Mark Twain's Letters 1886-1900 Page 01
MARK TWAIN'S LETTERS 1886-1900
ARRANGED WITH COMMENT BY ALBERT BIGELOW PAINE
LETTERS, 1886-87. JANE CLEMENS'S ROMANCE. UNMAILED LETTERS, ETC.
When Clemens had been platforming with Cable and returned to Hartford for his Christmas vacation, the Warner and Clemens families had joined in preparing for him a surprise performance of The Prince and the Pauper. The Clemens household was always given to theatricals, and it was about this time that scenery and a stage were prepared--mainly by the sculptor Gerhardt--for these home performances, after which productions of The Prince and the Pauper were given with considerable regularity to audiences consisting of parents and invited friends. The subject is a fascinating one, but it has been dwelt upon elsewhere.--[In Mark Twain: A Biography, chaps. cliff and clx.]--We get a glimpse of one of these occasions as well as of Mark Twain's financial progress in the next brief note.
To W. D. Howells; in Boston:
Jan. 3, '86. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--The date set for the Prince and Pauper play is ten days hence--Jan. 13. I hope you and Pilla can take a train that arrives here during the day; the one that leaves Boston toward the end of the afternoon would be a trifle late; the performance would have already begun when you reached the house.
I'm out of the woods. On the last day of the year I had paid out $182,000 on the Grant book and it was totally free from debt. Yrs ever MARK.
Mark Twain's mother was a woman of sturdy character and with a keen sense of humor and tender sympathies. Her husband, John Marshall Clemens, had been a man of high moral character, honored by all who knew him, respected and apparently loved by his wife. No one would ever have supposed that during all her years of marriage, and almost to her death, she carried a secret romance that would only be told at last in the weary disappointment of old age. It is a curious story, and it came to light in this curious way:
To W. D. Howells, in Boston:
HARTFORD, May 19, '86. MY DEAR HOWELLS,--..... Here's a secret. A most curious and pathetic romance, which has just come to light. Read these things, but don't mention them. Last fall, my old mother--then 82--took a notion to attend a convention of old settlers of the Mississippi Valley in an Iowa town. My brother's wife was astonished; and represented to her the hardships and fatigues of such a trip, and said my mother might possibly not even survive them; and said there could be no possible interest for her in such a meeting and such a crowd. But my mother insisted, and persisted; and finally gained her point. They started; and all the way my mother was young again with excitement, interest, eagerness, anticipation. They reached the town and the hotel. My mother strode with the same eagerness in her eye and her step, to the counter, and said:
"Is Dr. Barrett of St. Louis, here?"
"No. He was here, but he returned to St. Louis this morning."
"Will he come again?"
My mother turned away, the fire all gone from her, and said, "Let us go home."
They went straight back to Keokuk. My mother sat silent and thinking for many days--a thing which had never happened before. Then one day she said:
"I will tell you a secret. When I was eighteen, a young medical student named Barrett lived in Columbia (Ky.) eighteen miles away; and he used to ride over to see me. This continued for some time. I loved him with my whole heart, and I knew that he felt the same toward me, though no words had been spoken. He was too bashful to speak--he could not do it. Everybody supposed we were engaged--took it for granted we were--but we were not.