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A Family Sketch and Other Private Writings

A Family Sketch and Other Private Writings

Mark Twain
Livy Clemens
Susy Clemens
EDITED BY Benjamin Griffin
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  • Book Info
    A Family Sketch and Other Private Writings
    Book Description:

    This book publishes, for the first time in full, the two most revealing of Mark Twain’s private writings. Here he turns his mind to the daily life he shared with his wife Livy, their three daughters, a great many servants, and an imposing array of pets. These first-hand accounts display this gifted and loving family in the period of its flourishing.

    Mark Twain began to write "A Family Sketch" in response to the early death of his eldest daughter, Susy, but the manuscript grew under his hands to become an exuberant account of the entire household. His record of the childrens’ sayings—"Small Foolishnesses"—is next, followed by the related manuscript "At the Farm." Also included are selections from Livy’s 1885 diary and an authoritative edition of Susy’s biography of her father, written when she was a teenager. Newly edited from the original manuscripts, this anthology is a unique record of a fascinating family.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95963-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
    (pp. 1-11)

    This book publishes in full, for the first time, the two most revealing of Mark Twain’s private writings about his family life, neither of them actually written for publication. In their company we have placed closely related writing by his wife, Olivia (“Livy”), and by his eldest daughter, Susy. In this collection the reader will find Samuel Langhorne Clemens in the context of the daily life he shared with Livy, their three daughters, a great many servants, and an imposing array of pets.

    The exuberant “Family Sketch” has its origins in Mark Twain’s response to unimaginable loss. Susy Clemens died...

  4. A Family Sketch
    (pp. 13-43)

    Susy was born in Elmira, New York, in the house of her grandmother, Mrs. Olivia Langdon, on the 19th of March, 1872, and after tasting and testing life and its problems and mysteries under various conditions and in various lands, was buried from that house the 20th of August, 1896, in the twenty-fifth year of her age.

    She was a magazine of feelings, and they were of all kinds and of all shades of force; and she was so volatile, as a little child, that sometimes the whole battery came into play in the short compass of a day. She...

  5. A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It
    (pp. 45-50)

    It was summer time, and twilight. We were sitting on the porch of the farmhouse, on the summit of the hill, and “Aunt Rachel” was sitting respectfully below our level, on the steps,—for she was our servant, and colored. She was of mighty frame and stature; she was sixty years old, but her eye was undimmed and her strength unabated. She was a cheerful, hearty soul, and it was no more trouble for her to laugh than it is for a bird to sing. She was under fire, now, as usual when the day was done. That is to...

  6. A Record of the Small Foolishnesses of Susie and “Bay” Clemens (Infants)
    (pp. 51-93)

    Olivia Susan Clemens was born at the Langdon homestead in Elmira, N.Y., 19th March, 1872 and was named for her grandmother and her aunt Susan Crane.

    From early babyhood until she was 3½ years old, she was addicted to sudden and raging tempests of passion. Coaxing was tried; reasoning was tried; diversion was tried; even bribery; also, deprivations of various kinds; also captivity in a corner; in fact,everything was tried that ever had been tried with any child—but all to no purpose. Indeed the storms grew more frequent. At last we dropped every feature of the system utterly...

  7. At the Farm
    (pp. 95-97)

    Summer of 1884—Jean nearly 4 yrs old.

    She goes out to the barn with one of us every evening toward 6 o’clock, to look at the cows—which she adores—no weaker word can express her feeling for them. She sits rapt and contented while David milks the three, making a remark now and then—always about the cows. The time passes slow and drearily for her attendant, but not for her—she could stand a week of it. When the milking is finished and “Blanche,” “Jean” and “the cross cow” turned into the adjoining little cow-lot, we have...

  8. Quarry Farm Diary
    (pp. 99-104)

    June 28thQuarry Farm—Elmira N.Y.

    On June 19thwe arrived in Elmira, we went directly to Mothers spending a little more than a week with her. The six grand children had a delightful time together, and we elders all had a good visit. Yesterday morning we left Mothers and two loads of us drove up here, Charley bringing Ida, little Ida, Julia, Mr Clemens and me. The other load being Susy, Clara, Jervis, Elize (the nurse) and Jean. The load of children reached the farm first. At once after the second arrival the children all went out to see...

  9. Mark Twain
    (pp. 105-164)
    Susy Clemens

    We are a very happy family! we consist of papa, mamma, Jean Clara and me. It is papa I am writing about, and I shall have no trouble in not knowing what to say about him, as he is a very striking character. Papa’s appearance has been discribed many times, but very incorectly; he has beautiful curly grey hair, not any too thick, or any too long, just right; A roman nose, which greatly improves the beauty of his features, kind blue eyes, and a small mustache, he has a wonderfully shaped head, and profile, he has a very good...

    (pp. 165-172)
    (pp. 173-174)
    (pp. 175-186)
    (pp. 187-188)
    (pp. 189-190)