The procession of guests at Stormfield continued pretty steadily. Clemens kept a book in which visitors set down their names and the dates of arrival and departure, and when they failed to attend to these matters he diligently did it himself after they were gone.
Members of the Harper Company came up with their wives; “angel-fish” swam in and out of the aquarium; Bermuda friends came to see the new home; Robert Collier, the publisher, and his wife —“Mrs. Sally,” as Clemens liked to call her — paid their visits; Lord Northcliffe, who was visiting America, came with Colonel Harvey, and was so impressed with the architecture of Stormfield that he adopted its plans for a country-place he was about to build in Newfoundland. Helen Keller, with Mr. and Mrs. Macy, came up for a week-end visit. Mrs. Crane came over from Elmira; and, behold! one day came the long-ago sweetheart of his childhood, little Laura Hawkins — Laura Frazer now, widowed and in the seventies, with a granddaughter already a young lady quite grown up.
That Mark Twain was not wearying of the new conditions we may gather from a letter written to Mrs. Rogers in October:
I’ve grown young in these months of dissipation here. And I have left off drinking — it isn’t necessary now. Society & theology are sufficient for me.
To Helen Allen, a Bermuda “Angel-Fish,” he wrote:
We have good times here in this soundless solitude on the hilltop. The moment I saw the house I was glad I built it, & now I am gladder & gladder all the time. I was not dreaming of living here except in the summer-time — that was before I saw this region & the house, you see — but that is all changed now; I shall stay here winter & summer both & not go back to New York at all. My child, it’s as tranquil & contenting as Bermuda. You will be very welcome here, dear.
He interested himself in the affairs and in the people of Redding. Not long after his arrival he had gathered in all the inhabitants of the country-side, neighbors of every quality, for closer acquaintance, and threw open to them for inspection every part of the new house. He appointed Mrs. Lounsbury, whose acquaintance was very wide; a sort of committee on reception, and stood at the entrance with her to welcome each visitor in person.
It was a sort of gala day, and the rooms and the grounds were filled with the visitors. In the dining-room there were generous refreshments. Again, not long afterward, he issued a special invitation to all of those-architects, builders, and workmen who had taken any part, however great or small, in the building of his home. Mr. and Mrs. Littleton were visiting Stormfield at this time, and both Clemens and Littleton spoke to these assembled guests from the terrace, and made them feel that their efforts had been worth while.
Presently the idea developed to establish something that would be of benefit to his neighbors, especially to those who did not have access to much reading-matter. He had been for years flooded with books by authors and publishers, and there was a heavy surplus at his home in the city. When these began to arrive he had a large number of volumes set aside as the nucleus of a public library. An unused chapel not far away — it could be seen from one of his windows — was obtained for the purpose; officers were elected; a librarian was appointed, and so the Mark Twain Library of Redding was duly established. Clemens himself was elected its first president, with the resident physician, Dr. Ernest H. Smith, vice-president, and another resident, William E. Grumman, librarian. On the afternoon of its opening the president made a brief address. He said:
I am here to speak a few instructive words to my fellow-farmers. I suppose you are all farmers: I am going to put in a crop next year, when I have been here long enough and know how. I couldn’t make a turnip stay on a tree now after I had grown it. I like to talk. It would take more than the Redding air to make me keep still, and I like to instruct people. It’s noble to be good, and it’s nobler to teach others to be good, and less trouble. I am glad to help this library. We get our morals from books. I didn’t get mine from books, but I know that morals do come from books — theoretically at least. Mr. Beard or Mr. Adams will give some land, and by and by we are going to have a building of our own.
This statement was news to both Mr. Beard and Mr. Adams and an inspiration of the moment; but Mr. Theodore Adams, who owned a most desirable site, did in fact promptly resolve to donate it for library purposes. Clemens continued:
I am going to help build that library with contributions from my visitors. Every male guest who comes to my house will have to contribute a dollar or go away without his baggage. — [A characteristic notice to guests requiring them to contribute a dollar to the Library Building Fund was later placed on the billiard-room mantel at Stormfield with good results.]— If those burglars that broke into my house recently had done that they would have been happier now, or if they’d have broken into this library they would have read a few books and led a better life. Now they are in jail, and if they keep on they will go to Congress. When a person starts downhill you can never tell where he’s going to stop. I am sorry for those burglars. They got nothing that they wanted and scared away most of my servants. Now we are putting in a burglar-alarm instead of a dog. Some advised the dog, but it costs even more to entertain a dog than a burglar. I am having the ground electrified, so that for a mile around any one who puts his foot across the line sets off an alarm that will be heard in Europe. Now I will introduce the real president to you, a man whom you know already — Dr. Smith.
So a new and important benefit was conferred upon the community, and there was a feeling that Redding, besides having a literary colony, was to be literary in fact.
It might have been mentioned earlier that Redding already had literary associations when Mark Twain arrived. As far back as Revolutionary days Joel Barlow, a poet of distinction, and once Minister to France, had been a resident of Redding, and there were still Barlow descendants in the township.
William Edgar Grumman, the librarian, had written the story of Redding’s share in the Revolutionary War — no small share, for Gen. Israel Putnam’s army had been quartered there during at least one long, trying winter. Charles Burr Todd, of one of the oldest Redding families, himself — still a resident, was also the author of a Redding history.
Of literary folk not native to Redding, Dora Reed Goodale and her sister Elaine, the wife of Dr. Charles A. Eastman, had, long been residents of Redding Center; Jeanette L. Gilder and Ida M. Tarbell had summer homes on Redding Ridge; Dan Beard, as already mentioned, owned a place near the banks of the Saugatuck, while Kate V. St. Maur, also two of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s granddaughters had recently located adjoining the Stormfield lands. By which it will be seen that Redding was in no way unsuitable as a home for Mark Twain.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00