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Add to My Citations To Olivia L. Langdon
31 December 1868 • Cleveland, Ohio
(MS: CU-MARK, UCCL 00214)
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Cleveland, Dec. 31.

My Dearest Livy—

Your Christmas letter arrived an hour before I went on the stage at k Akron, last night, & of course I captured that audience. It was much the largest gathering a lecture had called out since Gough talked there 2 years ago. It couldn’t have been larger, for all standing room was filled. Then I went to a pr large private dancing party & danced til stayed till 12:30, though I only danced, 3 times. I made it up talking & making friends. There were a large number of comely & companionable young ladies there, & the young gentlemen were cordial, intelligent & agreeable. Fairbanks went down with me, & we were the guests of a pleasant family who have made us promise to come again in January, February (from Ravenna,)1 & then the young folks are to give a dancing party party in our honor. I escaped a serenade by a brass band by going to the party, & so escaped making a speech. I liked the friendly idea of the serenade, but wouldn’t have enjoyed being so pointedly lionized.

Somehow I missed an appointment at Fort Wayne, Ind., for night before last—I wonder what the assembled multitude said about me? I am requested by telegraph to talk there Jan 2, & shall do it. Did you know I was to lecture there? No, you didn’t—I forgot to put it in the list. And I missed an appointment at Buffalo, for Dec. 15. Never got the notice until to-day.

I am invited to lecture in Norwalk, Ohio, & shall try to do so—say about the 3d or 4th week in January. If I do, I shall inform you. Mrs. Fairbanks is anxious that I should, for she says it is [an ]most intelligent & in every way excellent community.2

Your Christmas letter gave me so much pleasure, Livy—& some pain—because you had suffered. It breaks my heart to see you suffer, whether it be at the thought of leaving your good home, or for any cause. And yet I want you to keep no sorrow of yours from me—I would share your griefs & your heart-aches as well as your joys—I would bear all your [heart-aches ]myself, & place myself between you & sorrow, taking all your troubles upon myself & shielding you from all the ills of life, if I only could. But since it is impossible, let me at least suffer with you, Livy. Do not grieve, Livy, but look at the pleasant side of the picture, as Mrs. Fairbanks does. She builds airy plans of what she would have come to pass some day—your household living here in “the [Avenue]”—her household—Allies & Charlie Stillwell’s household3 [you— ]& you & I, all in pleasant visiting distance of the Avenue mansion—& poor Charlie & Ida4 out in the cold!—out in the cold in Elmira till they could be persuaded to come here, also, & shed their li the light of their love & hardware wisdom upon the iron interests of Cleveland. Isn’t that pleasanter than being down-hearted & looking upon the dark side, my little darling? Isn’t it, Livy? Cheer up—cheer up you precious, peerless, matchless girl—[ s ]& say again you love me half as well as I love you. Such words will come reluctantly from that pen of yours, do what I can to coax them—but say them anyhow, Livy, for I love to read them as much as you hate to write [them! And ]then I will like the cows in the picture, notwithstanding cows in pictures are my aversion. I will march up to that picture, with my proud arm about you, & give in my leal & true allegiance without a whimper. Oh, I do it now, in fancy.

I am so glad you like the “exquisite” book, Livy—& if I only had it now I could mark it as it should be marked, I think.5 I was afraid, before, because I feared you might dislike the book at l after all. It seems to me that every line in it is an inspiration, & so is worthy of a [mark. I ]shall always like that book, now, because it makes you think of me. I lost my interest in the marking long before I got through, because I had concluded, you know, that it would not do [ its to ]send it to you, & so there was no use in marking it further.

I said to Mrs. Fairbanks, in a long, chatty, private talk, a day or two ago, that you were a wonderful girl, & that it was a frequent puzzle to me why I never had happened to meet another like you—& wondered if you were the only one in the world like yourself—faultless—faultless at least as compared to other people (for Livy, I have fallen back to my old heresy, & I will not be driven or persuaded again into the hopeless task of seeking faults in you, so there!—don’t you say a word—I won’t let you!) And she said it was a puzzle to her, too—she had never seen the woman worthy to be called your peer—& that if you had a perf an imperfection it was beyond her ability to find it. And then she said she did not say that because it would give me so much pleasure or because she was blinded by her partiality for you, but because her coolest & most critical judgment justified it. I could wanted to just kiss her all to pieces! But I shan’t say another word—for I shall lest I convince you that you are a great deal too good for me, & then you won’t love me., O, most excellent among women, O, loved & honored Livy! Honoria was the dainty phantom of a poet’s fancy—but you, her superior, live in the flesh. Don’t you say a word, Livy.

That was the funiest funniest predicament! Poor Bement!! I could see you both, just as if you had been before me—& how I did enjoy [it.! ]I only wish I could have been behind the door [then. So ]Mrs. Haycroft suspects, & Ed Bement knows. What a muddle in—poor Livy! And my curiosity is interested in the Christmas Dinner at Dr Sayles’s. Tell me all about it, now. Did Miss Emma throw out any insinuations? What did you say? What did you do? Was Greeves happy?—(it is a grievous name for a happy man.) Tell me all about it, please.6

Don’t read a word in that Jumping Frog book, Livy—don’t. I hate to hear that infamous volume mentioned. I would be glad to know that every copy of it was burned, & gone forever. I’ll never write another like it.

Tell Mr. Langdon he mustn’t come in & interrupt you when you are writing to [me. It ]is highly improper., is “such conduct as those.” I am both grieved & surprised at it. And he keeps doing it, too—this is the third time. Why this will never do!

Tomorrow will be the New Year, Livy—& the gladdest that ever dawned upon me. The Old Year is passing. Hour by hour, minute by minute, its life ebbs away, & faintly & more faintly its waning pulses beat. I see it drifting out to join itself to the dead centuries without regret, & yet with many a friendly adieu, with [ may many ]a grateful parting word for what it has done for me, for what it still is doing, for what it is still to do. For it found me a waif, floating at random upon the sea of life, & it leaves me freighted with a good purpose, & blessed with a fair wind, a chart to follow, a port to reach. It found me listless, useless, aimless—it leaves me knighted with [ nobe noble ]ambition. It found me well-nigh a skeptic—it leaves me a believer. It found me dead—it leaves me alive. It found me ready to welcome any wind that would blow my vagrant bark abroad, no matter where—it leaves me seeking home & an anchorage, & longing for them. It found me careless of the here & the [hereafter]—it leaves me with faith in the one & hope for the [other. It ]found [ me. my ]heart scorched, bitter, barren, loveless—& leaves it filled with softening, humanizing, elevating love for the dearest girl on earth, Livy—& I, the homeless then, have on this last day of the [ die dying ]year, a home that is [ pre priceless], a refuge from all the cares & ills of life, in that warm heart of yours, & am supremely happy! And so with grateful benediction I give [Godspeed ]to this good Old Year that is passing away. If I forget all else it has done for me I shall still remember that it gave me your love, Livy, & turned my wandering feet toward the straight gate & the narrow way.7 Welcome the New Year, with its high resolves!, its lofty aspirations! its love, & life, & death! its joy & sorrow! its hidden fates, its awful, curtained mysteries!

Your letter of yesterday (received day before yesterday, I have not even touched upon yet, & but still must stop now & go out with the family for the evening. You are a malicious little piece of furniture, Livy, to send me that sketch from the Independent, when you knew perfectly well it would make me cry. I’ll fix you for it, Miss. But I liked it, you dear good girl, & am glad you sent it.8 You might have sent me a kiss, too, I should think, these generous Christmas times., you selfish thing.

Now, I must stop. Severance was in, a moment ago, & call says he will be after me with a buggy promptly at 11 o’clock next year to take me calling—which means to-morrow.

[Good-bye], Livy, dear—can’t take time to read this over & correct it—it wouldn’t get in the mail.

Lovingly & most lovingly

Sam L. C.


[letter docketed by OLL:] 19th 1868

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 Clemens lectured in Ravenna, Ohio, on 13 February (SLC to Mary Mason Fairbanks, 13 Feb 69, CSmH, in MTMF, 72).

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2 Clemens lectured in Fort Wayne on 2 January and in Norwalk on 21 January (SLC to OLL, 2 Jan 69, 14 Jan 69, 21 and 22 Jan 69, all in CU-MARK).

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3 Alice Fairbanks’s engagement to Charles B. Stilwell, a bookkeeper, did not end in marriage, as Clemens told Olivia in a letter of 7 and 8 January 1870 (CU-MARK; Cleveland Directory 1867, 261).

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4 Ida B. Clark.

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5 See 30 Oct 68 to OLL, n. 7.

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6 Physician Henry Sayles and his family were neighbors of the Langdons’. His daughter, Emma, a good friend of Olivia’s, was engaged (or about to become engaged) to marry Mr. Greeves, whose first name Clemens recorded both as “John” and as “Sanford” (Boyd and Boyd, 142, 188; OLL to Alice B. Hooker, 24 May 69, CtHSD; SLC to OLL, 13 May 69, CU-MARK; SLC to Olivia Lewis Langdon, 23 June 69, NPV).

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7 Matthew 7:14.

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8 Possibly Augusta Larned’s “Parson Fielder’s Christmas Visit,” clipped from the 24 December issue of the New York Independent, a Congregationalist weekly. It told the story of a country parson with a large family, too poor to give his “hearty support” to holiday celebrations, awaiting two of his deacons, whom he expects to dismiss him. Instead they bring money and gifts, restoring his faith in the joys of Christmas (Larned, 2). Founded in 1848, the Independent advocated abolition and, after the war, temperance and women’s suffrage. Henry Ward Beecher had edited it in 1861–63, but it was now edited and published by two prominent members of his congregation, Theodore Tilton and Henry C. Bowen (Mott 1938, 367–74).

glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (CU-MARK).

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L2, 367–371; LLMT, 41, brief excerpt.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphsee Samossoud Collection, pp. 515–16.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

an[‘n’ partly formed]

heart-aches • heart-|aches

Avenue • Ave-| nue nue [corrected miswriting]

you— • — | you

s[partly formed]

them! And • them!— |And

mark. I • mark.— |I

its to • [‘to’ over ‘its’; ‘s’ partly formed]

it.! • [period mended to an exclamation point]

then. So • then.— |So

me. It • me. |It

may many • mayny

nobe noble • nobele

hereafter • here-|after

other. It • other. |It

me. my • my e. [‘y’ over ‘e’ and the period wiped out]

die dying • dieying

pre priceless • preiceless

Godspeed • God-|speed

Good-bye • [hyphen possibly a stray mark]