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Add to My Citations To Olivia L. Langdon
26 and 27 January 1869 • Batavia, Ill.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCCL 00242)
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Batavia, Ill., Jan. 26.

Livy, darling, I never supposed, before, that a picture could be so much company—& in fact one of those blank, soulless photographs are not—they don’t come out of the case & meet you hav half way, & talk to you with their eyes, like one of [ tho these ] porcelaintypes. I have made a pleasant discovery about this picture, & now it is almost like having you with me—it has sympathies. Its expression takes the color of whatever mood I chance to be in, & smiles, or is sad, or grave, or tranquilly happy, just as I happen to be myself from time to time. This is true as truth itself, Livy. The other day when I was so troubled & depressed, it looked as if its dear old heart was breaking; last night, when your Marshall letter1 filled me with the wildest & happiest spirits, it smiled, & beamed a world of good-nature from its eyes, & tried its very best to speak; . T to-day this [sad-looking ] village makes me feel ever so friendless & dreary, & behold, the picture is so overflowing with friendliness, & tries so hard to come out of the case to me, that I grow contented & glad again, in spite of the sad village & its solemn surroundings.2 I wouldn’t part with the picture for the world. But you ought to see how placidly it takes a kiss! It don’t object—it don’t solicit it—it don’t respond. It simply looks good, & noble, & calm, & as [ it if ] it were satisfied [ ther that ] there was all [re[s]pect ], & homage & reverence in the kiss, as well as passionate love; & that therefore these kisses cannot d profane it. And I am sure they cannot. How I do [ love LOVE ] you, Livy!

That Marshall letter was the very happiest & the pleasantest you ever wrote. And of course you threatened not to send it., you little aggravation. It made me so jolly & so lively that I felt thoroughly & completely well & hearty in a moment. You see it is much it is because I am much more concerned about your state of mind & your circumstances than my own—& so when you write a very grave letter I feel dreadfully, because I know you were not happy at the time—but when you write what you think is nonsense—little chatty personal matters, home talk & that sort of thing,—I am delighted, because I know you could not do it unless you were feeling cheery & [happy-hearted. ] You can’t always feel so, Livy dear, but when you do, write me at once, & don’t threaten to tear up the letter—I won’t have such conduct as those. And when you feel down-hearted, be sure to write me—& tell me all—tell me [ v ] everything that troubles that dear hea[r]t that is more to me than all the world beside—for you must let me share your troubles. [ , darling ] . I would have you cheerful & happy all the time—but when you are troubled I would not have you put off writing till the feeling is gone, in order that you may not make me sad. No, Livy, when you are heavy-hearted, write at once; & let me put my arms about you, darling, & comfort you, & charm away your griefs with kindly, reassuring words—for this is the true office of love, Livy. Don’t keep your sorrows from me, love, but come to me with them always—come to me with them trustingly & confidently, as knowing that whatever grieves you grieves me also, & therefore I am worthy to help bear the burthen.

I am so glad you wear the ribbon, Li on your hair, Livy—for you never look so dear, & so dainty & so bewitching—so surpassingly & destructively lovely—as when you wear the blue dress & the blue ribbon—I mean the dress you wore in the library toward evening, Nov. 27, when I was about to go away—& I think you were wearing it, too, one afternoon, a short time ago, in the afternoon library, when I bent down over the back of your chair & kissed you—remember?3 You often wear it to dinner. And blue is just the color for you to wear, Livy, because its language is Purity. {I can’t write—except by fits & starts—for thinking of you & longing for you.} I told Mrs. Fairbanks that it was a blue ribbon that is on your hair in the picture, & that the dress was the particular blue silk dress I have been speaking [about. Was ] I right? You always look lovely, & you are always beautiful, my peerless Livy, no matter how you dress or in what colors (for you always dress in [ utterly faul ] the most exquisite good taste,) but you are loveliest in blue, I think.,—& next in solid, unmitigated black—unmitigated save by a red ribbon on your hair—& a white collar, & c.

Your criticism on the “Nature & Life” sermons is [ superb ] . concentrated excellence. They are cold—cold as ice—& there is little depth to them, too—but they glitter. They are gracefully worded. One or two of them are excellent, though, in nearly every way.4

Why, Livy dear, I was so delighted, for I thought you were going to find a fault in yourself for me—for I knew very well that I couldn’t—& behold, you failed, failed, failed, darling, & found a virtue instead! You never never will make me believe that coming to the rescue of a man who is down, with a generous, indignant, outspoken protest, was a fault. Oh, no, no, my loved & honored Livy, my leal & loyal Livy, my best & truest Livy in all the world, Magnanimity was always a Virtue since God created the [ H ] heavens & the earth, & always will be! Don’t deceive yourself into the notion that your angry speech was something unworthy, simply because it rode down opposing opinions careless of consequences.—Why, if your father was present, he was just as proud of you as he could be. What a fault-finder you are, Livy! The more “faults” like that you can find, the more I shall love you & honor you. Try it again, my poor little discouraged darling. I don’t see any fault in you—& I won’t! There. , now.

When am I coming? Why, Livy, I begin to have a vague sort of notion that I may get there right after Jacksonville,5 but it is very vague—not much encouragement [about. ] it. Don’t I wish I might, though! But I feel sure I shall see you twenty-five days from now. {It sounds like twenty-five years—& seems like it, too.} It exasperates me every time I think of the time I wasted in New York doing nothing—would like to have it now,—in [Elmira. ].6

G They have come for me—good ni bye, my own darling—with a loving [kiss. ]

Sam. L. C

After the Lecture—This letter was all folded up, sealed & directed, but I would pull it open again to kiss you, Livy, & hope you are well & happy, & hope also that if you are writing me, at this moment, you are lovingly but not “stupidly” Livy. {It is all very well for you to call yourself names, but I won’t allow anybody else to do it.} But whether you are stupid or not stupid, go on & write, anyhow, for I had rather read your most miraculous & extravagant stupidity than anybody else’s wisdom.

“I must do it, I must do it, Livy.” That reminds me of what I told Mother Fairbanks long ago, when she was trying to comfort me. I said, “She don’t love me, & she says she is perfectly aware that she never can love me—& so the case looks hopeless—but still, I will keep on hoping & striving, & still asking her—& after she has refused me twelve times, I will be right back there & at it again, just as lovingly, & hopefully & persistently as ever!” Oh, I could not do without your love, Livy, [ darling ] & I knew it perfectly well. I had to persecute you into loving me—there was no help for it—it had to be done. And fervently I pray God to bless you always, Livy, for yielding at [last. What ] a stay & a support you have been to me! No matter how dreary & wretched I may feel when I enter one of these sad, u homeless-looking towns, I soon retreat to the shelter of your love, my Livy, & all is bright & cheerful again. And then I pray that God will bear me up with His strength to do the task that is set before me, feeling in all such cases that my own can be of little avail—[ ev ] & every time I do that I the lecture is infallibly a success. It was so to-night. I did feel so [heart-broken ] when I arrived here [to-day]!—& I feel so perfectly satisfied now—& so do all these people. I kiss you, Livy.7

Speaking of Mr. Day & Miss Alice reminds me that the Secretary of this Society here tells me that Nasby is in love with Miss Anna Dickinson, & is paying his attentions to her. I thought you would like to hear. it. I can’t give you any particulars, because the matter did not seem to be any business of mine & so I did not ask any questions.8

Livy, you must not leave your letters open “till next day” if there is danger that you won’t send them. You must send me every line you write—don’t leave out any of it. I want every line that you write. And now do you know that the best time for answering a letter is immediately after reading it? It is—one is sure to write frankly & freely & naturally then. And so I want you to promise that every time you receive a letter from me you will put it in your pocket & not read a line of it until you have time to sit down & answer it. Then you won’t have a bit of trouble writing, Livy—language & ideas will come freely & easily & naturally. I never get a chance to do that with your letters, though I want to—I try not to read them, sometimes, until I can answer them, but I can’t do it—can’t resist [them ] temptation to answer read them immediately.

But as usual, I am writing when I ought to be in bed, inasmuch as I must start early in the morning—to Freeport, where I shall get a letter from the dearest girl in all the world, the first letter of [ the three ] first letters of whose name is Livy.9 And so I kiss you good-night again, my precious little sweetheart, & wish you pleasant dreams, & the companionship of the angels, & the ineffable peace of God.

Devotedly & always

Sam L. C.


Miss Olivia L. Langdon


Care of His Royal Highness the Grand Mogul.

[docketed by OLL:] 35th

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 Probably written around 21 or 22 January, it had reached Clemens in Marshall, Michigan, where he lectured on 25 January.

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2 First settled in 1833, Batavia had a population of 3,018 by 1870 (Gustafson and Schielke, 59). In 1867, when many states were actively encouraging emigration, the Kane County Gazetteer promoted Batavia:

This large village is beautifully situated on both sides of the Fox River, and on the line of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad,—two and a half miles below Geneva, and thirty-five miles distant from Chicago. . . . Improvements on an extensive scale have been made, and many large and substantial buildings erected for business and for residences, which will compare with any other location in the West, of its size. The surrounding district is not only beautiful, but well adapted for the successful operation of any manufacturing purposes, requiring water power for propelling machinery. Here are also inexhaustible quarries of the best limestone, and abundant supplies of valuable timber from the Big Woods, which must tend to render this location permanent and flourishing. . . . The improvements . . . attest the enterprise and activity of its citizens; which, together with its manufactories, foundries, etc., tend to make all that should be asked, for a live and rapidly growing town. (Bailey, 127)

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3 Clemens was understandably certain of what Olivia had been wearing on the evening of 27 November 1868, when he first departed Elmira as her fiancé. The moment in the library must have come on 17 or 18 December.

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4 See 17 Jan 69 to OLL and CJL, n. 5.

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5 Where Clemens was to lecture on 1 February.

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6 After leaving Elmira on 27 November 1868 Clemens had gone to New York City, where he remained (except for lectures in Rondout, New York, and Newark, New Jersey, and an evening in Hartford with Joseph H. Twichell) until 10 December. While in New York he investigated opportunities of becoming a newspaper publisher or editor, attended to lecture business, and wrote longingly to Olivia (see L2, 297–325).

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7 The Batavia correspondent of the Beacon, in neighboring Aurora, Illinois, noted on 2 February that “‘Mark Twain’ lectured here last Tuesday evening to a crowded house. Our lectures so far have proved a success pecuniarily and otherwise” (Ben). No other account of Clemens’s Batavia success has been found.

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8 Olivia had evidently mentioned her Hartford friend Alice Beecher Hooker (1847–1928) and Alice’s fiancé, John Calvin Day (1835–99), an attorney and businessman. Clemens and the Langdons (except Charles) attended Alice’s wedding in Hartford on 17 June 1869. The secretary of the Batavia Laconian Literary Society has not been identified, nor has his report of Dickinson’s courtship by Nasby (David Ross Locke) been confirmed. Locke had been married since 1855 to the former Martha H. Bodine, of Plymouth, Ohio, with whom he had three sons. Dickinson never married (“Nook Farm Genealogy,” 16; “Married,” Hartford Times, 18 June 69, 3; Burpee, 1:501; Andrews, 22; Johnson, 3; Harrison, 29–30).

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9 The meaning of this remark has not been explained. Clemens was probably writing at least the last part of this letter sometime after midnight, hence in the early hours of 27 January. Later that day he lectured in Fry’s Hall, in Freeport, Illinois. The next letter he sent to Olivia (docket number 36) has been lost. He probably wrote it either from Freeport or from Waterloo, Iowa, where on 28 January he attracted a large audience, despite a heavy rain storm (“Mark Twain, the great humorist . . . ,” Freeport Bulletin, 28 Jan 69, 4; “Mark Twain,” Waterloo Courier, 4 Feb 69, no page).

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

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L3, 76–81; LLMT, 357, brief paraphrase.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphsee Samossoud Collection, p. 586.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

tho these • thoese

sad-looking • sad-|looking

it if • itf

ther that • therat

re[s]pect • re-|pect

love LOVE[one underscore altered to three]

happy-hearted • happy-|hearted

v[possibly partly formed ‘w’]

darling[false ascenders/descenders; heavily canceled]

about. Was • about.—|Was

utterly faul[false ascenders/descenders; very heavily canceled]

superb[false ascenders/descenders]

H[partly formed]

about.[deletion implied]

Elmira. [] G • Elmira.—| [] G

kiss. • kiss kiss. [rewritten for clarity]

darling[false ascenders/descenders; heavily canceled]

last. What • last.—|What

ev[‘v’ partly formed]

heart-broken • heart-|broken

to-day • to-|day

them[‘m’ partly formed]

the three • theree