Mark Twain: A Biography, by Albert Bigelow Paine


Beginning Another Home

There was an extra cottage on the Gilder place at Tyringham, and this they occupied for the rest of that sad summer. Clemens, in his note-book, has preserved some of its aspects and incidents.

July 24, 1904. Rain — rain — rain. Cold. We built a fire in my room. Then clawed the logs out & threw water, remembering there was a brood of swallows in the chimney. The tragedy was averted.

July 31. LEE, MASSACHUSETTS (BERKSHIRE HILLS). Last night the young people out on a moonlight ride. Trolley frightened Jean’s horse — collision — horse killed. Rodman Gilder picked Jean up, unconscious; she was taken to the doctor, per the car. Face, nose, side, back contused; tendon of left ankle broken.

August 10. NEW YORK. Clam here sick — never well since June 5. Jean is at the summer home in the Berkshire Hills crippled.

The next entry records the third death in the Clemens family within a period of eight months — that of Mrs. Moffett, who had been Pamela Clemens. Clemens writes:

September 1. Died at Greenwich, Connecticut, my sister, Pamela Moffett, aged about 73.

Death dates this year January 14, June 5, September 1.

That fall they took a house in New York City, on the corner of Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, No. 21, remaining for a time at the Grosvenor while the new home was being set in order. The home furniture was brought from Hartford, unwrapped, and established in the light of strange environment. Clemens wrote:

We have not seen it for thirteen years. Katie Leary, our old housekeeper, who has been in our service more than twenty-four years, cried when she told me about it to-day. She said, “I had forgotten it was so beautiful, and it brought Mrs. Clemens right back to me — in that old time when she was so young and lovely.”

Clara Clemens had not recovered from the strain of her mother’s long illness and the shock of her death, and she was ordered into retirement with the care of a trained nurse. The life at 21 Fifth Avenue, therefore, began with only two remaining members of the broken family — Clemens and Jean.

Clemens had undertaken to divert himself with work at Tyringham, though without much success. He was not well; he was restless and disturbed; his heart bleak with a great loneliness. He prepared an article on Copyright for the ‘North American Review’, 166 and he began, or at least contemplated, that beautiful fancy, ‘Eve’s Diary’, which in the widest and most reverential sense, from the first word to the last, conveys his love, his worship, and his tenderness for the one he had laid away. Adam’s single comment at the end, “Wheresoever she was, there was Eden,” was his own comment, and is perhaps the most tenderly beautiful line he ever wrote. These two books, Adam’s Diary and Eve’s — amusing and sometimes absurd as they are, and so far removed from the literal — are as autobiographic as anything he has done, and one of them as lovely in its truth. Like the first Maker of men, Mark Twain created Adam in his own image; and his rare Eve is no less the companion with whom, half a lifetime before, he had begun the marriage journey. Only here the likeness ceases. No Serpent ever entered their Eden. And they never left it; it traveled with them so long as they remained together.

166 [Published Jan., 7905. A dialogue presentation of copyright conditions, addressed to Thorwald Stolberg, Register of Copyrights, Washington, D. C. One of the best of Mark Twain’s papers on the subject.]

In the Christmas Harper for 1904 was published “Saint Joan of Arc”— the same being the Joan introduction prepared in London five years before. Joan’s proposed beatification had stirred a new interest in the martyred girl, and this most beautiful article became a sort of key-note of the public heart. Those who read it were likely to go back and read the Recollections, and a new appreciation grew for that masterpiece. In his later and wider acceptance by his own land, and by the world at large, the book came to be regarded with a fresh understanding. Letters came from scores of readers, as if it were a newly issued volume. A distinguished educator wrote:

I would rather have written your history of Joan of Arc than any other piece of literature in any language.

And this sentiment grew. The demand for the book increased, and has continued to increase, steadily and rapidly. In the long and last analysis the good must prevail. A day will come when there will be as many readers of Joan as of any other of Mark Twain’s works.

[The growing appreciation of Joan is shown by the report of sales for the three years following 1904. The sales for that year in America were 1,726; for 1905, 2,445 for 1906, 5,381; for 1907, 6,574. At this point it passed Pudd’nhead Wilson, the Yankee, The Gilded Age, Life on the Mississippi, overtook the Tramp Abroad, and more than doubled The American Claimant. Only The Innocents Abroad, Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, and Roughing It still ranged ahead of it, in the order named.]

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00