The purpose of this project is to celebrate Samuel L. Clemens' life in Redding, Connecticut by documenting and showcasing his time here in multiple formats both online and offline. Your donations & site sponsorships will help me dedicate more time to these projects and allow me to get them online sooner.

Wednesday, December 21

The Story of Mark Twain's "Christmas Elephant"

Albert Bigelow Paine
Mark Twain: A Biography

Mark Twain’s second present came at Christmas-time. About ten days earlier, a letter came from Robert J. Collier, saying that he had bought a baby elephant which he intended to present to Mark Twain as a Christmas gift. He added that it would be sent as soon as he could get a car for it, and the loan of a keeper from Barnum & Bailey’s headquarters at Bridgeport.

The news created a disturbance in Stormfield. One could not refuse, discourteously and abruptly, a costly present like that; but it seemed a disaster to accept it. An elephant would require a roomy and warm place, also a variety of attention which Stormfield was not prepared to supply. The telephone was set going and certain timid excuses were offered by the secretary. There was no good place to put an elephant in Stormfield, but Mr. Collier said, quite confidently:

“Oh, put him in the garage.”

“But there’s no heat in the garage.”

“Well, put him in the loggia, then. That’s closed in, isn’t it, for the winter? Plenty of sunlight—just the place for a young elephant.”

“But we play cards in the loggia. We use it for a sort of sun-parlor.”

“But that wouldn’t matter. He’s a kindly, playful little thing. He’ll be just like a kitten. I’ll send the man up to look over the place and tell you just how to take care of him, and I’ll send up several bales of hay in advance. It isn’t a large elephant, you know: just a little one— a regular plaything.”

There was nothing further to be done; only to wait and dread until the Christmas present’s arrival.

A few days before Christmas ten bales of hay arrived and several bushels of carrots. This store of provender aroused no enthusiasm at Stormfield. It would seem there was no escape now.

On Christmas morning Mr. Lounsbury telephoned up that there was a man at the station who said he was an elephant-trainer from Barnum & Bailey’s, sent by Mr. Collier to look at the elephant’s quarters and get him settled when he should arrive. Orders were given to bring the man over. The day of doom was at hand.

But Lounsbury’s detective instinct came once more into play. He had seen a good many elephant-trainers at Bridgeport, and he thought this one had a doubtful look.

“Where is the elephant?” he asked, as they drove along.

“He will arrive at noon.”

“Where are you going to put him?”

“In the loggia.”

“How big is he?”

“About the size of a cow.”

“How long have you been with Barnum and Bailey?”

“Six years.”

“Then you must know some friends of mine” (naming two that had no existence until that moment).

“Oh yes, indeed. I know them well.”

Lounsbury didn’t say any more just then, but he had a feeling that perhaps the dread at Stormfield had grown unnecessarily large. Something told him that this man seemed rather more like a butler, or a valet, than an elephant-trainer. They drove to Stormfield, and the trainer looked over the place. It would do perfectly, he said. He gave a few instructions as to the care of this new household feature, and was driven back to the station to bring it.

Lounsbury came back by and by, bringing the elephant but not the trainer. It didn’t need a trainer. It was a beautiful specimen, with soft, smooth coat and handsome trappings, perfectly quiet, well-behaved and small— suited to the loggia, as Collier had said—for it was only two feet long and beautifully made of cloth and cotton—one of the fairest toy elephants ever seen anywhere.

It was a good joke, such as Mark Twain loved—a carefully prepared, harmless bit of foolery. He wrote Robert Collier, threatening him with all sorts of revenge, declaring that the elephant was devastating Stormfield.

“To send an elephant in a trance, under pretense that it was dead or stuffed!” he said. “The animal came to life, as you knew it would, and began to observe Christmas, and we now have no furniture left and no servants and no visitors, no friends, no photographs, no burglars— nothing but the elephant. Be kind, be merciful, be generous; take him away and send us what is left of the earthquake.”

Collier wrote that he thought it unkind of him to look a gift-elephant in the trunk. And with such chaffing and gaiety the year came to an end.

Wednesday, November 30

Happy Birthday Mark Twain

November 30th, 2011 is Sam Clemens' (aka Mark Twain) birthday. For fun I looked up the last person to write him on his birthday using the Mark Twain Project website.

The answer is...

Margery Hamilton Clinton
Margery (a.k.a. "the plumber") visited Clemens at Stormfield at least three times -- in July 1908, October 1908 and February 1909.

"The plumber is coming Feb. 23d; a girl you would greatly like. She isn't a M.A. [angel-fish], but is not without good qualities, nevertheless. She is official plumber of Stormfield, by her own request, but doesn't know how to plumb. Name, Margery Clinton (Cooley, p. 249)."

Margery Hamilton Clinton was the daughter of renown New York architect Charles William Clinton and his wife Emily de Silver Gorsuch.


So who did Twain write to on his birthday from Stormfield?




Elizabeth Wallace, Frederick A. Duneka, Jean Clemens, H. P.
Wood, F. N. Otremba

Tuesday, September 13

Our Friend Mark Twain by Helen Nickerson Upson

Excerpts from-
"Our Friend Mark Twain" by Helen Nickerson Upson
The Redding Times, June 2, 1960


During the Civil War- John N. Nickerson, later known as Judge John N. Nickerson of Redding, served as a Private in New York's 56th Regiment. While in action, he was very seriously wounded and visited by a young Army Chaplain named Joseph H. Twichell. Nickerson survived, received a Medal of Honor and in the process formed an enduring friendship with Twichell.

Later in life, While serving as a State Legislative Representative (1885), Nickerson, through his friendship with Twichell, met informally with many of the "Hartford Wits" including Samuel L. Clemens and Charles Dudley Warner.

Narrative of Helen N. Upson-

Frequently Dad passed an evening playing billiards with Mark Twain in his Hartford home, and the Rev. Twitchell and Mr. Warner were often guests at our home in Redding.

I recall very well when I was a small girl that Mr. Warner lifted me on his knee and said, much to my delight: "Helen you are a girl after my own heart- brim full of spunk, fire and go. No grass will ever grown under your feet."

Twain Comes to Dinner

Only once was Mark Twain a dinner guest at our house and then he was accompanied by Mr. Warner and Albert Bigelow Paine. He was so impressed by Redding's beautiful hills and rolling landscape that eventually he wanted to build a house here.

{BMC: I do recall a letter by Isabel to an Angelfish that notes Paine and Clemens are headed to Redding well before he arrived here officially. There is no follow up on the trip and it did prompt me to note the entry for further research. The trip may have been the dinner date Helen writes of...makes sense, why would you not want to view this type of investment? Given the history of poor investments he had made, it would seem probable he would at least want to see Redding before purchasing land here.}

One day after answering a telephone call my father seemed happily excited. Nobody knew why and he didn't talk about it. It seems the call was from Mr. Paine who wanted Dad to drive around with him to look over a few building sites. Twain had asked for a site on higher ground, with an expansive view and neighbors- not so near.

Dad went and the site of "Stormfield" was selected, deeds and other business were taken care of and construction was started and proceeded secretly. No one knew for whom "Stormfield" was being built.

There was much curiousity and gossip in Redding about the mysterious structure rising in the pasture on Diamond Hill. It was so much larger than the average Redding home that a rash of guesses went all the way from a select school for girls to an infirmary for incurables.

Mark Twain's orders were that no one was to know that he was to own the place nor that he was to live there. He did not want to see the place until is was entirely finished, furnished, and complete with a kitten purring on the hearth.

His wishes were carried out to the letter and he seemed delighted with his new home in its quiet, restful setting.

The House is Named

However, soon after his arrival, a thunder storm of such violence came up that Mr. Clemens said it sounded as if its force was being created over his head which gave rise to the name "Stormfield"

{BMC: One of many theories on the re-naming of the house. This is not too far fetched. In the summer of 1999, I was caught completely off guard by a freak, late afternoon thunderstorm. It came out of nowhere while I was mountain biking in the Stormfield trail system. It was a thunder and lighting show like to no other I've encounter before or since, further enhanced by the fact that I was wearing steel toe-clips! I've encountered similar storms while visiting Susan Durkee at the Lobster Pot. So, it is a fact that... for one reason or another Storms do hit hard on that ridge.}

My father so successfully engineered...Mark Twain's purchases of real estate in Redding that during the rest of his life Dad took care of his personal legal business and affairs.

{BMC: She must mean legal business and affairs in Redding.}

At the time I assisted my father with his office work and also did all his driving for him, so I spent much time at "Stormfield." Frequently Dad and I had the priviledge of listening to Mr. Clemens' masterful organ playing on his fine instrument placed on the landing midway between the floors in the large hall at Stormfield.

It was indeed a treat to listen to the white haired Clemens accompany his daughter, Clara, who was a concert soloist. His heart was in it and I really think that this was his favorite pastime. Had Mark Twain not been a great humorist he certainly would have been a famous organist.

Careless with Copy

Mr. Clemens was a most informal, but geniune personality. He detested insincerity and over stressed formality was distasteful to him. He preferred to receive his guests or associates while he was propped up in bed. Here one usually found him busy with his writing or reading. As he wrote long-hand, a sheet finished was a sheet discarded. It might be manuscript or waste paper. To him that was a minor detail.

Once finished, a sheet of paper was indifferently cast aside. It might nestle in the bed clothes or slide on to the floor. Family and attendants were instructed never to disturb ANY papers in that room except Mr. Albert Bigelow Paine. We have him to thank for his painstaking daily care of every scrap of Mark Twain's paper as he carefully scanned each piece arranging and organizing usable material in proper sequence so that the literature for which Mr. Clemens was famous would be published in proper form.

With all his splendid qualities Mark Twain was the victim of two besetting sins. Reports of great conflagrations or of people burnt to a crisp could not stop him from smoking in bed. Also he was so obliging that if anyone asked for his signature on a paper or document, without a second look, he would sign and for him, at least, the transaction was finished.

Mr. Paine had repeatedly rebuked him for such readiness with his pen and over and over again Dad had warned him that if he continued so indifferently to this practice that sooner or later he would find himself in very serious trouble. Someway their warnings went unheeded and slipped away like water off a duck's back.

Signed the Wrong Letter

Early one morning the phone beside Dad's (Judge John N. Nickerson of Redding) bed rang persistantly. He answered. It was Mr. Clemens - distress plainly registered by his voice, "Jack, can you come to me at once? I am in trouble - very serious trouble."

"What under heavens is the matter now?" my father asked.

"I'll tell you when you get here, can you come now?" the humorist answered.

Dad called me to hurry through my breakfast, harness my horse and be ready to drive to Stormfield in half an hour. When we arrived Mr. Clemens was angrier than we had ever seen him and his daughters Clara and Jean were very much disturbed.

"Now, Sam, what on earth has happened that you are so excited and upset?" asked Dad. The great humorist replied with something far removed from humor,

"Well, Jack, just as you predicted, I have been a damned fool, and as a result I am in the deal of a fix. A trusted friend of mine who has recently married a 'man of experience' brought me a document to sign without in any way explaining it- and I was foolish enough to require no explanation."

"At the moment I was concentrating on the writing of a script and, as was my custom, took the paper and quickly signed as she directed without reading it and I supposed the matter was dismissed, but this morning, to my horror, I discover that I have signed over to a trusted friend ABSOLUTE Power of Attorney over everything that I possess and I cannot spend so much as a nickel! without her O.K. Could any man have been a bigger damned fool??"

Eventually she consented to withdraw if a certain [piece] of Mr. Clemens treasured real estate (and he owned property in several states) could be turned over to her. As Mr. Clemens was convinced this was the only way out he acceded. Dad took care of the transaction and the case was closed.

One day after the case was settled, Dad was seated beside Mr. Clemens' bed talking to him when the humorist reached over to a table and picked up a copy of Innocents Abroad. I saw his eyes twinkle as he opened the book and wrote something inside the front cover, then he passed the book to my father. Dad grinned as he read the handwriting, then passed the book to me. This is what he wrote:

"The sane man readeth first but the ass signeth without looking. Truly yours, Mark Twain"

Below this he added:

"To John N. Nickerson with the compliments of the Author."

This book today is among my (Helen's) treasures.

Bermuda- Last Trip Abroad

Mark Twain as we knew him was thoroughly American and always revealed the deepest respect for all things worthy of reverence, and would hit hard at anything which seemed to him to be hateful or mean. As a humorist, in my opinion, none greater ever lived. For this quality he was best known and loved. It is doubtful if any one in this century has made more people laugh than Mark Twain has done, and yet the laughter he has aroused has been clean, wholesome, and self respecting. However, he harbored a scorching and bitter hatred for frauds, hypocrites, and pretenders and often he seared them with his wit. As a man he was always sincere and straight-forward.

It was during Mr. Clemens' last summer while he was resting at his home in Bermuda that he sent for Dad to go to him on important business and suggested that I accompany him for the pleasure of the trip. It was my good fortune to go with my father on this errand. Mr. Clemens was do delighted to have us both accept the invitation- that in honor of my visit he arranged an afternoon tea with young women my own age as guests. He said that he doubted very much if my father would enjoy a hen party presided over by an old, strutting cock, so he sent Dad off fishing with a couple of friends.

It was a memorable occasion. Although the great humorist was not well, seated there among us in his easy chair he made a distinguished appearance. We all were delighted with his conversation which was simple yet verbose. Although his humor was gay and laugh provoking, there was a seriousness about the man which probably was due to his age and the imprint of the grief he had endured.

For further entertainment I rode around in Mr. Clemens' little two wheeled Park Wagon pulled by a pretty little donkey; also I rode a number of miles on his daughter's bicycle. Among other things I saw a large field of Easter lilies (Bermuda lilies) in gorgeous full bloom. They made such an impression that when I returned to Redding I threw away a pathetically sad looking, spindly Easter lily that I had been coaxing to bloom for three years.

Death Comes to Stormfield

Having already lost his devoted wife and talented daughter, Susie, before coming to Redding, Mark Twain received a crushing blow when his devoted daughter, Jean, in the midst of Christmas celebration in 1909, died very suddenly. Dad went to him at once. Albert Bigelow Paine was already there and Clara and her husband were returning from Europe. The great humorist could not be comforted. From then on he failed rapidly and on April 21, 1910, when Spring was dawning over the Redding hills, our beloved humorist breathed his last breath in the home he had learned to love- Stormfield.

Thursday, August 25

Mark Twain's Only Grandchild

If you are not a member of the Mark Twain Forum, I would highly recommend you sign-up today:

The Mark Twain Forum is an e-mail list that includes all the World's top scholars and enthusiasts. Last week a true gem arrived from R. Kent Rasmussen. Mr. Rasmussen is an author of six book on Twain and is considered an authority in Mark Twain studies.

"A moment ago, I noticed that today's date is August 18 and recalled its significance in Clemens family history. As much was made of last year's centennial of Mark Twain's death, it may be worth mentioning that today is both the 115th anniversary of Susy Clemens death and the 101st anniversary of Mark Twain's only grandchild, Nina Gabrilowitsch's birth.

It's hard not to wonder what Mark Twain would have made of that coincidence."

He went on to wonder out loud where in the house Nina was born, noting that it was doubtful that Clara would use the same bed that her father had died in just months before.

That question was answered by Kevin Mac Donnell, a Twain collector and top-tier authority on both Mark Twain's works and his life.

"I have Nina's original birth certificate and it doesn't say. Clara's music room was over the loggia, but her bedroom was near the top of the stairs. It was roomy with a terrific view of the backyard, pergola, and Redding, and had it's own big bathroom, so I suspect that's where Nina made her debut. The bedroom, not the bathroom. I have a batch of letters from Clara from just before and after Nina's birth and no clues there either."

So, my mission for next August 18th is to have more information on where Nina Gabrilowitsch's birth took place at Stormfield.

A Photo shopped image I created to show Sam and Nina, side-by-side.

Wednesday, August 24

Mark Twain Through the Eyes of an "Angelfish"

In the years since the death, in 1910, of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, whom we all knew and loved as Mark Twain, many people have asked me, "You actually knew him, didn't you?" What do you remember best about him?"

Yes, our family had the wonderful privilege of knowing him because father, Albert Bigelow Paine, was his biographer and was closely associated with him for many years. After Mr. Clemens moved to Redding, we frequently stayed at his hilltop home, Stormfield. On his afternoon drives- the old Redding Glen was one of his favorites- he often invited my sisters or myself to accompany him. He liked the companionship of young people and was especially understanding with little girls. Perhaps they reminded him of his own three daughters, whose long-ago games and make-believe he had shared and helped to invent.

What do I remember of those years? A good many things, but two of the highlights are the Sunday morning he took me for a stroll and a bus ride on Fifth Aveneue, and the afternoon in June 1908, when he came to Redding for the first time, and I was fortunate enough to be in the small group that traveled with him.

To make these events more understandable, it might be well to give a brief picture of the background which made them possible.

In 1906 my father was busy with the extensive preliminary work, preceding the writing of Mark Twain's biography. His subject was co-operating with enthusiasm.

Mr. Clemens was then living in an impressive corner house at 21 Fifth Avenue. It was luxurious and lonely. His wife had died and his two surviving daughters were elsewhere. Father found himself being encouraged to spend more and more time in the big house.

Mornings, accompanied by a stenographer, he would arrive for the daily interviewing, ready to encourage with questions, if need be, and alert for the fascinating stream of reminiscences, or philosophy, or occassional violent outbursts over burning subjects that followed.

Father said of these mornings: "He was in bed when we arrived, and he remained there during almost all of these earlier dictations, clad in a handsome silk dressing gown of rich Persian pattern, propped against great snowy pillows. He loved this loose luxury and ease and found it conducive to thought. On the little table beside him, where he lay his cigars, papers, pipes, and various knick knacks, shone a reading lamp, making more brilliant the coloring of his complexion and the gleam of his shining hair."

After these richly productive mornings, father often spent the afternoons working in the study adjoining Mr. Clemens' bedroom. At least that was the procedure until the Christmas when a handsome billiard table proved to be a history-making gift. From then on no day was complete without a spirited session around the great green table. Often the play would last for hours and then be resumed again in the evening. For all Mr. Clemens had passed his 70th birthday, he seemed tireless when engaged in his favorite game, and would twit my father- who was still in his 40's- when he seemed to falter. As their official relationship rippened into friendship, that friendship was extended to the rest of our family.

The first time I saw this extraordinary man was at dinner in his home in New York in 1906. Under my father's guidance I had made the delighted acquiantance of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and the Connecticut Yankee. The worldwide fame of the author had been explained to me. Now, he had become a friend of the family, and during my stay in New York at Thanksgiving time, on vacation from boarding school, we were all to have dinner with him!!

He was a charming host. He looked just like the pictures and he was as gracious to us three little girls as to my mother and father. Moreover, there was a dinner to delight children, topped off with a fairy-like mousse, piled high in a crystal bowl and accompanied by a sauce of big, red strawberries. Had he remembered that, at our age, dessert was at least as impressive as fame?

After dinner, he played the orchestrelle, the first time I had ever heard the full, warm tones of an organ except for church music. Years afterward this orchestrelle was presented to us and we added a special room for it to our Redding house. I used to run it by the hour, playing over and over again the selections that Mark Twain had preferred.

I believe it was the next spring that I was invited to return for the weekend, to be spent under the kindly supervision of Mr. Clemens' housekeeper and his secretary. What a story-book experience for a little girl! On Saturday we had a box for the Weber and Fields matinee, and I loved every minute of it, although once I was conscious of whispering concern behind me as to whether some of the humor was a trifle "adult" for my ears. But, like most children, I was blissfully unconscious of any lurking innundoes, and thought the whole show enchanting.

Sunday my breakfast was brought to me on a tray by a uniformed maid. I knew then that I was "living like a princess," even though this was long before the movies had familiarized every schoolgirl with the details of luxury living.

Then Sunday morning, came the memorable walk and bus ride. In those days the upper decks of Fifth Avenue buses were uncovered so that passengers could bask in the sun as they rode. Mr. Clemens enjoyed this and on a bright, mild Sunday he liked to ride from his home on lower Fifth Avenue up toward Central Park, and watch the gay crowds, returning from church or on the way to luncheon.

Hatless, with his dramatic white hair and his famous white flannel suit, he was a unique figure. As we rode, people turned to look up at him and point him out. Afterwards, when we walked a few blocks, more than one person came up and spoke a brief word to him about the joy some particular book had given him. In the St. Regis, where we paused to leave a message, one bell boy was quite overcome. Eagerly, he started "You are Mark Twain, aren't you?" and then, on being reassured could hardly continue his sentence of appreciation. Mr. Clemens encouraged him gently and I don't suppose that young man ever forgot the encounter.

Before I returned to school he gave me his photograph, inscribed with my name and "with love from Mark Twain."

He had a little group of schoolgirl friends whom he called his "Angel Fish." Each one of us was given a small enamel angel fish pin from Bermuda, and each was assigned one of the charming collection of fish pictures which used to hang on the walls of his billiard room. He inscribed each name carefully on the picture. Collectively, we were referred to by him as "Members of the Aquarium." One of the obligations of the membership was to write regularly to the "Curator of the Aquarium." His replies were prompt, and in longhand. One of these cherished letters to me begins with a well-deserved reproof. Here it is:

Dear Louise,

I don't expect this to reach you, for your habit is to violate the first law of correspondence, which is, repeat your address in every letter.

Tammany is dead. I am very sorry. She was the most beautiful cat on this western bulge of the globe, and perhaps the most gifted. She leaves behind her, inconsolable, two children by her first marriage-Billiards and Babylon; and three grandchildren by her second-Amanda, Annanci, and Sindbad. She met her death by violence, at the hands of a dog. She was found dead in the early dawn, under my windows, whither she had apparently dragged herself from a predacious excursion, for she had with her a field mouse that had suffered death by murder.

She was buried by Miss Lyon with the honors due her official rank- for by appointment she was Mascot to the Aquarium, and brought it good luck as long as she lived. She took great interest in the M.A.'s and went to the billiard room every day to look at their pictures.

As a token of respect and regret, it is requested that each M.A. wear black head ribbons during one hour on the 30th of this month- Tammany's birthday.

Lovingly, S.L.C.

At this time our family home was in Redding, in a simple old saltbox house at the foot of Diamond Hill Road. Father's enthusiasm for this unspoiled bit of country communicated itself to Mr. Clemens. He decided to buy some nearby property. He did not plan to build immediately, if at all, but perhaps he was wearier of the city life than he realized for it was not long before he began to dream of a home on the hilltop he had never seen.

It was is daughter Clara who first saw the property, liked it, and selected the location for the house.

Of the building of Mark Twain's Redding home, father says, in the Biography: "Innocence at Home" as the place was originally named, was to be ready for its occupant in June, with every detail in place, as he desired. He had never visited Redding; he had scarcely even glanced at the plans or discussed any of the decorations of the new home. He had required only that there should be one great living room for the orchestrelle, and another big room for the billiard table, with plenty of accommodations for guests. He had required that the billiard room be red, for something in his nature answered to the warm luxury of that color, particularly in moments of diversion...His one other requirement was that the place should be complete. "I don't want to see it, until the cat is purring on the hearth." He wanted the dramatic surprise of walking into a home that had been conjured into existence as with a word."

And that is exactly how it was. On the 18th of June, 1908, at about four in the afternoon he left New York City by an express train that was to make its first stop in Redding that day. With him were my father, a reporter or two, a photographer and that most fortunate little girl, myself, whose boarding school closed that day so that I, too, was homeward bound to Redding.

It was exciting to be going with Mr. Clemens when he was about to get his first glimpse of his new house. Moreover, he generously provided me with a large box of candy to enjoy on the way, although when we were about to leave the train, he suggested that we leave it behind, "because the porters sometimes like candy, and we can get some more."

Waiting for us at the Redding station was a proud array of carriages, flower trimmed, and filled with smiling people who waved warmly. I knew I would never forget it. Mr. Clemens waved in return, then stepped into his own carriage and drove toward the beautiful house that was t be his last home.

What a lovely place he made of it, and how we used to enjoy visiting him there. We lived nearby so my sisters and I could walk there easily, but other "Members of the Aquarium" came with there parents or governesses to stay for the week-ends or longer, and he taight us all to play Hearts and, with infinite patience, to manage billiard cues. He never made us feel that he was elderly man whose good manners included being kind to children. On the contrary, he seemed to be having such a genuinely good time himself that age differences were forgotten. Another question I am asked is "Was he always joking?" No. His tender, pervasive humor was far removed from ordinary joking. For me, it is summed up with his lovability and his philosophy- in the inscription he wrote in my autograph book: "Dear Louise: Consider well the proportion of things: it is better to be a young June-bug than an old bird of paradise. Affectionately yours, Mark Twain."

Thursday, April 21

Mark Twain's Final Day (101st Anniversary Today)

Composite photo of Clemens' birthplace at Florida, MO. (1835),
Stormfield, his home in Redding, CT. (where he died in 1910) and
Halley's comet by Dave Thomson

Redding, Connecticut April 21. - Samuel Langhorne Clemens, "Mark Twain," died at 22 minutes after 6 tonight. Beside him on the bed lay a beloved book - it was Carlyle's "French Revolution" - and near the book his glasses, pushed away with a weary sigh a few hours before. Too weak to speak clearly, "Give me my glasses," he had written on a piece of paper. He had received them, put them down, and sunk into unconsciousness from which he glided almost imperceptibly into death. He was in his seventy-fifth year.

For some time his daughter Clara and her husband, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, and the humorists' biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, had been by the bed waiting for the end which Drs. Quintard and Halsey had seen to be a matter of minutes. The patient felt absolutely no pain at the end and the moment of his death was scarcely noticeable.

Death came, however, while his favorite niece, Mrs. E. E. Loomis, and her husband, who is Vice President of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railway, and a nephew, Jervis Langdon, were on the way to the railroad station. They had left the house much encouraged by the fact that the sick man had recognized them, and took a train for New York ignorant of what happened later.

Hopes Aroused Yesterday.

Although the end had been foreseen by the doctors and would not have been a shock at any time, the apparently strong rally of this morning had given basis for the hope that it would be postponed for several days. Mr. Clemens awoke at about 4 o'clock this morning after a few hours of the first natural sleep he had had for several days, and the nurses could see by the brightness of his eyes that his vitality had been considerably restored. He was able to raise his arms above his head and clasp them behind his neck with the first evidence of physical comfort he had given for a long time.

His strength seemed to increase enough to allow him to enjoy the sunrise, the first signs of which he could see out of the windows in the three sides of the room where he lay. The increasing sunlight seemed to bring ease to him, and by the time the family were about he was strong enough to sit up in bed and overjoyed them by recognizing all of them and speaking a few words to each. This was the first time that his mental powers had been fully his for nearly two days, with the exception of a few minutes early last evening, when he addressed a few sentences to his daughter.

Calls for His Book.

For two hours he lay in bed enjoying the feeling of this return of strength. Then he made a movement and asked in a faint voice for the copy of Carlyle's "French Revolution," which he has always had near him for the last year, and which he has read and re-read and brooded over.

The book was handed to him, and he lifted it up as if to read. Then a smile faintly illuminated his face when he realized that he was trying to read without his glasses. He tried to say, "Give me my glasses," but his voice failed, and the nurses bending over him could not understand. He motioned for a sheet of paper and a pencil, and wrote what he could not say.

With his glasses on he read a little and then slowly put the book down with a sigh. Soon he appeared to become drowsy and settled on his pillow. Gradually he sank and settled into a lethargy. Dr. Halsey appreciated that he could have been roused, but considered it better for him to rest. At 3 o'clock he went into complete unconsciousness.

Later Dr. Quintard, who had arrived from New York, held a consultation with Dr. Halsey, and it was decided that death was near. The family was called and gathered about the bedside watching in a silence which was long unbroken. It was the end. At twenty-two minutes past 6, with the sunlight just turning red as it stole into the window, in perfect silence he breathed his last.

Barbara Schmidt's Mark Twain web site is the perfect place to visit for the Centennial. It includes many newspaper articles by Mark Twain and about Mark Twain but that's not all! It also has an amazing amount of background information on his life and works.

For Mark Twain Quotes all day long follow

The Last Day at Stormfield
By Bliss Carman, Collier's Weekly

At Redding, Connecticut,
The April sunrise pours
Over the hardwood ridges
Softening and greening now
In the first magic of Spring.

The wild cherry-trees are in bloom,
The bloodroot is white underfoot,
The serene early light flows on,
Touching with glory the world,
And flooding the large upper room
Where a sick man sleeps.
Slowly he opens his eyes,
After long weariness, smiles,
And stretches arms overhead,
While those about him take heart.

With his awakening strength,
(Morning and spring in the air,
The strong clean scents of earth,
The call of the golden shaft,
Ringing across the hills)
He takes up his heartening book,
Opens the volume and reads,
A page of old rugged Carlyle,
The dour philosopher
Who looked askance upon life,
Lurid, ironical, grim,
Yet sound at the core.
But weariness returns;
He lays the book aside
With his glasses upon the bed,
And gladly sleeps. Sleep,
Blessed abundant sleep,
Is all that he needs.

And when the close of day
Reddens upon the hills
And washes the room with rose,
In the twilight hush
The Summoner comes to him
Ever so gently, unseen,
Touches him on the shoulder;
And with the departing sun
Our great funning friend is gone.

How he has made us laugh!
A whole generation of men
Smiled in the joy of his wit.
But who knows whether he was not
Like those deep jesters of old
Who dwelt at the courts of Kings,
Arthur's, Pendragon's, Lear's,
Plying the wise fool's trade,
Making men merry at will,
Hiding their deeper thoughts
Under a motley array,--
Keen-eyed, serious men,
Watching the sorry world,
The gaudy pageant of life,
With pity and wisdom and love?

Fearless, extravagant, wild,
His caustic merciless mirth
Was leveled at pompous shams.
Doubt not behind that mask
There dwelt the soul of a man,
Resolute, sorrowing, sage,
As sure a champion of good
As ever rode forth to fray.

Haply--who knows?--somewhere
In Avalon, Isle of Dreams,
In vast contentment at last,
With every grief done away,
While Chaucer and Shakespeare wait,
And Moliere hangs on his words,
And Cervantes not far off
Listens and smiles apart,
With that incomparable drawl
He is jesting with Dagonet now.

[Copyright, 1910, by Collier's Weekly.]

View from the location of Mark Twain's bedroom at 6:30pm on April 21st, 2010:

Sure, it's not a comet but I thought it was close enough.

Sunday, April 10

Huck Finn With or Without the N-Word Debate

"Huck Finn With or Without the 'N' Word"
Presented by the Greater New England Alliance of Black School Educators in collaboration with The Mark Twain House & Museum

On Saturday, April 9th a diverse group of open-minded individuals gathered at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford to discuss the 'N' Word, and its usage in Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The goal of the program was to gain insight on a topic which has gained intense cultural interest with the recent release of Alan Gribben's edited or "southern" version of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which replaces the word "nigger" with "slave".

The planning committee of this event should be commended for their panelist selections. Dr. Kerry Driscoll (St. Joseph College), Timothy Floyd (Waterbury Arts Magnet School), Craig Hotchkiss (MTH&M Education Program Manager), Frederick Douglass Knowles II (poet-activist-educator at Three Rivers College) and moderator Thomas Smith (retired English AP Literature at Weaver High School), were all amazing.

Dr. Driscoll provided expertise on Twain, the novel and how she prepares future teachers to teach it in their classrooms; Timothy Floyd provided a very much needed first-person viewpoint of both his recent experiences defending the artistic usage of the 'N' Word along with his personal feelings as a student (within a mixed race classroom) reading Huck Finn; Frederick-Douglass Knowles II injected a refreshing mixture of intellect, energy and thought provoking commentary throughout the discussion; and as a retired history teacher and director of educational programs at the Mark Twain House & Museum, Craig Hotchkiss' awareness of the struggles teachers face when attempting to bring unconventional teaching methodologies into their classrooms was enlightening.

The panelists (l to r) Craig Hotchkiss, Dr. Kerry Driscoll, Frederick-Douglass Knowles II, Timothy C. Floyd, Jr., Thomas Smith (Moderator)

The program was preluded with a showing of the recent "60 Minutes" segment on Gribben's edition of Huckleberry Finn in a room a adjacent to the auditorium.

Moderator Thomas Smith's initial questions were formulated to establish background on the novel, Twain's intentions and a discussion on the usage of the 'N' word in everyday culture, which proved to be very successful.

The highlight was Mr. Knowles' explanation of the word's usage and acceptance in Hip-Hop culture. Knowles pointed to the billion dollar "Gangsta Rap" industry that has thrived and continues to thrive via the 'N' word since the late 80's, both validating and explaining its acceptance within that context very well; I believe Knowles' statements hit the nail squarely on the head. West Coast rap, fueled with hard-hitting, often violent lyrics describing life in the "hood" was an immediate hit with not only black culture but white culture as well and it is very plausible that the historical context of the word (within this realm) has been ignored in exchange for the riches generated in employing it.

As the program progressed, the panel discussion opened up to those in attendance and as a direct result very important lessons relating to the role "context" and "perception" play in regard to this subject en filtered the conversation. Via multiple first hand accounts it became abundantly clear that how the 'N' Word is used and by whom it is used by is the true issue with the 'N' Word.

Many teachers in attendance openly shared stories of the negativity they face when attempting to bring Adventures of Huckleberry Finn into their classroom. In the discussions that followed it was determined that there is a need to address the 'N' Word and teach students the historical context of the word prior to classroom discussions about the book's content. So, by:
1. examining the word, its history and its usage 2. explaining why it is used in Huck Finn and 3. why it is essential to the novel, teachers can lessen the negative feelings and emotions associated with the word. However, it was pointed out that some teachers will inevitability fail regardless of their efforts.

The lesson/conclusion that I took away from this discussion was that the 'N' Word is toxic. Both Frederick-Douglass Knowles II and Timothy C. Floyd, Jr. provided valid first hand accounts of the awkward anger they felt as African-Americans within classrooms reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn out loud and dealing with the fact that they were the only African-Americans in the room (i.e all eyes on them). That viewpoint cannot be ignored. That viewpoint is likely why Alan Gribben's edited or "southern" version of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is filling bookshelves and being welcomed by school systems of the South.

The issue I have with Gribben's version is that Twain was not using the "N-word" because he was racist, he was using it to make a point. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is autobiographical. Twain's own parents had slaves and his relationship with the slaves and their children was very influential in his life & writings. His childhood experiences would clearly leave a legacy of guilt that he would later lash out at in his speeches and literary works in an attempt to lessen his guilt.

Twain's personal history paralleled Huckleberry Finn's and given the fact that Adventures of Huckleberry Finn took Twain 8 years to write, he used the words he used for a reason. To give that statement some weight, I'll add that between manuscript 1 and 2, he made more than 1,700 revisions. 88 percent of these revisions being: word changes, spelling, punctuation and adding emphasis. Removing or altering the words Twain himself wrote is misguided, the fact that a Twain scholar is the one doing it is down right vexing but it is what it is.

Background on Twain's life and experiences is essential to the reading of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Without that background, without providing students with a comprehensive understanding of why "nigger" is used 200+ times in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn makes Adventures of Huckleberry Finn pointless.

Mark Twain on Huckleberry Finn:

"A book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat."
- Notebook #35 (reprinted in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Univ. of California Press, 2003)

Mark Twain on Slavery:

"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; natural enough that Huck & his father the worthless loafer should feel it & approve it, 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."

- Notebook #35 (reprinted in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Univ. of California Press, 2003)

If students don't understand Adventures of Huckleberry Finn's meaning and teachers don't have the time or interest to help them understand it, go in a new direction and teach Mark Twain's life in our school systems instead... kids will not only get it, they will want more of it.

Thursday, April 7

Twain seems to have known we'd be reading his letters

Going through the MTP papers this letter caught my eye...

It is Mark Twain's letter to Joe Twichell in 1880 about his new baby daughter Jean and life in general.


"Well, we are all getting along here first-rate; Livy gains strength daily, [&] sits up a deal; the baby is five weeks old [ and—— but] no more of this;

[He stops the letter abruptly to scold someone in the 1960's reading the letter]

somebody may be reading this letter 80 years hence. And so, my friend (you pitying snob, I mean, who are holding this yellow paper in [your] hand in 1960,) save yourself the trouble of looking further; I know how pathetically trivial our small concerns [would] seem to you, [&] I will not let your eye profane them. No, I keep my news; you keep your compassion. Suffice it you to know, scoffer [&] ribald, that the little child is old [&] blind, now, [&] once more toothless; [&] the rest of us are shadows, these many, many years. Yes, [&] your time cometh!"


Twain estimates 80 years and we're still reading his letters 130 years later! And what is really wild is that we, here in 2011, can read this letter thanks to the intensive, ongoing editorial work going since the mid 1960s at the Mark Twain Papers & Project at University of California, Berkeley.

"The story of my life will make certain people sit up and take notice, but I will use my influence not to have it published until the persons mentioned in it and their children and grandchildren are dead. I tell you it will be something awful. It will be what you might call good reading."
- Twain during interview aboard SS Minneapolis, New York 06/08/1907

Friday, April 1

Life Lessons from Mark Twain

Mark Twain's life is perceived by many as a "charmed life" but the reality is the rags to riches story of the wealthiest and most widely recognized author/humorist the World has ever known is not as “charmed” as one would think. Mark Twain lived a life that many could not endure, let alone survive; personally, he referred to himself as “God’s Fool” and that was not too far from the truth. From his premature birth straight through to his seventy-fourth year of life, Twain ran a pain stricken, stress filled and often depressing gauntlet of life. Death was so common that it could be consider thematic and wealth, as odd as it may sound, did not agree with him either. And yet, somehow he found a way to weather the storms of life and one hundred years later, we are very lucky he did because in the process he delivered some very profound insights on life, love and perseverance that we can all use to our own advantage today.

The following comes from Twain’s letters, speeches, notebooks and writings; the wisdom of his thoughts are as inspiring as they are instructive.

Mark Twain on Life

1. "Perseverance is a principle that should be commendable in those who have judgment to govern it."
- The Enemy Conquered; or Love Triumphant

The lesson: Don't give up. Often it is those who keep at it that succeed.

2. “Only he who has seen better days and lives to see better days again knows their full value.”
- Notebook, 1902

The lesson: Focus on the present and value what you have. Only after his financial troubles, did Twain come to realize the value of the life and lifestyle he once had.

3. “...the events of life are mainly small events -- they only seem large when we are close to them. By and by they settle down and we see that one doesn't show above another. They are all about one general low altitude, and inconsequential.”
- Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (University of California Press, 2010)

The lesson: Think before you act. People often overreact to situations and in hindsight regret it.

4. "... life does not consist mainly -- or even largely -- of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one's head."

The lesson: There are two lessons that can be learned from this quote.

One: Be mindful that each one of us awakens each morning and faces an internal battle with our thoughts, feelings and personal desires. Take that into consideration when interacting with other people and realize that their position on a topic or reaction to your opinion is based solely on their perceptions.

Two: Give yourself a break. A lot of what’s floating around up there has nothing to do with reality. Focus on the positives, ignore the negatives and if you really want something, stop dreaming about it and go get it.

5. "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry."
- The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson and the Comedy of the Extraordinary Twins

The lesson: Don’t we all enjoy that special person in our life that projects the positives, makes us laugh and does nice things for others? Be that person.

Thursday, March 24

Teaching Twain- How to end the N-Word Controversy

Since Alan Gribben's edited version of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn became a topic of interest and debate, many Twain scholars have been asked to explain and/or defend why the "N-word" exists in Huckleberry Finn. Unfortunately, no matter how well we articulate our answers, to some our reasoning is wrong. They say: "But what if it opens up the book to more young people?" and of that opinion there are many that nod in agreement.

But the truth is, even if by changing a couple words you opened up the book to millions of new readers... the whole point of the book involves the "N-word" as a hate word, the racism fueling this hatred and how it eventually dawns on Huck that this type of behavior and hatred is wrong. So by removing the "N-word" you lose the impact of the hatred that Twain is not only pointing out but calling out in 1885.

What many do not realize is that: In many ways Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is autobiographical. Although the Missouri he grew up in was not a part of the Confederacy, it was a slave state and slavery was defended by all public institutions, including churches. Twain's own parents had several slaves and his relationship with the slaves and their children was very influential in his later writings. One of the slaves that influenced Twain's life was a middle aged slave known to him as "Uncle Dan'l" He'd later recall the "privileged nights" he, his cousins and the slave children all clustered at Dan'l's feet to hear him tell his thunderous stories.

"He has served me well, these many, many years... spiritually I have had his welcome company... and have staged him in books as his own name and as "Jim"... It was on the farm that I got my strong liking for his race and my appreciation of... its fine qualities."

His childhood experiences would clearly leave a legacy of guilt that he would later lash out at in his speeches and literary works and attempt to lessen through charitable donations to African-American individuals and their causes. In his Notebook #35 he writes:

"In those slave-holding days the whole community was agreed as to one thing- the awful sacredness of slave property. 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 and stick to it."

In Chapter 38 of Following the Equator, he provides us with an pointed example of what he wrote in Notebook #35:

"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... Nobody in the village approved of that murder, but of course no one said much about it."

In that very same notebook, reprinted in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Univ. of California Press, 2003, he writes in reference to Huck Finn:

"A book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat."

Clearly, Twain's personal history paralleled Huckleberry Finn's and given the fact that Adventures of Huckleberry Finn took Twain 8 years to write, he used the words he used for a reason. To give that statement some weight, I'll add that between manuscript 1 and 2, he made more than 1,700 revisions. 88 percent of these revisions being: word changes, spelling, punctuation and adding emphasis. Twain was not using the "N-word" because he was racist, he was using it to make a point. Removing or altering the words Twain himself wrote is misguided, the fact that a Twain scholar is the one doing it is down right vexing but it is what it is.

So what is the solution? My solution is to put Adventure of Huckleberry Finn on hold for a while. Students don't understand it's meaning and most teachers don't have the time or interest to help them understand it, so I say we go in a new direction. What if we taught Mark Twain in our school systems instead? Mark Twain's life isn't a hard sell, and once you're hooked, you're hooked. Imagine if children *wanted* to read Mark Twain and as they read Mark Twain they understood and appreciated what he was saying in those texts. That is my solution to the "N-word Controversy," teach our children about Mark Twain and show them the unique life experiences he had that made him who he was and fueled the novels that he wrote.

To promote this concept, I have created an online PowerPoint preview to provide school administrators and their staff with a visual of how Twain's life could be presented in their classrooms.

Online presentations and videos are becoming very popular these days because they deliver information at budget friendly numbers that allow both schools and home schoolers to provide unique learning experiences to their students. Independent scholars are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages of producing online resources and are profiting from the extensive reach and viral potential these resources hold.

In future articles I'll update you on the progress I make with the "Understanding Twain" effort.

Brent M. Colley is an independent Mark Twain Advocate who promotes Twain's life and legacy actively via this blog and his twitter account:

Friday, January 28

Mark Twain Visits Ridgefield Connecticut

The Ridgefield Mark Twain Connection exhibit is on display at Ridgefield Town Hall for the next two months. We filled three glass cabinets with photos, items and information. Susan Durkee's artwork is on display too and it really gives the pop we were looking for. If you visit be sure to check out the items that Heather Morgan of the Mark Twain Library added, especially Stormfield's Guestbook.

Next week Ridgefield Historical Society will add items to promote their "Twain Connections" The biggest being Edward W. Kemble who illustrated Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Susan B. Durkee created this "Twain in Ridgefield" welcome board for us.

Side view of the entry case. We showcase his Redding house on the top, on the bottom we showcase the Mark Twain Library and his daughter Clara's Wedding.

Straight ahead shot of the cabinet.

This is the cabinet across the hallway from the first. This one showcases the Ridgefield Twain Connections and thus the empty space on the first row. That will be added next week. The bottom is our area and there we showcase Helen Keller's visit in January of 1909 and his passing in 1910. The Guestbook shows people from Ridgefield visiting Twain, we didn't note it to see how many people would notice. In the middle is an actual program from his funeral and a ticket.

There is an additional glass cabinet downstairs in the conference room area that contains an interesting collection of odds and ends that I added as "conversation pieces". There is a lot to Twain's life and those associated with it. That is for sure!

Thank you to:

Kay Ables and The Ridgefield Historical Society

The Town of Ridgefield, Connecticut

The Wadsworth Lewis Trust Fund who provided $500.00 in 2010 to make this exhibit possible.

Susan B. Durkee. A great friend and amazing portrait artist.

Heather Morgan of The Mark Twain Library. Another great friend and partner in crime.

The Mark Twain House in Hartford for all their help, support and some of the amazing photos we are displaying in Ridgefield.

Ray Flanigan of Bethel Photoworks. Ray mounted five of our photos on to foam board for us in less than 2 hours. Amazing service!

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Tuesday, January 25

Mark Twain Quotation

"Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising."
- Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

As many of you who have been following the Mark Twain Stormfield Project over the past 3 years know, I don't have any funding. All this is an out-of-pocket expense and as of Mark Twain's Birthday my wife said "Enough! find money or forget Twain!"
Her exact words.

And so it was time to find some way to make money and not take time away from my design business. Tall order. Via Twitter and Facebook I was constantly faced with postings to make "money doing nothing", "generate life-long streams of income", "be your own boss"... you get the picture. Now, part a me didn't believe any of this but deep-down there was a question and it had been gnawing at me for some time, so I picked-up the phone.

The question was "How's Danny doing now?" Danny and I had been friends since 3rd grade but had lost contact after college. He was always looking for the "get-rich-quick" solution and about 10 years ago he actually found it... affiliate marketing. We spoke about 5 years ago and he was pulling in $15,000 to $20,000 a month working from home, 30 minutes a week. I'm not kidding, only 30 minutes a week! Then we lost touch again and because he had mentioned going into the Real Estate market, I wondered if he had lost it all. He lives in Michigan and the markets out there are real bad. But to get back to the conversation over the holidays, he did not lose anything, he actually gained a great deal and he's doing really well now teaching others how to do it too.

That's where this post comes in. I started taking his advice and writing articles for to market other people's products and services. Then, randomly an update came in over Twitter from "Anna Rich". *I always notice her updates because she has this very cool profile picture that rotates between three photos at just the right speed.* It's eye catching.

The article was about Affiliate Marketing and I mistakenly thought she had written it and replied to her about what Article service she was using. I wanted to know if there was another service that approved articles faster than EZine. EZine is sloooow.

While waiting to see if she replied I clicked her profile link to see what she marketed on her Affiliate Marketing Resource Site "Secret Riches" which operates out of the United Kingdom. *Twain Connection* There I found something called "Swom Bomb" Swom Bomb? It's amazing the names they give these sites. But I signed up anyway and "Swom Bomb" led me to a site called: "Swom"

That's when I understood and saw the great potential in this site. Swom is like Facebook for Affiliate Marketers- they all share ideas, methods and programs that have worked for them. Perfect place for an Affiliate Marketing "Rookie" to be. I'm able to see what others are using, ask them questions, see what they're making per month and make money in the process. Unlike Facebook where you lose money interacting with people, Swom members gain money for interacting and helping others. They also get $15 for referring people to this community. Not bad.

Can you imagine if it actually works? Brent with funding could be dangerous.

If you do check-out Swom and decide to upgrade to their Gold level you can get back that fee via PayBox. PayBox pays you $25 to sign-up and sign-up is free.

Twain in England Connection for Anna

Mark Twain in his Oxford gown at his daughter Clara's wedding on October 6th, 1909. Clara was the only of his daughters to marry and she was married in Redding, Connecticut at Stormfield. Several months after his death Clara would give birth to Twain's only grand-daughter at Stormfield as well.

Twain received the gown at Oxford on June 26, 1907

Together with thirty men distinguished in politics, art, science, or letters, including Premier Campbell-Bannerman, Lord Chancellor Loreburn, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr. Lowther, Gen. Booth, Rudyard Kipling, and the Archbishop of Armagh, Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) received a university degree today in the Sheldonian Theatre.

Mr. Reid was cheered on entering the Theatre, but the great ovation was reserved for Mark Twain, who was the lion of the occasion. Everyone rose when he was escorted up the aisle and he was applauded for a quarter of an hour. When Dr. Ingram Bywater, Regius Professor of Greek, presented the American humorist to the convocation, the students started a fire of chaff about his books and their heroes, mixed with frequent questions, such as "Where is your white suit?" Mark Twain said afterward that he wanted to reply, but was determined to observe the etiquette, which demands that recipients of degrees be silent.

Ambassador Reid received the degree of Doctor of Civil Laws, as did Gen. Booth, the warmth of whose reception was exceeded only by that accorded to Mark Twain. The crowd waited outside the building to cheer Mark Twain, as, wearing the scarlet robes of a Doctor of Letters, he marched in procession to the Chancellor's residence, where those who had been honored by the bestowal of degrees were entertained at luncheon.

Monday, January 24

Mark Twain Quotation

"It is wiser to find out than suppose."
-Mark Twain

It's been getting tough to find the "good stuff" so until Blogger gets a better category sorting gadget I've listed some helpful links below.

Twain's Time in Redding:

June 18th, 1908, the arrival

The Burglary at Stormfield, September 18, 1908

The Burglary... who were the Stormfield burglars?

Stormfield Burglar makes his confession

Our Neighbor Mark Twain by Coley Taylor

Mark Twain as I Knew Him. Recollections of an Angelfish

Guestbook Entries September 1909

Who were the Angelfish?

The Billiard Room Addition (Bigelow Paine's House)

Mark Twain & Isabel Lyon

Funeral Expenses

The Tour de Twain... where to visit when you come to Redding


The property known as Stormfield

Books and articles containing information on Stormfield

The Stormfield Guestbook

Sunderlands, the builders of Stormfield

Stormfield and Mark Twain Lane in 1915

Stormfield Rebuiding Crew, 1925 (post fire)

Mark Twain Library:

Concert in support of library for Redding

Letter asking lawyer, Charles Lark, to release $6,000 for library

Samuel L. Clemens Book Collection at the Mark Twain Library

Mark Twain Library Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Mark Twain Library Launches New Website on the 99th Anniversary of his Death

The Mark Twain Centennial Project:

The Mark Twain Centennial Project Explained

Does Your Town Have a Twain Connection?

The Centennial Project Artwork

The Centennial Project Kickoff at the Lobster Pot

What We Want to Do Going Forward

Movie Projects:

Dangerous Intimacy: The Untold Story of Mark Twain's Final Years

Sunday, January 9

The Mark Twain Library Building

In February of 2011 we will be celebrating the completion and dedication of the Jean L Clemens Memorial Building.

Almost immediately after his arrival, Mark Twain took interest in founding a public library for the residents of Redding.

Why was this of interest to him? Perhaps it was in his genes…John Marshall Clemens, Twain’s father, is said to have been instrumental in founding the first Hannibal, Missouri Library.

“The first effort to establish a library for use of Hannibal citizens was in 1844. The organizers were Judge John M. Clemens, Zachariah Draper, Dr. Hugh Meredith and Sam Cross.”

In the image below you see similarities between Hannibal and Redding. Note the windows, fireplace and portrait above the mantle. After seeing this photo, I'm almost positive someone from Redding either visited Hannibal when planning the Jean L. Clemens Memorial Building or requested photos of it's interior. The look is far too similar to be coincidental.

Hannibal Public Library, Hannibal Missouri

To create Redding’s first public library, Twain donated books from his own collection and asked others to do the same. Next Twain went into fundraising mode, a role he greatly enjoyed. Male visitors to Stormfield were “taxed” $1 dollar, concerts were held, and friends and associates were urged to contribute to the cause. He was very successful. Large contributions of books were sent to Redding by Collier's Weekly, Harper & Brothers, and by Page & Company.

From 1908 to 1910, the library was a focal point for Twain. In fact one of his final acts was approving a check for the library building fund.

To Charles T. Lark, in New York:

April 6, 1910.

DEAR MR. LARK,--I have told Paine that I want the money derived from the
sale of the farm, which I had given, but not conveyed, to my daughter
Jean, to be used to erect a building for the Mark Twain Library of
Redding, the building to be called the Jean L. Clemens Memorial Building.

I wish to place the money $6,000.00 in the hands of three trustees,--
Paine and two others: H. A. Lounsbury and William E. Hazen, all of
Redding, these trustees to form a building Committee to decide on the
size and plan of the building needed and to arrange for and supervise the
work in such a manner that the fund shall amply provide for the building
complete, with necessary furnishings, leaving, if possible, a balance
remaining, sufficient for such repairs and additional furnishings as may
be required for two years from the time of completion.

Will you please draw a document covering these requirements and have it
ready by the time I reach New York (April 14th).
Very sincerely,

And thus, what began as a service to the residents of Redding, became a memorial to his daughter Jean. From this point forward it was up to the residents of Redding to return the favor and build a memorial to not only fulfill the great author’s wishes, but exceed them.

Redding, residents wasted little time in securing a building lot at the corner of Diamond Hill and Redding Road, quickly erecting the building, which opening on February 18 of 1911, less than a year after his passing. As he had wished, it was named the Jean L Clemens Memorial Building, and to no one’s surprise the library itself named the Mark Twain Library.

Since that time, the Mark Twain Library has grown and it has evolved but what it has remained is a tribute to Mark Twain’s legacy. Visitors of the Mark Twain Library are surrounded by photos, paintings, quotations, artwork and sculptures… there is little doubt that you have entered the “Mark Twain” library. But, more importantly, the Mark Twain Library keeps Mark Twain alive and that is a very significant point to remember, especially when you are made aware of the following:

“It's noble to be good, and it's nobler to teach others to be good and less trouble.”
- Mark Twain’s remarks at the opening of the Mark Twain Library, Redding, CT

It was very noble of Mark Twain to found our public library and so we must now be nobler and promote his life and works to others.

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Thursday, January 6

Huckleberry Finn

Englehart's cartoon says it best. This was posted in the Hartford Courant on January 7th, 2011.

I've posted this elsewhere but it's worthy to note here as well.

The new book by Al Gribben is attempting to soften Twain's version of Huck Finn by substituting certain words like: "slave" for "nigger" and "Indian" for "Injun." The thought being that more schools will use it if those "hate words" are removed.

The issue is that Twain used those words for a reason. He was holding a mirror up to society... post-civil war society ... and shouting "THIS IS WRONG!"

As Twain Scholar Dr. Cindy Lovell notes:
"In "Huck Finn" Twain pokes us with a sharp stick, makes us squirm, makes us highly uncomfortable. And it's effective."

From Twain himself:

"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; natural enough that Huck & his father the worthless loafer should feel it & approve it, 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."

-Mark Twain's Notebook #35 (reprinted in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Univ. of California Press, 2003)

Twain was not a racist.
Anyone who believes Twain was a racist has not done their homework:

"We have ground the manhood out of them, & the shame is ours, not theirs, & we should pay for it”
(Mark Twain letter to Francis Wayland, 24 December, 1885)

And if that doesn't sway your opinion... think of it this way:

Where do we go from here? Should we edit the story of Abraham next?

"Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house..."


"Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the "helpers" born in his house..."

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Video Footage of Mark Twain's Birthday in Redding

Jackson Pearce is a young author writing a historical fiction novel on Mark Twain (at Stormfield) focusing on his relationships with the Angelfish.

On Twain's birthday this past year she joined myself and Alan Kitty as we toured around Redding. Although we weren't aware of it at the time, she was capturing video footage of our day for a video blog post which she recently pulled together and posted for our enjoyment. The following day she visited the Hartford House so there is some footage from there as well.

The clip includes footage from: The Mark Twain Library (showing archives and books), Redding Town Hall (probate records), Redding Elementary School (presentation to school kids), Markland (Angelfish tiles), "New" Stormfield (inside and out), The cutting of Twain's 175th Birthday Cake, and the Twain House and Museum in Hartford
(inside and out).