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Add to My Citations From Samuel L. and Olivia L. Clemens
to Jervis and Olivia Lewis Langdon
27 March 1870 • Buffalo, N.Y.
(MS: CtHMTH, UCCL 00450)
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Afternoon. em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceAt Home, Sunday 26th

Dear Father & Mother—

It is snowing furiously, & has been, the most of the part the day & part of the night. We are glad that you are safe beyond its jurisdiction—for albeit snow is very beautiful when falling, its loveliness passes away very shortly afterward. The grand unpoetical result is merely chilblains & slush.1 Anoth

Cousin Anna is here—came last night.2 She enjoys the beautiful home, naturally. Livy has just gone to roost. Theodore’s dispatch to informing us that Anna would arrive at 8.30 P.M. made a mistake & said 8 A.M. The consequence was that we were up at such a vile, inhuman hour in the morning that we shall be torpid & worthless for a day or two. Livy & I are delicate creatures & cannot stand dissipation.

Anna brought flowers from Sue; & Livy has made some handsome bouquets, & immediately grew riotous & disorderly because, she said, “Nobody ever comes to call when we have fresh flowers.” Well, somebody had [ better ] come—else I will take a club & go & invite half a dozen or so. Our flowers are not to go to waste this time, [ f ] merely for want of a little energetic affability.

The roof of the house on the corner right opposite Mr. Howells’ (diagonally opposite Mr Lyon’s), caught fire this morning & blazed pretty lively for a while—& but for the snow on the roof there would have been a conflagration—for when I discovered it from our bedroom window & went over there to stir up the family, there was o but one man in sight anywhere, & he came to help, instead of going for the firemen. It burned so slowly that Patrick, who followed me, climbed out on the roof & put it almost out half out with snow before we succeeded in getting buckets of water to him. After he had got it under complete control the a couple of steam engines came, but the occupant of the house persuaded them to go away without damaging anything.3

There, now—perhaps we need not go to explaining, now, why we have not written you before (still, if any letters have miscarried & you haven’t received them, we [ wit wish ] to be understood as having written those [letters. ])—we need not, now, explain, perhaps, since it is so late in the day. I know it isn’t Livy’s fault. (Now if she stands by me faithfully & says as much for me, we are surely proven blameless.) Which I think she’ll do it.

Yes, mother, whenever you issue your call, we stand ready to voyage over the ocean with you, right cheerfully.

Thank you for Charley’s journals. I have given up Prof. Ford, & shall discontinue the “Round the World” letters—have done it. The Prof. has now been 6 months writing 2 little letters, & I ten—making 12 in all. If they continue their trip 18 months, as they propose, they Prof. will succeed in grinding out a grand total of 6 letters, if he keeps up his present vigor. So I shall quietly drop the “Round the World” business & simply take write (from Charley’s journal,) what shall seem to be simply a vagrant correspondence from some George M. Wagner or other person who writes letters when he happens to feel like it, & travels for the comfort of it.4 I am

I have taken the editorship of a department in the “Galaxy” magazine, New York, & am to furnish ten pages of matter every months (made up of my own r writing & contributions together,) for $2,000 a year, I s to absolutely own the matter & print it in book form after they have used it, if I want to. I shall write once one or two sketches a month for the Express, & I have an idea that for a good while I shall do nothing else on the paper.5 Thus the Galaxy & the Express together with will give me fully six days’ work every month, & I positively need the rest of the time to admire the house in. Need it, too, to write a book in. The “Innocents” sells just as handsomely as ever. 9 to 10,000 copies a month. It is still netting me $1,400 a month.6

But I [most ] stop, & leave room for a line from Livy. And so, with all love & duty, I am

Yr [ Som Son ]


Mother dear

Cousin Anna, Mr Clemens and I are sitting about the Library table, we have been having a pleasant visit— Now Samuel is speaking of Olive Logan— 7

Our house is just as prettie and pleasant as ever, perhaps a little more so, we want to see you & father here in it— I am sure you will think it a restful place—

I was out one two calling expeditions last week— I have rec’d about seventy calls— I had a very pleasant call at Mrs Wadsworths last week—I thought that I called there two or thr[◇◇] weeks ago, but discov[er]ed that I went to the wrg wrong house & left my card—, Mrs George Wadsworth has called too—she is also very attractive— 8 Mr & Mrs Gray (he is editor of the Courier) are attractive people, seem as if they might be friends— 9

Good night

Lovingly Livy—

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 Clemens alluded to “Beautiful Snow,” the popular poem by John Whittaker Watson, first published in 1869. On 18 March 1870 the Langdons, accompanied by their friend and physician Henry Sayles and his wife, Emma, had departed snowbound Elmira on a six-week trip through Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia. The Clemenses had their itinerary, however, and could reach them by mail at specified points along the way. It was hoped that the milder climate and the respite from business would be a tonic for Jervis Langdon, who had been suffering since 1868 from what proved to be terminal stomach cancer (Jerome and Wisbey 1991, 4; Elmira Advertiser: “‘Beautiful Snow,’” 18 Mar 70, 4; “Our Snow,” 19 Mar 70, 4; Elmira Saturday Evening Review: “Local Jottings,” 26 Mar, 23 Apr 70, 8; 16 Apr 70 to Crane, n. 1).

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2 Possibly Anna Marsh Brown.

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3 According to the next day’s Buffalo Express: “The alarm sounded from signal box No. 62, yesterday noon, was occasioned by the roof of the residence of J. M. Gwinn, No. 455 Delaware street, taking fire from a defective chimney. The flames were extinguished by citizens before the arrival of the Fire Department. The damage was trifling” (“City Notes,” 28 Mar 70, 4). J. Morris Gwinn was a teller at Buffalo’s Marine Bank. James Howells, a stone dealer and contractor, lived opposite him at 452 Delaware, on the corner of Virginia Street. James S. Lyon, a real estate and insurance agent, lived diagonally opposite Gwinn, across Virginia, at 468 Delaware, near the Clemenses at 472 Delaware. The Clemenses’ coachman, Patrick McAleer, put out the fire. In 1924, Albert Bigelow Paine relayed this account of the incident, presumably from Clemens himself:

One Sunday morning Clemens noticed smoke pouring from the upper window of the house across the street. The owner and his wife, comparatively newcomers, were seated upon the veranda, evidently not aware of impending danger. The Clemens household thus far had delayed calling on them, but Clemens himself now stepped briskly across the street. Bowing with leisurely politeness, he said:

“My name is Clemens; we ought to have called on you before, and I beg your pardon for intruding now in this informal way, but your house is on fire.” (MTB, 1:413)

Gwinn had lived in his Delaware Avenue house for at least five years (Buffalo Directory: 1866, 220; 1870, 17, 376, 397, 429).

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4 On 26 March the Elmira Saturday Evening Review reported that Ford and Charles Langdon had

reached Cairo, Egypt. Thence they are to visit the Holy Land, pass through Turkey, Russia, and Prussia, spend several months in Germany, France, and Great Britain, and reach home about Christmas. (“Local Jottings,” 8)

Clemens did not make use of Langdon’s journals, which are not known to survive. For the “Around the World” letters, see 22 Jan 70 to Bliss, n. 2.

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5 In April 1870 Clemens contributed four “sketches” to the Express, but in the nine subsequent months, ending with January 1871, the number of original sketches he published there each month dropped off precipitously. Forty-one items by him, both signed and unsigned, have been identified in the Express for this period, but these include occasional editorials, obituaries, anonymous letters to the editor, as well as sketches simply reprinted from the Galaxy (see References: SLC 1870x–1871e, most entries). Of these forty-one only about ten qualify as original sketches, and more than half of those sketches appeared in April and May. (Not included in the forty-one are eight items signed “Carl Byng” that were sometimes mistakenly attributed to Clemens: see 22 Jan 71 to Aldrich, n. 3.) Additional contributions by Clemens, especially unsigned editorials, doubtless remain to be identified (L3, 710–11; McCullough 1972).

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6 During the first six months Innocents was on the market, sales had averaged about 6,500 copies per month, producing average royalties of about $1,200 per month. During the third quarter (1 Feb–30 Apr 70) monthly sales averaged about 7,125 copies and monthly royalties about $1,300 (22 Jan 70 to Bliss, n. 6; 28 Jan 70 to Bliss, n. 5; 7 May 70 to Bliss, n. 2).

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7 The occasion for Clemens’s remarks to Olivia and her cousin is not known; Logan did not lecture in Buffalo at this time. For his opinion of her, see 8 Jan 70 to OLL (1st), n. 3.

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8 George Wadsworth was a Buffalo attorney. He and his wife lived at 370 Franklin Street, about two-and-a-half blocks from the Clemenses. The other Mrs. Wadsworth probably was the wife of Charles F. Wadsworth, president of the Wadsworth Iron Works. They lived on Ferry Street, about seven blocks from the Clemenses (Buffalo Directory 1870, map, 18, 527).

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9 David and Martha Gray did indeed become longtime friends. Clemens had probably met David Gray on 14 August 1869, just after acquiring an interest in the Buffalo Express, at a dinner for the city’s press corps (L3, 295). Gray (1836–88) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and had come to the United States in 1849, settling with his family on a farm in Wisconsin. In 1856, at the invitation of relatives, he moved to Buffalo, where he worked as secretary and librarian to the Young Men’s Christian Union and as bookkeeper for his uncle’s milling firm, until, in 1859, he joined the Buffalo Courier as commercial reporter, becoming associate editor late that same year. In 1860 he purchased a one-fourth interest in the paper; in 1868 he assumed the responsibilities of managing editor. A poet and, like Clemens, a former travel correspondent (who had considered writing a book about his own 1867 journey to the Holy Land), Gray was a newlywed, having married Martha Guthrie on 2 June 1869. In Autobiographical Dictations of 16 and 22 February 1906, Clemens recalled that friendship with the Grays was “all the solace” he and Olivia had during their “sorrowful and pathetic brief sojourn in Buffalo” (CU-MARK, in MTA, 2:118, 132; Larned 1888, 1:1, 11–16, 30–31, 60–61, 67–68, 70, 75–76, 78–83, 100–101, 112–15, 129–30, 192–95).

glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, Mark Twain House, Hartford (CtHMTH).

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L4, 98–102; LLMT, 149–51; Chester L. Davis 1982, 4, excerpt.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphdonated to CtHMTH in 1963 by Ida Langdon.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph


f[partly formed]

wit wish • witsh [‘t’ partly formed]

letters.[deletion implied]

most • [sic]

Som Son • Somn

◇◇[possibly ‘3’]