beginnings of that life were sufficiently unpromising. The family
was a good one, of old Virginia and Kentucky stock, but its circumstances
were reduced, its environment meager and disheartening. The father,
John Marshall Clemens--a lawyer by profession, a merchant by vocation--had
brought his household to Florida from Jamestown, Tennessee, somewhat
after the manner of judge Hawkins as pictured in The Gilded Age. Florida
was a small town then, a mere village of twenty-one houses located
on Salt River, but judge Clemens, as he was usually called, optimistic
and speculative in his temperament, believed in its future. Salt River
would be made navigable; Florida would become a metropolis. He established
a small business there, and located his family in the humble frame
cottage where, five months later, was born a baby boy to whom they
gave the name of Samuel--a family name--and added Langhorne, after
an old Virginia friend of his father.
child was puny, and did not make a very sturdy fight for life. Still
he weathered along, season after season, and survived two stronger
children, Margaret and Benjamin. By 1839 Judge Clemens had lost faith
in Florida. He removed his family to Hannibal, and in this Mississippi
River town the little lad whom the world was to know as Mark Twain
spent his early life. In Tom Sawyer we have a picture of the Hannibal
of those days and the atmosphere of his boyhood there.
schooling was brief and of a desultory kind. It ended one day in 1847,
when his father died and it became necessary that each one should
help somewhat in the domestic crisis. His brother Orion, ten years
his senior, was already a printer by trade. Pamela, his sister; also
considerably older, had acquired music, and now took a few pupils.
The little boy Sam, at twelve, was apprenticed to a printer named
Ament. His wages consisted of his board and clothes--"more board
than clothes," as he once remarked to the writer.
remained with Ament until his brother Orion bought out a small paper
in Hannibal in 1850. The paper, in time, was moved into a part of
the Clemens home, and the two brothers ran it, the younger setting
most of the type. A still younger brother, Henry, entered the office
as an apprentice. The Hannibal journal was no great paper from the
beginning, and it did not improve with time. Still, it managed to
survive--country papers nearly always manage to survive--year after
year, bringing in some sort of return. It was on this paper that young
Sam Clemens began his writings--burlesque, as a rule, of local characters
and conditions-- usually published in his brother's absence; generally
resulting in trouble on his return. Yet they made the paper sell,
and if Orion had but realized his brother's talent he might have turned
it into capital even then.
1853 (he was not yet eighteen) Sam Clemens grew tired of his limitations
and pined for the wider horizon of the world. He gave out to his family
that he was going to St. Louis, but he kept on to New York, where
a World's Fair was then going on. In New York he found employment
at his trade, and during the hot months of 1853 worked in a printing-
office in Cliff Street. By and by he went to Philadelphia, where he
worked a brief time; made a trip to Washington, and presently set
out for the West again, after an absence of more than a year.
meanwhile, had established himself at Muscatine, Iowa, but soon after
removed to Keokuk, where the brothers were once more together, till
following their trade. Young Sam Clemens remained in Keokuk until
the winter of 1856-57, when he caught a touch of the South-American
fever then prevalent; and decided to go to Brazil. He left Keokuk
for Cincinnati, worked that winter in a printing-office there, and
in April took the little steamer, Paul Jones, for New Orleans, where
he expected to find a South-American vessel. In Life on the Mississippi
we have his story of how he met Horace Bixby and decided to become
a pilot instead of a South American adventurer--jauntily setting himself
the stupendous task of learning the twelve hundred miles of the Mississippi
River between St. Louis and New Orleans--of knowing it as exactly
and as unfailingly, even in the dark, as one knows the way to his
own features. It seems incredible to those who knew Mark Twain in
his later years--dreamy, unpractical, and indifferent to details--that
he could have acquired so vast a store of minute facts as were required
by that task. Yet within eighteen months he had become not only a
pilot, but one of the best and most careful pilots on the river, intrusted
with some of the largest and most valuable steamers. He continued
in that profession for two and a half years longer, and during that
time met with no disaster that cost his owners a single dollar for
the war broke out. South Carolina seceded in December, 1860 and other
States followed. Clemens was in New Orleans in January, 1861, when
Louisiana seceded, and his boat was put into the Confederate service
and sent up the Red River. His occupation gone, he took steamer for
the North--the last one before the blockade closed. A blank cartridge
was fired at them from Jefferson Barracks when they reached St. Louis,
but they did not understand the signal, and kept on. Presently a shell
carried away part of the pilot-house and considerably disturbed its
inmates. They realized, then, that war had really begun.
those days Clemens's sympathies were with the South. He hurried up
to Hannibal and enlisted with a company of young fellows who were
recruiting with the avowed purpose of "throwing off the yoke
of the invader." They were ready for the field, presently, and
set out in good order, a sort of nondescript cavalry detachment, mounted
on animals more picturesque than beautiful. Still, it was a resolute
band, and might have done very well, only it rained a good deal, which
made soldiering disagreeable and hard. Lieutenant Clemens resigned
at the end of two weeks, and decided to go to Nevada with Orion, who
was a Union abolitionist and had received an appointment from Lincoln
as Secretary of the new Territory.
'Roughing It' Mark Twain gives us the story of the overland journey
made by the two brothers, and a picture of experiences at the other
end --true in aspect, even if here and there elaborated in detail.
He was Orion's private secretary, but there was no private-secretary
work to do, and no salary attached to the position. The incumbent
presently went to mining, adding that to his other trades.
became a professional miner, but not a rich one. He was at Aurora,
California, in the Esmeralda district, skimping along, with not much
to eat and less to wear, when he was summoned by Joe Goodman, owner
and editor of the Virginia City Enterprise, to come up and take the
local editorship of that paper. He had been contributing sketches
to it now and then, under the pen, name of "Josh," and Goodman,
a man of fine literary instincts, recognized a talent full of possibilities.
This was in the late summer of 1862. Clemens walked one hundred and
thirty miles over very bad roads to take the job, and arrived way-worn
and travel- stained. He began on a salary of twenty-five dollars a
week, picking up news items here and there, and contributing occasional
sketches, burlesques, hoaxes, and the like. When the Legislature convened
at Carson City he was sent down to report it, and then, for the first
time, began signing his articles "Mark Twain," a river term,
used in making soundings, recalled from his piloting days. The name
presently became known up and down the Pacific coast. His articles
were, copied and commented upon. He was recognized as one of the foremost
among a little coterie of overland writers, two of whom, Mark Twain
and Bret Harte, were soon to acquire a world-wide fame.
left Carson City one day, after becoming involved in a duel, the result
of an editorial squib written in Goodman's absence, and went across
the Sierras to San Francisco. The duel turned out farcically enough,
but the Nevada law, which regarded even a challenge or its acceptance
as a felony, was an inducement to his departure. Furthermore, he had
already aspired to a wider field of literary effort. He attached himself
to the Morning Call, and wrote occasionally for one or two literary
papers--the Golden Era and the Californian---prospering well enough
during the better part of the year. Bret Harte and the rest of the
little Pacific-slope group were also on the staff of these papers,
and for a time, at least, the new school of American humor mustered
in San Francisco.
connection with the Call was not congenial. In due course it came
to a natural end, and Mark Twain arranged to do a daily San Francisco
letter for his old paper, the Enterprise. The Enterprise letters stirred
up trouble. They criticized the police of San Francisco so severely
that the officials found means of making the writer's life there difficult
and comfortless. With Jim Gillis, brother of a printer of whom he
was fond, and who had been the indirect cause of his troubles, he
went up into Calaveras County, to a cabin on jackass Hill. Jim Gillis,
a lovable, picturesque character (the Truthful James of Bret Harte),
owned mining claims. Mark Twain decided to spend his vacation in pocket-mining,
and soon added that science to his store of knowledge. It was a halcyon,
happy three months that he lingered there, but did not make his fortune;
he only laid the corner-stone.
tried their fortune at Angel's Camp, a place well known to readers
of Bret Harte. But it rained pretty steadily, and they put in most
of their time huddled around the single stove of the dingy hotel of
Angel's, telling yarns. Among the stories was one told by a dreary
narrator named Ben Coon. It was about a frog that had been trained
to jump, but failed to win a wager because the owner of a rival frog
had surreptitiously loaded him with shot. The story had been circulated
among the camps, but Mark Twain had never heard it until then. The
tale and the tiresome fashion of its telling amused him. He made notes
to remember it.
stay in Angel's Camp came presently to an end. One day, when the mining
partners were following the specks of gold that led to a pocket somewhere
up the hill, a chill, dreary rain set in. Jim, as usual was washing,
and Clemens was carrying water. The "color" became better
and better as they ascended, and Gillis, possessed with the mining
passion, would have gone on, regardless of the rain. Clemens, however,
protested, and declared that each pail of water was his last. Finally
he said, in his deliberate drawl:
I won't carry any more water. This work is too disagreeable. Let's
go to the house and wait till it clears up."
Gillis had just taken out a pan of earth. "Bring one more pail,
Sam," he pleaded.
"I won't do it, Jim! Not a drop! Not if I knew there was a million
dollars in that pan!"
left the pan standing there and went back to Angel's Camp. The rain
continued and they returned to jackass Hill without visiting their
claim again. Meantime the rain had washed away the top of the pan
of earth left standing on the slope above Angel's, and exposed a handful
of nuggets-pure gold. Two strangers came along and, observing it,
had sat down to wait until the thirty-day claim-notice posted by Jim
Gillis should expire. They did not mind the rain--not with that gold
in sight-- and the minute the thirty days were up they followed the
lead a few pans further, and took out-some say ten, some say twenty,
thousand dollars. It was a good pocket. Mark Twain missed it by one
pail of water. Still, it is just as well, perhaps, when one remembers
The Jumping Frog.
having quieted down in San Francisco, he returned and took up his
work again. Artemus Ward, whom he had met in Virginia City, wrote
him for something to use in his (Ward's) new book. Clemens sent the
frog story, but he had been dilatory in preparing it, and when it
reached New York, Carleton, the publisher, had Ward's book about ready
for the press. It did not seem worth while to Carleton to include
the frog story, and handed it over to Henry Clapp, editor of the Saturday
Press--a perishing sheet-saying:
"Here, Clapp, here's something you can use."
story appeared in the Saturday Press of November 18, 1865. According
to the accounts of that time it set all New York in a roar, which
annoyed, rather than gratified, its author. He had thought very little
of it, indeed, yet had been wondering why some of his more highly
regarded work had not found fuller recognition.
The Jumping Frog did not die. Papers printed it and reprinted it,
and it was translated into foreign tongues. The name of "Mark
Twain" became known as the author of that sketch, and the two
were permanently associated from the day of its publication.
fame as it brought did not yield heavy financial return. Its author
continued to win a more or less precarious livelihood doing miscellaneous
work, until March, 1866, when he was employed by the Sacramento Union
to contribute a series of letters from the Sandwich Islands. They
were notable letters, widely read and freely copied, and the sojourn
there was a generally fortunate one. It was during his stay in the
islands that the survivors of the wrecked vessel, the Hornet, came
in, after long privation at sea. Clemens was sick at the time, but
Anson Burlingame, who was in Honolulu, on the way to China, had him
carried in a cot to the hospital, where he could interview the surviving
sailors and take down their story. It proved a great "beat"
for the Union, and added considerably to its author's prestige. On
his return to San Francisco he contributed an article on the Hornet
disaster to Harper's Magazine, and looked forward to its publication
as a beginning of a real career. But, alas! when it appeared the printer
and the proof-reader had somehow converted "Mark Twain"
into "Mark Swain," and his dreams perished.
as to his plans, he was one day advised by a friend to deliver a lecture.
He was already known as an entertaining talker, and his adviser judged
his possibilities well. In Roughing It we find the story of that first
lecture and its success. He followed it with other lectures up and
down the Coast. He had added one more profession to his intellectual
stock in trade.
Twain, now provided with money, decided to pay a visit to his people.
He set out for the East in December, 1866, via Panama, arriving in
New York in January. A few days later he was with his mother, then
living with his sister, in St. Louis. A little later he lectured in
Keokuk, and in Hannibal, his old home.
was about this time that the first great Mediterranean steamship excursion
began to be exploited. No such ocean picnic had ever been planned
before, and it created a good deal of interest East and West. Mark
Twain heard of it and wanted to go. He wrote to friends on the 'Alta
California,' of San Francisco, and the publishers of that paper had
sufficient faith to advance the money for his passage, on the understanding
that he was to contribute frequent letters, at twenty dollars apiece.
It was a liberal offer, as rates went in those days, and a godsend
in the fullest sense of the word to Mark Twain.
now hurried to New York in order to be there in good season for the
sailing date, which was in June. In New York he met Frank Fuller,
whom he had known as territorial Governor of Utah, an energetic and
enthusiastic admirer of the Western humorist. Fuller immediately proposed
that Clemens give a lecture in order to establish his reputation on
the Atlantic coast. Clemens demurred, but Fuller insisted, and engaged
Cooper Union for the occasion. Not many tickets were sold. Fuller,
however, always ready for an emergency, sent out a flood of complimentaries
to the school-teachers of New York and adjacent territory, and the
house was crammed. It turned out to be a notable event. Mark Twain
was at his best that night; the audience laughed until, as some of
them declared when the lecture was over, they were too weak to leave
their seats. His success as a lecturer was assured.
Quaker City was the steamer selected for the great oriental tour.
It sailed as advertised, June 8, 1867, and was absent five months,
during which Mark Twain contributed regularly to the 'Alta-California',
and wrote several letters for the New York Tribune. They were read
and copied everywhere. They preached a new gospel in travel literature--
a gospel of seeing with an overflowing honesty; a gospel of sincerity
in according praise to whatever he considered genuine, and ridicule
to the things believed to be shams. It was a gospel that Mark Twain
continued to preach during his whole career. It became, in fact, his
chief literary message to the world, a world ready for that message.
returned to find himself famous. Publishers were ready with plans
for collecting the letters in book form. The American Publishing Company,
of Hartford, proposed a volume, elaborately illustrated, to be sold
by subscription. He agreed with them as to terms, and went to Washington'
to prepare copy. But he could not work quietly there, and presently
was back in San Francisco, putting his book together, lecturing occasionally,
always to crowded houses. He returned in August, 1868, with the manuscript
of the Innocents Abroad, and that winter, while his book was being
manufactured, lectured throughout the East and Middle West, making
his headquarters in Hartford, and in Elmira, New York.
had an especial reason for going to Elmira. On the Quaker City he
had met a young man by the name of Charles Langdon, and one day, in
the Bay of Smyrna, had seen a miniature of the boy's sister, Olivia
Langdon, then a girl of about twenty-two. He fell in love with that
picture, and still more deeply in love with the original when he met
her in New York on his return. The Langdon home was in Elmira, and
it was for this reason that as time passed he frequently sojourned
there. When the proofs of the Innocents Abroad were sent him he took
them along, and he and sweet "Livy" Langdon read them together.
What he lacked in those days in literary delicacy she detected, and
together they pruned it away. She became his editor that winter--a
position which she held until her death.
book was published in July, 1869, and its success was immediate and
abundant. On his wedding-day, February 2, 1870, Clemens received a
check from his publishers for more than four thousand dollars, royalty
accumulated during the three months preceding. The sales soon amounted
to more than fifty thousand copies, and had increased to very nearly
one hundred thousand at the end of the first three years. It was a
book of travel, its lowest price three dollars and fifty cents. Even
with our increased reading population no such sale is found for a
book of that description to-day. And the Innocents Abroad holds its
place--still outsells every other book in its particular field. [This
in 1917. D.W.]
Twain now decided to settle down. He had bought an interest in the
Express, of Buffalo, New York, and took up his residence in that city
in a house presented to the young couple by Mr. Langdon. It did not
prove a fortunate beginning. Sickness, death, and trouble of many
kinds put a blight on the happiness of their first married year and
gave, them a distaste for the home in which they had made such a promising
start. A baby boy, Langdon Clemens, came along in November, but he
was never a strong child. By the end of the following year the Clemenses
had arranged for a residence in Hartford, temporary at first, later
made permanent. It was in Hartford that little Langdon died, in 1872.
meanwhile, had sold out his interest in the Express, severed his connection
with the Galaxy, a magazine for which he was doing a department each
month, and had written a second book for the American Publishing Company,
Roughing It, published in 1872. In August of the same year he made
a trip to London, to get material for a book on England, but was too
much sought after, too continuously feted, to do any work. He went
alone, but in November returned with the purpose of taking Mrs. Clemens
and the new baby, Susy, to England the following spring. They sailed
in April, 1873, and spent a good portion of the year in England and
Scotland. They returned to America in November, and Clemens hurried
back to London alone to deliver a notable series of lectures under
the management of George Dolby, formerly managing agent for Charles
Dickens. For two months Mark Twain lectured steadily to London audiences--the
big Hanover Square rooms always filled. He returned to his family
in January, 1874.
a home was being built for them in Hartford, and in the autumn of
1874 they took up residence in ita happy residence, continued through
seventeen years--well-nigh perfect years. Their summers they spent
in Elmira, on Quarry Farm--a beautiful hilltop, the home of Mrs. Clemens's
sister. It was in Elmira that much of Mark Twain's literary work was
done. He had a special study there, some distance from the house,
where he loved to work out his fancies and put them into visible form.
was not so easy to work at Hartford; there was too much going on.
The Clemens home was a sort of general headquarters for literary folk,
near and far, and for distinguished foreign visitors of every sort.
Howells and Aldrich used it as their half-way station between Boston
and New York, and every foreign notable who visited America made a
pilgrimage to Hartford to see Mark Twain. Some even went as far as
Elmira, among them Rudyard Kipling, who recorded his visit in a chapter
of his American Notes. Kipling declared he had come all the way from
India to see Mark Twain.
had its own literary group. Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe lived near
the Clemens home; also Charles Dudley Warner. The Clemens and Warner
families were constantly associated, and The Gilded Age, published
in 1873, resulted from the friendship of Warner and Mark Twain. The
character of Colonel Sellers in that book has become immortal, and
it is a character that only Mark Twain could create, for, though drawn
from his mother's cousin, James Lampton, it embodies--and in no very
exaggerated degree--characteristics that were his own. The tendency
to make millions was always imminent; temptation was always hard to
resist. Money-making schemes are continually being placed before men
of means and prominence, and Mark Twain, to the day of his death,
found such schemes fatally attractive.
was because of the Sellers characteristics in him that he invested
in a typesetting-machine which cost him nearly two hundred thousand
dollars and helped to wreck his fortunes by and by. It was because
of this characteristic that he invested in numberless schemes of lesser
importance, but no less disastrous in the end. His one successful
commercial venture was his association with Charles L. Webster in
the publication of the Grant Memoirs, of which enough copies were
sold to pay a royalty of more than four hundred thousand dollars to
Grant's widow-- the largest royalty ever paid from any single publication.
It saved the Grant family from poverty. Yet even this triumph was
a misfortune to Mark Twain, for it led to scores of less profitable
book ventures and eventual disaster.
he had written and published a number of books. Tom Sawyer, The Prince
and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut
Yankee in King Arthur's Court were among the volumes that had entertained
the world and inspired it with admiration and love for their author.
In 1878-79 he had taken his family to Europe, where they spent their
time in traveling over the Continent. It was during this period that
he was joined by his intimate friend, the Rev. Joseph H. Twichell,
of Hartford, and the two made a journey, the story of which is told
in A Tramp Abroad.
1891 the Hartford house was again closed, this time indefinitely,
and the family, now five in number, took up residence in Berlin. The
typesetting-machine and the unfortunate publishing venture were drawing
heavily on the family finances at this period, and the cost of the
Hartford establishment was too great to be maintained. During the
next three years he was distracted by the financial struggle which
ended in April, 1894, with the failure of Charles L. Webster &
Co. Mark Twain now found himself bankrupt, and nearly one hundred
thousand dollars in debt. It had been a losing fight, with this bitter
ending always in view; yet during this period of hard, hopeless effort
he had written a large portion of the book which of all his works
will perhaps survive the longest--his tender and beautiful story of
Joan of Arc. All his life Joan had been his favorite character in
the world's history, and during those trying months and years of the
early nineties--in Berlin, in Florence, in Paris--he was conceiving
and putting his picture of that gentle girl-warrior into perfect literary
form. It was published in Harper's Magazine--anonymously, because,
as he said, it would not have been received seriously had it appeared
over his own name. The authorship was presently recognized. Exquisitely,
reverently, as the story was told, it had in it the, touch of quaint
and gentle humor which could only have been given to it by Mark Twain.
was only now and then that Mark Twain lectured during these years.
He had made a reading tour with George W. Cable during the winter
of 1884-85, but he abominated the platform, and often vowed he would
never appear before an audience again. Yet, in 1895, when he was sixty
years old, he decided to rebuild his fortunes by making a reading
tour around the world. It was not required of him to pay his debts
in full. The creditors were willing to accept fifty per cent. of the
liabilities, and had agreed to a settlement on that basis. But this
did not satisfy Mrs. Clemens, and it did not satisfy him. They decided
to pay dollar for dollar. They sailed for America, and in July, 1895,
set out from Elmira on the long trail across land and sea. Mrs. Clemens,
and Clara Clemens, joined this pilgrimage, Susy and Jean Clemens remaining
at Elmira with their aunt. Looking out of the car windows, the travelers
saw Susy waving them an adieu. It was a picture they would long remember.
reading tour was one of triumph. High prices and crowded houses prevailed
everywhere. The author-reader visited Australia, New Zealand, India,
Ceylon, South Africa, arriving in England, at last, with the money
and material which would pay off the heavy burden of debt and make
him once more free before the world. And in that hour of triumph came
the heavy blow. Susy Clemens, never very strong, had been struck down.
The first cable announced her illness. The mother and Clara sailed
at once. Before they were half-way across the ocean a second cable
announced that Susy was dead. The father had to meet and endure the
heartbreak alone; he could not reach America, in time for the burial.
He remained in England, and was joined there by the sorrowing family.
passed that winter in London, where he worked at the story of his
travels, Following the Equator, the proofs of which he read the next
summer in Switzerland. The returns from it, and from his reading venture,
wiped away Mark Twain's indebtedness and made him free. He could go
back to America; as he said, able to look any man in the face again.
he did not go immediately. He could live more economically abroad,
and economy was still necessary. The family spent two winters in Vienna,
and their apartments there constituted a veritable court where the
world's notables gathered. Another winter in England followed, and
then, in the latter part of 1900, they went home--that is, to America.
Mrs. Clemens never could bring herself to return to Hartford, and
never saw their home there again.
Twain's return to America, was in the nature of a national event.
Wherever he appeared throngs turned out to bid him welcome. Mighty
banquets were planned in his honor.
a house at 14 West Tenth Street, and in a beautiful place at Riverdale,
on the Hudson, most of the next three years were passed. Then Mrs.
Clemens's health failed, and in the autumn of 1903 the family went
to Florence for her benefit. There, on the 5th of June, 1904, she
died. They brought her back and laid her beside Susy, at Elmira. That
winter the family took up residence at 21 Fifth Avenue, New York,
and remained there until the completion of Stormfield, at Redding,
Connecticut, in 1908.
his later life Mark Twain was accorded high academic honors. Already,
in 1888, he had received from Yale College the degree of Master of
Arts, and the same college made him a Doctor of Literature in 1901.
A year later the university of his own State, at Columbia, Missouri,
conferred the same degree, and then, in 1907, came the crowning honor,
when venerable Oxford tendered him the doctor's robe.
"I don't know why they should give me a degree like that,"
he said, quaintly. "I never doctored any literature--I wouldn't
He had thought never to cross the ocean again, but he declared he
would travel to Mars and back, if necessary, to get that Oxford degree.
He appreciated its full meaning-recognition by the world's foremost
institution of learning of the achievements of one who had no learning
of the institutionary kind. He sailed in June, and his sojourn in
England was marked by a continuous ovation. His hotel was besieged
by callers. Two secretaries were busy nearly twenty hours a day attending
to visitors and mail. When he appeared on the street his name went
echoing in every direction and the multitudes gathered. On the day
when he rose, in his scarlet robe and black mortar-board, to receive
his degree (he must have made a splendid picture in that dress, with
his crown of silver hair), the vast assembly went wild. What a triumph,
indeed, for the little Missouri printer-boy! It was the climax of
a great career.
Twain's work was always of a kind to make people talk, always important,
even when it was mere humor. Yet it was seldom that; there was always
wisdom under it, and purpose, and these things gave it dynamic force
and enduring life. Some of his aphorisms--so quaint in form as to
invite laughter--are yet fairly startling in their purport. His paraphrase,
"When in doubt, tell the truth," is of this sort. "Frankness
is a jewel; only the young can afford it," he once said to the
writer, apropos of a little girl's remark. His daily speech was full
of such things. The secret of his great charm was his great humanity
and the gentle quaintness and sincerity of his utterance.
work did not cease when the pressing need of money came to an end.
He was full of ideas, and likely to begin a new article or story at
any time. He wrote and published a number of notable sketches, articles,
stories, even books, during these later years, among them that marvelous
short story--"The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg." In that
story, as in most of his later work, he proved to the world that he
was much more than a humorist--that he was, in fact, a great teacher,
moralist, philosopher- -the greatest, perhaps, of his age.
life at Stormfield--he had never seen the place until the day of his
arrival, June 18, 1908--was a peaceful and serene old age. Not that
he was really old; he never was that. His step, his manner, his point
of view, were all and always young. He was fond of children and frequently
had them about him. He delighted in games--especially in billiards--and
in building the house at Stormfield the billiard-room was first considered.
He had a genuine passion for the sport; without it his afternoon was
not complete. His mornings he was likely to pass in bed, smoking--he
was always smoking--and attending to his correspondence and reading.
History and the sciences interested him, and his bed was strewn with
biographies and stories of astronomical and geological research. The
vastness of distances and periods always impressed him. He had no
head for figures, but he would labor for hours over scientific calculations,
trying to compass them and to grasp their gigantic import. I remember
once finding him highly elated over the fact that he had figured out
for himself the length in hours and minutes of a "light year."
He showed me the pages covered with figures, and was more proud of
them than if they had been the pages of an immortal story. Then we
played billiards, but even his favorite game could not make him altogether
forget his splendid achievement.
was on the day before Christmas, 1909, that heavy bereavement once
more came into the life of Mark Twain. His daughter Jean, long subject
to epileptic attacks, was seized with a convulsion while in her bath
and died before assistance reached her. He was dazed by the suddenness
of the blow. His philosophy sustained him. He was glad, deeply glad
for the beautiful girl that had been released.
"I never greatly envied anybody but the dead," he said,
when he had looked at her. "I always envy the dead."
coveted estate of silence, time's only absolute gift, it was the one
benefaction he had ever considered worth while.
the years were not unkindly to Mark Twain. They brought him sorrow,
but they brought him likewise the capacity and opportunity for large
enjoyment, and at the last they laid upon him a kind of benediction.
Naturally impatient, he grew always more gentle, more generous, more
tractable and considerate as the seasons passed. His final days may
be said to have been spent in the tranquil light of a summer afternoon.
own end followed by a few months that of his daughter. There were
already indications that his heart was seriously affected, and soon
after Jean's death he sought the warm climate of Bermuda. But his
malady made rapid progress, and in April he returned to Stormfield.
He died there just a week later, April 21, 1910.
attempt to designate Mark Twain's place in the world's literary history
would be presumptuous now. Yet I cannot help thinking that he will
maintain his supremacy in the century that produced him. I think so
because, of all the writers of that hundred years, his work was the
most human his utterances went most surely to the mark. In the long
analysis of the ages it is the truth that counts, and he never approximated,
never compromised, but pronounced those absolute verities to which
every human being of whatever rank must instantly respond.
understanding of subjective human nature--the vast, unwritten life
within--was simply amazing. Such knowledge he acquired at the fountainhead--that
is, from himself. He recognized in himself an extreme example of the
human being with all the attributes of power and of weakness, and
he made his exposition complete.