on this trip that he met the 17-year-old Charles Langdon, the son of a wealthy New York businessman. Charley became a member of the "Quaker City night-hawks" who met in Clemens' cabin to drink, smoke and play cards.
|Charles Langdon (seated)|
Clemens first proposed marriage to Livy in the summer of 1868; she refused him, but agreed to a correspondence as "brother and sister."
|Samuel Clemens in 1868|
I have fought the good fight & lo! I have won! Refused three times - warned to quite, once - accepted at last!
|Clemens's letter to Twichell, December 1868|
I take as much pride in her brains as I do in her beauty‚ & as much pride in her happy & equable disposition as I do in her brains.
The Innocents Abroad was published that fall; in its first 18 months in the subscription market, it sold 82,524 copies at average $4 a book for a total royalty of $15, 504 (about $217,762 in 2000 dollars). It was reviewed by William Dean Howells of Boston's prestigious literary magazine, The Atlantic Monthly. Howells and Clemens met later that year, and began a lifelong friendship of over 40 years.
On February 2, 1870, Clemens and Langdon were married in the parlor of her parents' home in Elmira. Thomas K. Beecher presided at the ceremony with the assistance of Joseph Twichell. Jervis Langdon gave them a wedding present of an elegant, furnished home in Buffalo, complete with a staff of servants, horses, a carriage and stable.
In spite of their happiness at being together, their first year of marriage was grim. Livy's health collapsed as she and her sister, Susan, nursed her father, who was dying of stomach cancer. Jervis Langdon died in August. Her close friend, Emma Nye, who was staying with the couple in the Buffalo house, died of typhoid fever in their home in September. In October, Livy almost suffered a miscarriage before giving birth, prematurely, to their first child, Langdon Clemens, on November 7.
|Langdon Clemens, held by his aunt, Susan Langdon Crane|
|Jane Clemens, 1870|
Early in 1872‚ Clemens' recollections and tall tales from his time in the West were published in his book‚ Roughing It. Orders were high for the book even before distribution began; its initial sales outpaced those of The Innocents Abroad. In its first year, the book earned Clemens a little over $20,000, which he was able to put toward the building of their new home in Hartford.
On March 19, 1872, their first daughter, Olivia Susan (called "Susy") was born. She was named after her maternal grandmother and her aunt, Susan Crane. Their happiness at her was broken by Langdon's death a few months later: he died of diphtheria on June 2‚ 1872‚ at the age of 19 months. Clemens blamed himself for having allowed the baby to become during a carriage ride.
Clemens and Hartford Courant publisher Charles Dudley Warner co-wrote The Gilded Age, a novel that attacked political corruption‚ big business and the American obsession with getting rich that seemed to dominate the era. It was published in December 1873.
|Clemens in 1873|
Everything he undertakes fails, and he lives the most dreadful life of fear FEAR FEARSam advanced the couple nine hundred dollars.
In the 1870s and 1880s, the Clemens family summered at Quarry Farm in Elmira, the home of Olivia's sister. In 1874, Susan Crane had an octagonal gazebo built apart from the main house so that her brother-in-law would have a quiet place in which to write. It was also a place where Clemens could smoke constantly, which Susan Crane did not wish him to do in her house.
|Clemens' Octagonal Gazebo at Quarry Farm|
On hot days I spread the study wide open, anchor my papers down with brickbats, & write in the midst of hurricanes . . .
|Clemens in 1874, writing in his study|
Mary Ann Cord
"An' when I heah dat dey gwyne to sell us all off at oction in Richmon', oh de good gracious! I know what dat mean! . . . Dey put chains on us an' put us on a stan' . . . an' all de people stood aroun', crowds an' crowds. An' dey 'd come up dah an' look at us all roun', an' squeeze our arm, an' make us git up an' walk, an' den say, 'Dis one too ole,' or 'Dis one lame,' or 'Dis one don't 'mount to much.' An' dey sole my ole man, an' took him away, an' dey begin to sell my chil'en an' take demaway, an' I begin to cry; an' de man say, 'Shet up yo' dam blubberin',' an' hit me on de mouf wid his han'. An' when de las' one was gone but my little Henry, I grab' him clost up to my breas' so, an' I ris up an' says, 'You shan't take him away,' I says; 'I'll kill de man dat fetches him!' I says. But my little Henry whisper an' say, 'I gwyne to run away, an' den I work an' buy yo' freedom.' Oh, bless de chile, he always so good! But dey got him -- dey got him, de men did; but I took and tear de clo'es mos' off of 'em, an' beat 'em over de head wid my chain; an' dey give it to me, too, but I didn't mine dat."The Clemens' new house on Farmington Avenue‚ which had cost the then-huge sum of $40‚000, was finally completed, and they moved into it in September 1874. The house had 19 rooms, including seven bathrooms, each with a new-fangled flush toilet. "Speaking tubes" carried voices from floor to floor.
|The Hartford House|
|The Clemens Family at their Hartford home|
|Clemens in Bed|
In 1875 a black man came to the Clemens home to wash windows for one day, and ended up staying for the next 16 years as the Clemens' butler. His name was George Griffin; he had been a slave in Maryland, and a Union general's bodyservant during the war. Clemens admired and appreciated George, although Livy was less tolerant about his behavior. Albert Paine, in his biography of Twain, wrote that she fired him once, only to find him at the breakfast table the following morning:
"George," she said, "didn't I discharge you yesterday?"
"Yes, Mis' Clemens, but I knew you couldn't get along without me, so I thought I'd better stay a while."At the same time, racial violence was increasing in the South. Reconstruction was falling apart under a reactionary onslaught against blacks who had acquired citizenship, voting rights, and in some cases had been elected to state and federal office, including the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. President Grant sent federal troops to occupy regions of the South.
Clemens was writing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which would be published in December 1876. His friend William Dean Howells wrote after reading the manuscript:
The story is a wonderful study of the boy-mind which inhabits a world quite distinct from that is which he is bodily present with his elders, and in this lies his great charm and its universality . .
On August 23, 1877, Lewis was returning home from Elmira after marketing his produce. He saw, careening down the road toward him, a carriage pulled by a runaway horse. In the carriage were three frightened women; hurriedly driving to the side of the road, he leaped from his wagon and seized the bridle of the horse. A man of great courage and strength, he succeeded in bringing it to a stop.
The three women were Ida (Mrs. Charles) Langdon, her daughter Julia, and a nurse. Charles Langdon was not in Elmira at the time, but upon his return he gave Lewis a check for one thousand dollars. Mrs. Langdon's token of appreciation was a gold watch with the following inscription engraved on the inside of the case:
Clemens, who was staying at Quarry Farm at the time, gave Lewis fifty dollars and a set of his books personally inscribed. Theodore Crane gave him four hundred dollars.
|Samuel Clemens with John Lewis in 1904|
Ida the young and comely, her little Julia & the nurse Nora, drove out at the gate behind the new gray horse & started down the long hill . . . Ida was seen to turn her face toward us across the fence & intervening lawn. Theodore waved good-by to her, for he did not know that her sign was a speechless appeal for help. The next moment Livy said "Ida's driving too fast down hill!" She followed it with a sort of scream "Her horse is running away!"
We could see two hundred yards down the descent. The buggy seemed to fly. It would strike obstructions & apparently spring the height of a man from the ground. Theodore & I left the shrieking crowd behind & ran down the hill bareheaded and shouting. A neighbor appeared at his gate -- a tenth of a second too late! The buggy vanished past him like a thought. My last glimpse showed it for one instant, far down the descent, springing high in the air, out of a cloud of dust, & then it disappeared.
As I flew down the road, my impulse was to shut my eyes & so delay for a moment the ghastly spectacle of mutilation & death I was expecting. I ran on & on , still spared this spectacle, but saying to myself "I shall see it at the turn of the road; they can never turn that pass alive." When I came in sight of that turn, I saw two wagons there bunched together --- one of them full of people. I said "Just so --- they are petrified at the remains."
But when I got amongst that bunch --- there sat Ida in her buggy and nobody hurt, not even the horse or the vehicle. Ida was pale but serene. As I came tearing down she smiled back over her shoulder at me & said, "Well, we're ALIVE yet, AREN'T we?" A miracle had been performed -- nothing less.
You see, Lewis, the prodigious, humped on his front seat, had been toiling up ... saw the frantic horse plunging down the hill toward him, on a full gallop, throwing his heels as high as a man's head at every jump. So Lewis sprang to the ground and...gathered his vast strength & seized the gray horse's bit as he plunged by, & fetched him up standing.
It was down hill, mind you, ten feet further down hill neither Lewis nor any other man could have saved them, for they would have been on the abrupt "turn" then. But how this miracle was ever accomplished at all, by human strength, generalship, & accuracy, is clear beyond my comprehension, & grows more so the more I go & examine the ground & try to believe it was actually done.
I know one thing, well; if Lewis had missed his aim he would have been killed on the spot he had made for himself, and we should have found the rest of the remains away down at the bottom of the steep ravine."
The colored man. . . is John T. Lewis, a friend of mine. These many years - thirty-four in fact. He was my father-in-law’s coachman forty years ago; was many years a farmer of Quarry Farm, and is still my neighbor. I have not known an honester man nor a more respect-worthy one. Twenty-seven years ago, by the prompt and intelligent exercise of his courage, presence of mind and extraordinary strength, he saved the lives of three relatives of mine, whom a runaway horse was hurrying to destruction. Naturally I hold him in high and grateful regard.In April 1878, Clemens took his family to Europe to gather new experiences for a book. They stayed in Europe for 16 months, spending time in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France, with short trips to Belgium, Holland and England. Clemens took a long walking tour through the Black Forest and into the Alpine region of Switzerland, accompanied by Joseph Twichell. He wrote A Tramp Abroad, which was published in 1880.
Jane Lampton Clemens‚ born in Elmira on July 26‚ 1880‚ was always called “Jean” by her family and friends. She was the youngest and last child of Sam and Livy Clemens. Clemens wrote to his sister: ”Jean is as fat as a watermelon‚ & just as sweet‚ & good‚ & often just as wet.”
|The Clemens Family: Susy, Sam, Jean, Livy and Clara|
|The Clemens daughters with their dog, Hash|
To-day, in all the Gulf States, the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments of the Constitution are practically of no force or effect. The sacred rights, which they solemnly guaranteed, are held in contempt and are literally stamped out in the face of the Government. Be means of the shot gun and midnight raid, the older master class has triumphed over the newly enfranchised citizen and put the Constitution under their feet. In South Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi, the colored people, who largely outnumber the whites, and who are Republican in politics, have been banished from the ballot box and robbed or representation in the councils of the nation, and according to the best information from that quarter the social conditions of the colored people in that section is but little above what it was in the time of slavery. In fact, the chain gang has re-appeared in those States, and persons of color, for the most petty offenses, are put in these gangs and made to work the farms of their former masters under the lash.Catherine "Katy" Leary was born in 1856 to Irish immigrants in Elmira. Her sister Mary was a maid in the Langdon family house; Livy hired Katy in October 1880, bringing her to live in Hartford. From then until 1910 Katy lived and traveled with the family.
Sam's mother, Jane Lampton Clemens (seated on the left); his sister, Pamela Clemens Moffett, (seated right); his niece, Annie Moffett Webster, standing; and Annie's daughter, Alice Webster
Of his 1882 visit he wrote:
I found that the river was as brand new to me as if it had been built yesterday & built while I was absent. I recognized no single feature of it. The river is so thoroughly changed that I canʼt bring it back to mind even when the changes have been pointed out to me . . . It is like a man pointing out to me a place in the sky where a cloud has been.
I missed one thing in the South—African slavery. That horror is gone, and permanently. Therefore, half the South is at last emancipated, half the South is free. But the white half is apparently as far from emancipation as ever.
|Samuel Clemens, 1884|
Clemens, long dissatisfied with his publishers, founded Charles L. Webster & Company, a publishing firm, in 1884. His 32-year-old nephew by marriage, Charles Webster became the titular head of the company. Clemens intended to publish his own work as well as that of new clients.
|Charles L. Websters & Co.|
Advertisement for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Concord Public Library committee has decided to exclude Mark Twain's latest book from the library. One member of the committee says that, while he does not wish to call it immoral, he thinks it contains but little humor, and that of a very coarse type. He regards it as the veriest trash. The librarian and the other members of the committee entertain similar views, characterizing it as rough, coarse and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people.
Joel Chandler Harris wrote:
There is not in our fictive literature a more wholesome book than Huckleberry Finn. It is history, it is romance, it is life. Here we behold human character stripped of all tiresome details; we see people growing and living; we laugh at their humor, share their griefs; and, in the midst of all, behold we are taught the lesson of honesty, justice and mercy.Clemens remained upbeat: he wrote a friend that the banning was worth the sale of 25,000 copies just by the free publicity alone. He also made the observation that for a library to ban a book makes it necessary for many more people to buy the book because they could not borrow it for free.
When she was 13‚ his daughter Susy began writing a biography of her father‚ incorporating family stories‚ letters he had written‚ articles about him and her own thoughts about her father. Much of Susy’s writing is included in Mark Twain’s later autobiographical recollections in 1906.
The children entertained themselves and family friends with games of charades and acted out their favorite stories. They turned their father’s The Prince and Pauper into a stage play in March 1885, in which Susy played a starring role.
Clemens offered to publish Ulysses Grant's Memoirs through his publishing company, giving Grant 70 percent of the profits from the book. Grant, dying of cancer, finished the two volumes in June 1885. He died on July 23. In December, Volume I was published - three months later, Webster & Company presented his widow with the largest single royalty payment in the history of publishing to that time: $200,000. Eventually, payments to Julia Grant approached $450,000. Clemens netted around $200,000.
Mamma and I have both been very much troubled of late because papa, since he has been publishing Gen. Grant's book, has seemed to forget his own books and work entirely, and the other evening as papa and I were promenading up and down the library he told me that he didn't expect to write but one more book, and then he was ready to give up work altogether, die or do anything, he said that he had written more than he had ever expected to . . .Earlier that month, Clemens had signed an agreement to pay James Paige an annual salary of $7,000 that would continue until net yearly profits from the Paige compositor equaled that salary. Clemens also contracted to promote when machine when it was finished and raise the capital for manufacture. His Hartford friend Franklin Whitmore warned Clemens that he was courting bankruptcy. Clemens assured Whitmore that he knew what he was doing.
In April, Vatican officials in Rome signed a contract with Webster & Company to publish a biography of Pope Leo XIII, which Clemens believed would surpass the Grant book in sales. However, when the book was published in 1887, sales were well below the 100,000 copies that Clemens expected. Charles Webster, in ill health, resigned from the company in 1888.
|A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court|
Illustration by Daniel Beard
Most critics disliked the book, and it did not sell well. Clemens said, "It's my swan song, my retirement from literature permanently." He planned to make his living - and his fortune - as a businessman.
He continued to focus on the Paige Compositor. James Paige claimed it would be able to set type as quickly as six men. As a former typesetter, Clemens was fascinated. He had seen an early prototype of Paige's compositor in 1880 and invested $2,000. In 1885 he bought half-ownership for $30,000. He filled notebooks with calculations about how many machines each major newspaper would want, the profit he would make from the sales. Katy Leary later remembered:
Why, he thought he could buy all New York. He was asking how much it would take to buy all the railroads in New York, and all the newspapers, too . . . He thought he'd make millions and own the world, because he had such faith in it. That was Mr. Clemens' way.He wrote his brother in 1889:
All the other wonderful inventions of the human brain sink pretty nearly into commonplace contrasted with this awful mechanical miracle. Telephones, telegraphs, locomotives, cotton gins, sewing machines, Babbage calculators, Jacquard looms, perfecting presses, Arkwright's frames - all mere toys, simplicities! The Paige Compositor marches alone and far in the lead of human inventions.
The Paige Compositor
Olivia Langdon had also survived her August crisis, but in late November, she was near death again. Sam and Livy took the train to Elmira, leaving their daughters with the housekeepers. Shortly after their arrival, they were notified that Jean, who had recently turned 10, was seriously ill. Although her condition was undiagnosed at the time, it may have been the onset of epilepsy; she continued to suffer from seizures the rest of her life. Clemens rushed back home to Hartford while Livy remained in Elmira with her mother, who died on November 27 at the age of 80. It was Livy's 45th birthday, and three days before Sam's 55th birthday.
In 1891, in an effort to economize and pay debts, the Clemens shut down the Hartford house in order to live in Europe, where the exchange rate for American dollars made living much cheaper for them. They dismissed their longtime servants, including Patrick McAleer, the coachman who had been with them since a few days after their wedding, and George Griffin, the butler who had been with them since 1875. Katy Leary accompanied them to Europe, where they would live in France, Switzerland, Germany & Italy.
Clemens wrote to Howells:
I don't know how long we shall be in Europe. . . Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to see except heaven & hell, & I have only a vague curiosity as concerns one of those.Clemens wrote Puddn'head Wilson while living in Europe; it was serialized in The Century Magazine (1893–4), before being published as a novel in 1894.
In 1830, at Dawson’s Landing, Missouri, a baby boy is born to a slave woman in the Driscoll household, Roxy; at the same time, a boy is being born to Roxy’s white mistress, who dies in childbirth. Roxy is ordered to nurse and raise both children.
The two children, one the white heir to the considerable Driscoll estate and the other a black slave, remain in Roxy’s care. One day she and the other house slaves are called before their master who has noticed that some cash has gone missing. He wants to know who has stolen the money. All say, Not I! But only Roxy is telling the truth. The master then says, if the guilty party confesses, that slave will be sold locally, but if no one confesses all four will be sold “down the river” to the new cotton plantations in Mississippi and Alabama being raised on land taken from Indians who had been driven out.
This is a terrible sentence, for these plantations are well-known to be harsh and cruel places that use up slaves the same way that cotton uses up soil, wearing it out and working it to death. Immediately, three slaves fall to their knees and admit their guilt. Only Roxy remains standing. Only she will remain at the Driscoll household.
Roxy returns to her cabin, shaken by the knowledge that she could have been sold down the river. And her son might or might not be sold with her, or might be sold down the river in any case, without her. Roxy is 1/16 black and looks white. Her son by a white father is 1/32 black and also appears white — in fact, the Driscoll baby’s father is not certain which child is his own except that he recognizes that his son is the one that wears better clothes. After wrestling with the moral implications of what she is doing, Roxy switches her baby for her master’s. Tom (Roxy’s own child) becomes the spoiled son of privilege, and Chambers, the true heir, learns humility as a slave.In late 1893, Clemens met financier Henry Huttleson Rogers, a principal officer of the Standard Oil Company who had a fortune of around $100 million dollars. Rogers had been a fan of Mark Twain's work for many years. Rogers agreed to a meeting to discuss Clemens' financial affairs. Clemens gave Rogers power of attorney as Rogers examined and re-arranged the conditions of publishing company, the Paige Compositor, and other investments. Unfortunately, Rogers was unable to prevent disaster. He did, however, protect Clemens' assets. Rogers first made Clemens file for bankruptcy; he then had Clemens transfer the copyrights on his written works to his wife to prevent creditors from gaining possession of them. The Hartford house was declared to be Livy's, as her inheritance had paid for it.
|Clemens with Rogers|
The hideous news of Webster & Co.'s failure reached my by cable . . . Of course I knew it was likely to come, but I had great hope that it would be in some way averted . . . I have a perfect horror and heart-sickness over it. I cannot get away from the feeling that business failure means disgrace . . . Sue, if you were to see me you would see that I have grown old very fast during this last year. . . Most of the time I want to lie down and cry. Everything seems to me so impossible . . . I feel that my life is an absolute and irretrievable failure. . . . I so often feel that I should like to give it up and die . . .Later that year, the Chicago Herald agreed to install the Paige typesetter for a series of tests before it was offered for sale on the market. When the machine repeatedly broke down, the newspaper suspended the tests and declined to purchase the machine. On December 22, Clemens learned that Rogers had dissolved the Paige Compositor Manufacturing Company.
The Hartford house was leased to John Day and his wife Alice, a daughter of Isabella Beecher Hooker, for $200 a month. Clemens arranged for a round-the-world lecture tour to pay back his creditors, although because of the bankruptcy, he was no longer under any legal obligation to do so. Livy, however, insisted.
|Livy Clemens in 1895, at the beginning of the world tour|
Talking of patriotism what humbug it is; it is a word which always commemorates a robbery. There isn't a foot of land in the world which doesn't represent the ousting and re-ousting of a long line of successive "owners," who each in turn, as "patriots" . .. defended it against the next gang of "robbers" who came to steal it and did - and became swelling-hearted patriots in their turn.
|Clemens, traveling on the world tour|
They planned to have Susy and Jean join them in England. But before the family could be reunited, Susy fell ill. Livy and Clara sailed for home on the 15th of August in order to nurse her. Clemens wrote in his autobiography:
I was standing in our dining room thinking of nothing in particular, when a cablegram was put into my hand. It said "Susy was peacefully released to-day."
It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live. . . . The intellect is stunned by the shock . . . The mind has a dumb sense of vast loss - that is all. It will take mind and memory months, and possibly years, to gather together the details and thus learn and know the whole extent of the loss. . . . First he misses this, then that, then the other thing. . . . It cannot be replaced. . . It is irrevocably lost.
. . . The 18th of August brought me the awful tidings. The mother and the sister were out there in mid-Atlantic, ignorant of what was happening . . .Susy had died of spinal meningitis on August 18‚ 1896‚ at the age of 24.
In her 1931 memoir My Father: Mark Twain‚ Clara reminisced that no one in the family smiled for a long time. In the years after Susy’s death‚ the family lived a nomadic existence in Europe. Jean was diagnosed with epilepsy that year, and this news was also a huge blow. While in Europe the family sought out doctors to treat Jean in England‚ Sweden‚ Germany‚ and Switzerland‚ but constant travel also took its toll. There was social stigma surrounding epilepsy‚ and sufferers were often ostracized. Livy insisted that Jean be included in as many family and social activities as her health would allow.
|Ossip Gabrilowitsch with Clara Clemens|
|Orion Clemens, 1895|
The family lived in London for a year before returning to the United States in October 1900.
Along with his friend William Dean Howells, Clemens was active in the Anti-Imperialism League, giving speeches and writing "To the Person Sitting in Darkness" in the February 1901 issue of the North American Review:
There have been lies; yes, but they were told in a good cause.
We have been treacherous; but that was only in order that real good might come out of apparent evil.
True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn't it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited our clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit's work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America's honor and blackened her face before the world; but each detail was for the best.
. . . The Head of every State and Sovereignty in Christendom and ninety per cent. of every legislative body in Christendom, including our Congress and our fifty State Legislatures, are members not only of the church, but also of the Blessings-of-Civilization Trust. This world-girdling accumulation of trained morals, high principles, and justice, cannot do an unright thing, an unfair thing, an ungenerous thing, an unclean thing. It knows what it is about. Give yourself no uneasiness; it is all right.
. . . It will give the Business a splendid new start. You will see.In 1901, Clemens wrote the essay "The United States of Lyncherdom." He decided not to publish it; the essay was published 13 years after his death, by Albert Bigelow Paine, in Europe and Elsewhere.
Let us import American missionaries from China, and send them into the lynching field.
With 1,500 of them out there converting two Chinamen apiece per annum against an uphill birth rate of 33,000 pagans per day, it will take upward of a million years to make the conversions balance the output and bring the Christianizing of the country in sight to the naked eye; therefore, if we can offer our missionaries as rich a field at home at lighter expense and quite satisfactory in the matter of danger, why shouldn't they find it fair and right to come back and give us a trial?
The Chinese are universally conceded to be excellent people, honest, honorable, industrious, trustworthy, kind-hearted, and all that--leave them alone, they are plenty good enough just as they are; and besides, almost every convert runs a risk of catching our civilization.
We ought to be careful. We ought to think twice before we encourage a risk like that; for, once civilized, China can never be uncivilized again. We have not been thinking of that. Very well, we ought to think of it now.
Our missionaries will find that we have a field for them--and not only for the 1,500, but for 15,011. Let them look at the following telegram and see if they have anything in China that is more appetizing. It is from Texas:
The negro was taken to a tree and swung in the air. Wood and fodder were piled beneath his body and a hot fire was made. Then it was suggested that the man ought not to die too quickly, and he was let down to the ground while a party went to Dexter, about two miles distant, to procure coal oil. This was thrown on the flame and the work completed.
We implore them to come back and help us in our need. Patriotism imposes this duty on them. Our country is worse off than China; they are our countrymen, their motherland supplicates their aid in this her hour of deep distress. . .
We ask them to read that telegram again, and yet again, and picture the scene in their minds, and soberly ponder it; then multiply it . . .
O kind missionary, O compassionate missionary, leave China! come home and convert these Christians!Clemens visited his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri for the last time in May 1902. He was to receive an honorary degree from the University of Columbia, and made a hundred-mile detour to Hannibal on impulse. Word spread fast that Mark Twain was back in town, and he posed in front of the house at 206 Hill Street where he and his family had lived for a time. He also visited the cemetery where his family members were buried.
|Clemens in Hannibal, 1902|
Livy died on June 5‚ 1904. She was 57 years old, and had been married to Sam for 34 years.
|Olivia Clemens on her death bed|
Photograph by Jean Clemens
An hour ago the best heart that ever beat for me and mine was carried silent out of this house and I am as one who wanders and has lost his way. She who is gone was our head, she was our hands. We are now trying to make plans - WE; we who have never made a plan before, nor ever needed to. . . . If she had known she was near to death she would have told us where to go, and what to do, but she was not suspecting, neither were we. She was all our riches and she is gone; she was our breath, she was our life, and now we are nothing.The Reverend Joseph Twichell, who presided at their wedding ceremony, spoke at the funeral in the house where Livy had grown up. Clemens wrote in his notebook:
July 14, 1904. (Elmira) Funeral private in the house of Livy's young maidenhood. Where she stood as a bride thirty-four years ago there her coffin rested; and over it the same voice that had made her a wife then, committed her departed spirit to God now.Her death would leave a hole in the family that neither of his daughters or friends could fill. In their memoirs and letters‚ Clara‚ Katy – and particularly the stricken Sam Clemens himself – comment on their inability to take part in everyday life‚ travel‚ and writing after Livy’s death. Clemens and his daughters went to Tyringham, Massachusetts, planning to spend the rest of the summer there. While there were there, Jean had an accident in which the horse she was riding ran into a trolley-car. The horse was killed, Jean was injured, but survived. In August, he learned of his sister Pamela's death in Greenwich, Connecticut.
After her mother’s death‚ Clara suffered an emotional collapse and spent some time away from her family. She longed to start a career for herself that did not depend on her fathers’ name for success. She spent her time between traveling for performances and at home with her father managing household affairs. Clemens, Jean, and Katy Leary moved into a house on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Jean broke down, attacking Katy Leary, and was institutionalized away from home for the next few years.
|Clemens in bed at the Fifth Avenue house in New York City, 1904|
|Clemens playing billiards with Paine in the New York house|
start it at no particular time of your life; wander at your free will all over your life; talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment; drop it the moment its interest threatens to pale, and turn your talk upon the new and more interesting thing that has intruded itself into your mind meantime.
. . . What a wee little part of a person's life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. . . . His acts and his words are merely the visible thin crust of his world . . . The mass of him is hidden - it and its volcanic fires that toss and boil, and never rest, night nor day. These are his life, and they are not written, and cannot be written.
Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man - the biography of the man himself cannot be written. . . .
In this Autobiography I shall keep in mind the fact that I am speaking from the grave. . . . I shall be dead when the book issues from the press.Clemens formed a club in 1906 for girls he viewed as surrogate granddaughters, the Angel Fish and Aquarium Club. The dozen or so members ranged in age from 10 to 16. Clemens exchanged letters with his "Angel Fish" girls and invited them to concerts and the theater and to play games. Clemens wrote in 1908 that the club was his "life's chief delight."
|Clemens with his "Angel Fish" girls|
After my wife’s death, June 5, 1904, l experienced a long period of unrest and loneliness. Clara and Jean were busy with their studies and their labors, and I was washing about on a forlorn sea of banquets and speechmaking in high and holy causes - industries which furnished me intellectual cheer and entertainment, but got at my heart for an evening only, then left it dry and dusty. I had reached the grandpapa stage of life; and what I lacked and what I needed, was grandchildren, but I didn't know it. By and by this knowledge came by accident, on a fortunate day, a golden day, and my heart has never been empty of grandchildren since. No, it is a treasure-palace of little people whom I worship, and whose degraded and willing slave I am. In grandchildren I am the richest man that lives today: for I select my grandchildren, whereas all other grandfathers have to take them as they come, good, bad or indifferent.
|"If we would learn what the human race really is, at bottom,|
we need only observe it in election times."
Mark Twain, Autobiography
|Clemens in his Oxford gown|
Citizenship? We have none! In place of it we teach patriotism which Samuel Johnson said a hundred and forty or a hundred and fifty years ago was the last refuge of the scoundrel—and I believe that he was right. I remember when I was a boy and I heard repeated time and time again the phrase, ‘My country, right or wrong, my country!’ How absolutely absurd is such an idea. How absolutely absurd to teach this idea to the youth of the country.
|The gospel left behind by Jay Gould is doing giant work in our days. Its message is "Get money. Get it quickly. Get it in abundance. Get it in prodigious abundance. Get it dishonestly if you can, honestly if you must."|
|Clemens with William Dean Howells at Stormfield|
|Clemens with Clara, Stormfield, 1908|
I believe that if Mother had lived, age would never have had the power to enfeeble Father's fiery temperament or diminish any of his enthusiasm and youthful forces. He was fundamentally young to the day of his death and would in no way have been marked by the increase of years had not sorrow clutched at the vitals of his heart. I remember thinking, when I saw him lightly running up and down the stairs on the day that a large banquet was to be given in honor of his seventieth birthday, "Father is younger now than I have ever felt." His movements were quick and decided. His laugh was spontaneous and hearty. His eyes never lost their brilliance . . .
|Clemens with cat at Stormfield|
We had not been long in the Reading home before Father began to collect cats, one of which he named Danbury. Jean at this time was trying a cure for her illness in a sanatorium new New York and Father wrote her about the beautiful birds in our vicinity. . . . Jean was aware of the cats' murderous desire for the little birds and when at home tried to keep watch of the malevolent animals. I will quote a short paragraph from one of Father's letters to Jean:
"This morning I saw a splendid blue-and-white-shuttle sail across the sunny air . . . Danbury saw it, too, and started indolently away with an air intended to make me think he was going to church, but I am used to that look of his . . . If he comes back with feathers in his mouth he will be bound over for trial until you come."
|Clemens in Bermuda|
|Suggestions to Persons Entering Heaven:|
Leave your dog outside. Heaven goes by favor.
If it went by merit, you would stay out and the dog would go in.
Clara married Ossip Gabrilowitschat Stormfield on October 6th, 1909, in a ceremony conducted by the Reverend Joseph Twichell. The couple departed for Europe to pursue their careers.
|Clemens in 1909|
|Last photograph of Samuel Clemens|
The New York Times, April 24, 1910:
LAST GLIMPSE HERE OF MARK TWAINThey Opened the Coffin in the Brick Church and 3,000 Persons Saw His Dead Face.The Rev. Joseph Twichell Chokes Down His Tears to Pray.A short pause was made in the journey of Samuel Langhorne Clemens to his final resting place in Elmira yesterday, and he was brought to the Brick Church, at Fifth Avenue and Thirty-Seventy Street, that those who knew him might not be deprived of opportunity to see his face for the last time. A reading from the Scripture, a short address, and a prayer constituted the simple service. Then, for an hour and a half, a stream of people from all walks of life passed in front of the bier. . The people who passed by the coffin saw not so much the man Samuel L. Clemens, a philosopher through the necessity for bearing misfortune, as Mark Twain, who was everything from Huckleberry Finn and Colonel Mulberry Sellers.
Mr. and Mrs. Ossip Gabrilowitsch, the latter heavily veiled, sat in the front pew on the left side of the church. With them were Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Loomis and William Dean Howells. Behind these sat the Albert Bigelow Paines and Jarvis Langdon. In another pew were the widow and children of Samuel Moffett, a favorite nephew of Mr. Clemens, who died in California several years ago.The funeral party from Redding arrived in New York at noon, Mr. and Mrs. Gabrilowitsch going first to friends. The male members of the party accompanied the body to the Brick Church. . . . It was originally intended to open the church to the public at 3 o'clock, after the holders of the 400 tickets which had been distributed had taken their seats. But the crowd at Thirty-seventh Street and Fifth Avenue threatened to block traffic on the avenue, and at 2:30 it was decided to let them in. the church was almost immediately filled. In fact, several hundred persons who could not be accommodated remained on the streets during the service until it was time to view the body.
. . . The Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell of Hartford came forward to deliver the prayer. Associated with the dead author from the middle and happiest part of his life, the minister who performed the marriage that brought so much happiness into Mr. Clemens' life and lived to hold the funeral services of not only the wife, but of three of the children born of the marriage, it was no wonder that when he came to deliver a prayer at the death of his friend his voice should fail him. Throughout the short service he had sat with bowed head to conceal the fact that tears had found their way to the surface. Now he made a determined effort to control himself, and finally was able to say what he had to say.
Although fully as old as Mark Twain, Mr. Twichell carries his age well. He is a big, vigorous-looking man. With his mass of heavy white hair he does not look unlike Mark Twain himself. His prayer, except for the benediction by Dr. Van Dyke, ended the service. When he left the pulpit and retired into the robing room, he received a blow that was particularly sad owing to the circumstances under which it came - a telegram saying that his wife was seriously ill in Hartford and that he must return there at once. He left the church immediately and took the first train for his home. It was arranged that in his stead the Rev. Samuel E. Eastman, pastor of the Park Church, should officiate at the services in Elmira.
The service in the Brick Church lasted only twenty minutes. It is estimated fifteen hundred persons crowded to hear it. At its conclusion it was announced that the coffin would be opened. The lines of those within the church began to pass around it, and the crowd from the street pushed in. This was at half past three. there was no abatement in the stream for the next hour and a half. Finally at 5 o'clock it was found necessary to close the doors, as the body had to be taken to Hoboken and put aboard the special train for Elmira. More than three thousands persons meantime had passed in front of the coffin.
. . . The idea of simplicity was carried out in all the arrangements. There were no pall bearers. Although surrounded by flowers, there was nothing on the coffin except a wreath which Dan Beard had made of bay leaves gathered the night before, at the request of the family, on the hill behind the house where Mark Twain spent a good deal of his time. This was put on the coffin when it was taken out of Stormfield, and will not be removed. A copper plate on the lid bore the inscription:
He was buried in his wife's family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York. The Langdon family plot where he is buried is marked by a 12-foot (two fathoms, or "mark twain") monument, placed there by his surviving daughter, Clara. There is also a smaller headstone. Although he expressed a preference for cremation, he acknowledged that his surviving family would have the last word.SAMUEL LANGHORNE CLEMENS,MARK TWAIN,1910
|Headstone for Clemens' grave|
William Dean Howells wrote in My Mark Twain, his book about his longtime friend:
Clemens was sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of our literature.As Clemens' literary executor, Paine closely controlled access to the unpublished papers. His Mark Twain: A Biography appeared in 1912, and was followed by editions of the Letters (1917), Autobiography (1924) and Notebook (1935). He also prepared (and rewrote) the first edition of The Mysterious Stranger (1916).
|Volume I of Mark Twain, A Biography by Albert Bigelow Paine|
Toni Morrison wrote an introduction to the 1996 Oxford edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. She describes how, as a young reader, she found the novel disturbing and alarming. Then she read it again in the '80s, provoked by efforts to remove the novel from libraries and public school reading lists:
These efforts were based, it seemed to me, on a narrow notion of how to handle the offense Mark Twain's use of the term "nigger" would occasion for black students and the corrosive effect it would have on white ones.
It struck me as a purist yet elementary kind of censorship designed to appease adults rather than educate children.
Amputate the problem, band-aid the solution. A serious comprehensive discussion of the term by an intelligent teacher certainly would have benefited my eighth-grade class and would have spared all of us (a few blacks, many whites —mostly second-generation immigrant children) some grief.
Name calling is a plague of childhood and a learned activity ripe for discussion as soon as it surfaces.Ken Burns interviewed Hal Holbrook in 2000 for the documentary film, Mark Twain:
Burns: Why is Mark Twain important?
Holbrook: Because he's talking about today as well as a hundred years ago. There's nothing really dated about Twain. . . . If you eliminate the name of the event or the president he's talking about, it's as if he were talking about what's going on today. . . . We think we've got something extraordinary going on here with the Internet and television and the airplane. . . . He had the joining of the railroads across the country . . . the invention of the electric light . . . the telegraph, the telephone. . . . And he also had the industrialization of a pioneer society and all the inequalities and brutalities that arose out of that. . . . The great fortunes . . . the greed factor . . . the suppression of poor people . . the beginnings of the labor movement . . . the women's suffrage movement . . .America entering into the imperialistic arena, too, and as he said, "Now we are a world power and are happy and glad and have a seat up front with the family. . . with tacks in it."Clemens outlined a plan in 1899 for an autobiographical work which was to be published either "100 years from now" or "100 years after his death." A manuscript note in the Mark Twain Papers (UC Berkeley) indicates a 100-year ban was what he was contemplating. He did produce a preface 'From the Grave' claiming that the book would not be published until after his death, which allowed him to speak with his "whole frank mind."
When editors at the University of California Press pondered the possible demand in 2010 for Autobiography of Mark Twain, a $35, four-pound, 500,000-word memoir, they kept their expectations modest with a planned print run of 7,500 copies.
The second volume of the autobiography of Mark Twain was published in October 2013.