Jane Lampton Clemens (1803 ~ 1890)
B: 18 June 1803, Lexington, Adair County, Kentucky.
D: 27 October 1890, Keokuk, Iowa.
Married: John Marshall Clemens, 6 May 1823, Columbia, Kentucky.
Children: Orion, Pamela, Margaret, Benjamin, Samuel, Henry (See below).
Mother of Samuel Clemens. The daughter of Benjamin Lampton and Margaret Casey, Jane was raised in Lexington, Kentucky. As a young woman of exceptional beauty and wit, and a graceful dancer, she was a favorite of many. A young physician from Lexington, Richard Barrett, gained her love, but such were the mores of the time, they found it difficult to see each other. It seems both felt rejected as a result. She would remember him, and even attempt to find him in later life. It has been said that her engagement to John Clemens was more a matter of temper than tenderness, but after their marriage on May 6, 1823, she proved to be a truly loyal, steadfast partner. She married at the age of 20, and bore seven children, outliving all but three.
Her first five children were born in Tennessee (one died at 3 months), and the remaining two were born in Florida, Missouri, where the family moved in 1835, having been invited into partnership by John Quarles, the husband of Jane’s sister, who was a successful farmer and shopkeeper. After four years, the family settled in nearby Hannibal, where Jane was widowed in 1847.
At the time of her husbands death, she had four living children. The eldest two supported her in the years before Mark Twain was able to do so. Her daughter Pamela left Hannibal for St. Louis in 1851 when she married William Moffett. Sam left in 1853. When her eldest son, Orion, left for Muscatine, Iowa, that same year, Jane accompanied him with her youngest son Henry. The following year, when Orion moved to Keokuk in June 1855, Jane went to live with Pamela and her husband in St. Louis, where Sam was able to visit her between trips while piloting on the Mississippi River.
Pamela Clemens Moffett was widowed in 1865. Jane and Pamela moved to Fredonia, New York in 1870, to be near Sam who had recently settled in Buffalo. Jane lived in Fredonia until about 1883, when she moved back to Keokuk to live with Orion. In 1890, at the age of 87, she died in Keokuk.
Jane Clemens was buried in Hannibal’s Mount Olivet Cemetery, beside her husband and her son Henry. Her Hannibal pastor described her as “a woman of the sunniest temperament, lively, affable, a general favorite.”
Although Sam corresponded with his mother regularly, he saw her infrequently after leaving Hannibal, usually on his lecture tours. Her influence, however, was considerable. In an autobiographical sketch written in 1897 or 1898, Sam wrote that his mother had “come handy to me several times in my books, where she figures as Tom Sawyer’s ‘Aunt Polly.’” Sam’s descriptions of Aunt Polly mirror his mother’s kind-hearted, charitable, sometimes stern, outspoken nature.
Sam admired his mother’s courage, her warmth and her unusual capacity for pity. She litterally would not kill even a fly, and would punish the cat for catching a mouse. She certainly couldn’t face such an unpleasant task as drowning unwanted kittens, a job that would fall to a reluctant Sam. According to Jane, Sam was her most difficult child, yet she empathised with his distaste for all confinement, at school, church or home, often despairing with a delightfully quick turn of phrase. When young Sam was hauled limp from the river one day and delivered to her half-drowned (one of nine such occasions), she simply dosed him up with mullein tea and castor oil, and quipped: “I guess there wasn’t much danger. People born to be hanged are safe in water.”
On another occasion in later life, recalling a time when he had been very ill as a child, Sam asked her if she had been afraid he might die. Without pausing, she replied that she had been afraid he might live.
John Marshall Clemens (1798 ~ 1847)
B: 11 August 1798, Campbell County, Virginia.
D: 24 March 1847, Hannibal, Missouri.
Married: Jane Lampton, 6 May 1823, Columbia, Kentucky.
Children: Orion, Pamela, Margaret, Benjamin, Samuel, Henry (See below).
Father of Samuel Clemens. John Clemens was the first of five children born to Samuel B. Clemens and Pamela or Pamelia Goggin Moorman. He was named after John Marshall, a polititian from Virginia who became chief justice of the United States in 1801. The family called him “Marshall”. In 1805, John Clemens’ father was killed during a house-raising when a log being pushed up a hill suddenly rolled backward, crushing him against a stump. His mother resettled in Adair County, Kentucky, where she married Simon Hancock in 1809, having four more children.
John Clemens grew up under an obligation to repay his stepfather for raising him. At the age of eleven, he began working as a clerk to help pay his way. In 1821, the remaining estate of Samuel B. Clemens, consisting mostly of ten slaves, was liquidated. His mother renounced her share in favor of her children. John Clemens paid most of his share, $884.33, to his stepfather. Nolonger indebted, but with little means, he began to study law under a Columbia, Kentucky, attorney, and he was licensed to practice in 1822. He married Jane Lampton in 1823, and two years later they moved to Gainsboro, Tennessee, where their first child, Orion, was born in July, 1825.
After another two years, they moved to Jamestown, Tennessee, where they had three more children. John Clemens became the county’s first circuit court clerk, had a law practice and occasionally served as acting attorney general. During this period, he purchased incrementally, for about $400, more than 70,000 acres of Tennessee land, believing it would provide his family with financial security in the future. However, the “Tennesee land”, with its poor soil and hilly terrain, never provided much more than a distant hope of salvation during subsequent hard times, becoming almost a burden as one prospective sale after another came to nothing. The land was eventually sold off in the 1880’s, without realizing its expected value.
The family moved nine miles south to Three Forks of Wolf River around 1831, moving again about three months later to Pall Mall across the Wolf River. In 1835, they accepted an offer of partnership from the husband of Jane’s favorite sister, John Quarles, who ran a successful store in Florida, Missouri. John Clemens opened his own dry good store in 1837. Like Quarles, he was convinced that the small settlement would boom if the Salt River was made navigable to the Mississippi. His position improved and he became a Monroe County judge. He was appointed by the state legislature to a board promoting the navigation of Salt River. He also served on a commission promoting a local railroad, but neither project advanced.
In 1839 he resettled his family in Hannibal, more promisingly located beside the Mississippi River. He set up a general store and opened a law office. His aptitude was for law, which paid the least, and his financial position declined. In 1841, he mortgaed his land and sold off the family’s one remaining household slave. He sat on a circuit court jury and became a justice of the peace. The family managed, but in 1846 he was cheated in a business deal which almost ruined him. He hoped to revive his fortunes by being elected clerk of the surrogate court. Though a favorite for the position, he campaigned tirelessly from house-to-house, and was voted in by a large majority. After riding to the county seat to take the oath of office, he returning home in late February through a rain-storm at night, arriving home bitterly cold drenched. He soon contracted pneuminia.
Sam Clemens, who was then 11 years old, remembered seeing his father on his deathbed, as he tenderly put his arm around his sister Pamela’s neck and drew her down to kiss her, saying “Let me die.” A gesture of affection from him that he had never witnessed before.
At the time, the family were living in the “Pilaster House”. John Clemens died upstairs, aged 49. His body was buried in a cemetary near Cardiff Hill, and moved to Mount Olivet Cemetery in 1876.
The untimely death of “Judge Clemens” left the family facing hard times. The following year, in 1848, Sam began his first job, as a printer’s apprentice for Joseph Ament, who published the Missouri Courier.
Although not a business-minded man, John Clemens was studious, hard-working and respected as a judge. He was an honest, upright man, stern and reserved, who took his responsibility to his family with a seriousness that burdened him. He was a gentleman in his bearing and speech, and did not punish his children. An austere look from him was enough. Sam Clemens never saw his father laugh.
John Marshall Clemens’ Obituary.
Orion Clemens (1825 ~ 1897)
B: 17 July 1825, Gainesboro, Tennessee.
D: 11 December,1897, Keokuk, Iowa.
Married: Mary Eleanor “Mollie” Stotts, 19 December 1854.
Daughter: Jennie, b. Sept. 14, 1855 in Keokuk, d. Feb.1, 1864 in Carson City, aged 9.
Oldest brother of Samuel Clemens. Orion was 15 years old when the family moved to Hannibal in 1839. Like his father, he was intelligent and hard-working, but lacked an aptitude for hard-headed business. He worked as a clerk in his father’s store, contributing to its demise by granting credit to those who could not afford to pay. In the early 1840’s he became an apprentice at a local newspaper, before going to St. Louis to study law in the office of attorney Edward Bates, who would become an influential friend.
After the death of John Clemens in 1847, Orion became head of the family, anxious to support them, and sending $3 a week from his high weekly wage of $10 in St. Louis. In 1849, he returned home, buying the Hannibal Journal newspaper, renaming it the Hannibal Western Union. Sam began working for his brother’s paper in January of 1851, contributing occasional sketches, and sometimes even running it on his own when Orion was away on business, such as when he was trying to sell the “Tennessee land”. Sam’s writing bristled with irreverence and satire at the expense of a few piqued individuals, and although it boosted circulation, Orion disapproved.
In later years he realized his mistake: “I could have distanced all competitors even then,” he once said, “if I had recognized Sam’s ability and let him go ahead, merely keeping him from offending worthy persons.” Sam, who worked without pay anyway, left for New York in June 1853.
The newspaper declined, and although he reduced subscription and advertising rates, he finally sold up in September, moving to Muscatine, Iowa, where he started the Muscatine Journal, in which he published Sam’s travel letters from the East.
Orion married Mollie Stotts of Keokuk, Iowa, on December 19, 1854. The following June the couple settled in Keokuk, where Orion bought a small printing business called the Ben Franklin Book & Job Office. After about a month, Sam and Henry came to work for him, but the business struggled and he was still unable to pay wages, so in October 1856 Sam went to Cincinnati.
Mollie’s family helped support the couple and their baby girl, Jennie, born in 1855. During the run up to the Presidential election of 1860, Orion campaigned hard for Abraham Lincoln, and after Lincoln won, good fortune at last visited Orion. In 1861, Edward Bates, President Lincoln’s new attorney general, rewarded Orion by appointing him secretary of the new territory of Nevada, with a salary of $1,800 a year.
By this time, Sam was a successful Mississippi pilot supporting his family. As the Civil War loomed, commercial river traffic ceased, and Orion asked Sam to accompany him out west. The timing suited Sam, who relished the opportunity, and paid both their passages. Departing St. Louis on July 18, 1861, they travelled firstly to St. Joseph, where they embarked on an exhillarating stagecoach journey across the frontier to Carson City, Nevada.
Orion at once began working on the organization of the region’s new government with meagre resources. Sam was his unpaid secretary, but with little to do he soon succumbed to the lure of silver mining and claim speculating, subsidized by Orion, without any success. After a year, Orion sent for Mollie and their daughter, Jennie, and built an comforable house in Carson City. About this time, Sam became a reporter in nearby Virgina City, and often visited Orion.
For three and a quarter years, Orion worked steadily, earning a solid reputation for honesty and impartiality. When Nevada achieved statehood in 1864, Orion was considered the most likely candidate for secretary of state. However, he failed to gain the nomination, after deciding it would be immodest of him to attend the Republican’s nominating convention and also adopting an anti-whiskey stance. As a result, after the November election, he found himself without a job.
Orion tried to earn a living as a lawyer, but struggled, and in August 1866 he and Mollie (Jennie had died in 1864), returned to Keokuk. The burden of failure remained with Orion, who moved with Mollie to New York a few years later to work as a newspaper proofreader, in an attempt to create another opportunity. Meanwhile, Sam Clemens was becoming a literary celebrity. The publication of Innocents Abroad in 1869 launched his writing career, earning him enough to contribute to Orion’s support. When he wrote Roughing It, he gave Orion $1,000 for his journal about the stagecoach journey.
In 1870, Sam arranged for Elisha Bliss of the American Publishing Company to hire Orion as an editor of a new American Publishing magazine. Orion didn’t get along with Bliss, however, and left in March 1872, reporting irregularities in Bliss’ business procedures that would signal a decline in the company.
Orion and Mollie resumed life in Keokuk, where Orion practiced law, tried chicken farming, attempted a novel, and invented a number of gadgets, all without success, while Sam quietly provided support of about $500 a year. In the early 1880s, Jane Clemens, mother of Orion and Sam, relocated to Keokuk where Sam had purchased her a house, in which Orion and Mollie also lived. Sam visited them several times before Jane’s death in 1890. Orion died in 1897.
Although Orion was 10 years older than Sam, with a very different temperament, the two brothers remained warm friends throughout their lives. Sam attributed Orion’s misfortune to his indecisive nature, but he never begrudged Orion financial support. After all, Orion and Sam had both inherited their father’s belief in opportune fortune, prevalent in the era of westward expansion, and a trait that would also cost Sam dearly when he backed the Paige typesetter.
Orion was apparently named after the Orion constellation, but his name was pronounced with the stress on the first syllable “Oor-eon”. He and Mollie are buried in Hannibal’s Mount Olivet Cementary.
Pamela Ann Clemens Moffett (1827 ~ 1904)
B: 13 September 1827, Jamestown, Tennessee.
D: 31 August 1904, Greenwich, Connecticut.
Married: Willian Anderson Moffett, 20 September 1851.
Daughter: Annie E. Moffett, married Charles Webster.
Son: Samuel Erasmus Moffett, married Mary Mantz.
Sam Clemens’ older sister. Pamela was the second child of John and Jane Clemens, and Sam’s only surviving sister. Eight years older than Sam, she cared for him with tenderness, patiently supervising his spiritual studies, and was clearly the model for Cousin Mary in Tom Sawyer. She was a kind-hearted child, with delicate health, and a good student who liked reading and music. During the 1840s, she became accomplished on piano and guitar and helped support the family by giving music lessons.
In 1851, Pamela married William Moffett. Formerly a Hannibal resident, he had become a successful merchant in Kentucky, and now lived in St. Louis, where the couple settled, having two children, Annie and Samuel.
When Sam Clemens left home in June 1853, he stayed with the Moffets while working as a printer in St. Louis, before heading east in late August for fifteen months. Jane Clemens moved in with her daughter in June 1855 after a period living with Orion, Sam and Henry in Muscatine, Iowa. Sam visited the Moffett’s and his mother regularly during his steamboating years whenever his boat tarried at St. Louis. Pamela worked for the United States Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. The war-time disruption to commerce ruined her husbands business, and he died in 1865.
Both Pamela and Jane moved to Fredonia, N.Y., in 1870, to be nearer Sam, who had recently married and settled in nearby Buffalo.
Sam was staying in a cottage in Tyringham, Massachusetts, still grieving for Livy, when he learned of his sister’s death in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1904. They had maintained a warm and affectionate correspondence throughout their lives.
Pamela was named after her paternal grandmother, Pamela or Pamelia Goggin, and her name was pronounced stressing the middle syllable “Pa-mee-la.” The family called her “Mela.”
Pleasant Hannibal Clemens (1828 or 1829)
B: 1828/29 Jamestown, Tennessee.
D: 1828/29 Jamestown, Tennessee, age 3 months.
Older brother who died before Sam Clemens was born. Pleasant was the third child of John and Jane Clemens. Little is known about the short life of the child who Sam referred to an “Han.” It is believed that he lived only 3 months, and that he was named after two uncles; Pleasant Clemens and Hannibal Clemens.
Margaret Lampton Clemens (1830 ~ 1839)
B: 31 May 1830, Jamestown, Tennessee.
D: 17 August 1839, Florida, Missouri.
Older sister of Sam Clemens. Margaret, the fourth child, was born on 31 May, 1830 in Jamestown, Tennessee. In 1839, when the family were living in Florida, Missouri, she contracted “bilious fever,” a term used to describe several disorders of the liver, and she died on 17 August.
Sam was nearly four at the time, and one night shortly before her death was found sleep-walking beside her bed. The family took this to be a sign of her imminent death, later believing that Sam possessed a supernatural instinct, something that played on his mind as a boy, and throughout his life, especially after his prophetic dream of Henry’s death following an explosion aboard the Pennsylvania.
It is believed that Margaret was buried in Florida, Missouri, but the exact location of her grave is lost.
Benjamin Lampton Clemens (1832 ~ 1842)
B: 8 June 1832, Pall Mall, Tennessee.
D: 12 May 1842, Hannibal, Missouri.
Older Brother of Sam Clemens. Ben was only 3½ years older than Sam, and as his closest sibling they were often together, as playmates and friends.
In 1842, when Ben was just ten years old, he suddenly succumbed to an unspecified illness. He died on 12 May, 27 days before his eleventh birthday. Sam was 6½ years old at the time, and able to feel a more profound grief than had been the case with Margaret.
Ben’s sudden illness and death shocked the grief-stricken Clemens family. Sam remembered that this was the only time he ever saw his parent’s kiss, at Ben’s bedside.
In his later years, Sam referred in his journals to “The case of the memorable treachery” and “Dead Brother Ben. My treachery to him.” The meaning of this is unknown, but it indicates that Sam felt in some way responsible for the misfortune of his brother, a darkly recurring theme that would resurface even more keenly when Henry, apparently out of danger after the Pennsylvania tradegy, died following a dose of morphine sanctioned by Sam to ease his brother’s sleepless pain late at night ~ a dose that was probably incorrectly measured.
Benjamin was buried in Hannibal. The actual location of his grave is unknown.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 ~ 1910)
B: 30 November 1835, Florida, Monroe County, Missouri.
D: 21 April 1910, Redding, Connecticut.
Married: Olivia “Livy” Louise Langdon, 2 February 1870.
Son: Langdon, died aged 1½ years.
Daughters: Susan “Susy”, Clara, Jane “Jean”.
(See below listings for Livy, Susy, Clara and Jean.)
Henry Clemens (1838 ~ 1858)
B: 13 July 1838, Florida, Monroe County, Missouri.
D: 21 June 1858, Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee.
Sam Clemens’ younger brother. Born in Florida, Missouri, Henry was the seventh and last child of John and Jane Clemens. With only 2½ years between them, Henry became Sam’s closest sibling following the death of Ben, an event that doubtless reinforced their relationship. As playmates, they were often out together in the woods, or swimming in the Summer-time, and though Henry was more responsible and was teased for it, their adventures together strengthened the bonds of brotherhood.
Orion described Henry’s nature as similar to that of Pamela, in that he was kind with gentle manners. His good behaviour gave rise to some rivalry with Sam, who often recounted a prank in which he dropped a watermelon rind on Henry from a second-storey window, unexpectedly striking him on the head, something he regretted. In his autobiography, Sam recorded that “Henry is Sid in Tom Sawyer,” but Henry was much more likeable, being well-meaning and not at all vindictive.
In September of 1853, when Henry was fifteen, he accompanied Orion to Muscatine, Iowa, working as a printer for Orion’s Muscatine Journal. In June of 1856, Henry moved with Orion to Keokuk, where Sam joined them for a time before leaving for Cincinnati in October. Sam became a cub-pilot in February of 1857.
In February of 1858, Sam encouraged Henry to join him on the Pennsylvania as a mud clerk. It was a starting position without pay, with its name literally derived from the fact that he would often have to go ashore in the mud to perform duties such as recieving payment for cargo. In a letter Sam wrote to his family from St. Louis on 9 March, 1858, he described Henry’s job as “measuring wood piles, counting coal boxes, and other clerky duties.”
The Pennsylvania was a side wheel, wood hulled packet, 247 feet long, 32 feet wide, drawing about 6½ feet. Her two engines, one on either side of the boat, were powered by five high pressure boilers with double-flues.
Henry performed his duties capably. Sam was justly proud of his younger brother, who had grown into a handsome and good-hearted young man. So when a Pilot named William Brown accused Henry of not delivering a message to stop at a plantation, abusing him and striking him, Sam responded in Henry’s defence, pummelling Brown on the floor of the pilot-house. Despite the severity of such a “crime,” the Captain knew the measure of Brown and quietly approved of Sam’s actions. The Captain offered to dismiss Brown and give Sam the daylight watch on the return trip from New Orleans to St. Louis, an indication of the high regard in which he was held as a cub-pilot; of one year. However, Sam was less confident, and decided to return upriver on another steamboat, the A.T. Lacey, rejoining the Pennsylvania as soon as Brown could be replaced. This decision probably saved his life.
The events that followed are retold in Chapter 20 of Life On The Mississippi. According to an eye witness, George C. Harrison, at four o’clock in the morning on Sunday, 13 June, the Pennsylvania, with a wood-flat in tow, was moving easily upstream against a strong current, six miles below Memphis. The passengers aboard the Pennsylvania were either asleep or just waking up when the boilers exploded, destroying the front third of the boat.
In a letter home, Sam wrote:
“…Henry was asleep ~ was blown up ~ then fell back on the hot boilers, and I suppose that the rubbish fell on him, for he is injuried internally. He got into the water and swam to shore, and got into the flatboat with the other survivors. He had nothing on but his wet shirt, and lay there burning up with a southern sun and freezing in the wind till the Kate Frisbee came along. His wounds were not dressed till he got to Memphis, 15 hours after the explosion. He was senseless and motionless for 12 hours after that. But may God bless Memphis, this noblest city on the face of the earth. She has done her duty by these poor afflicted creatures ~ especially Henry, for he has had five ~ aye, ten, fifteen, twenty times the care and attention that any one else has had. Dr. Peyton, the best physician in Memphis sat by him for 36 hours. There are 32 scalded men in that room, and you would know Dr. Peyton better than I can describe him, if you could follow him around and hear each man murmur as he passes ~ May the god of Heaven bless you, Doctor ! …”
Some later accounts say that Henry, wounded as he was, swam back to the Pennsylvania to help rescue the wounded, before swimming to the flatboat, which was loaded with victims and cut loose to escape the spreading fire.
Sam rushed to Henry and sat almost constantly at his bedside, appreciative of the kindnesses afforded by the people of Memphis, and in particular by one of several young woman, named Miss Wood, who attended him. Henry, with his pleasant looks, appeared to be the favorite of many. His condition was grave, but at last he appeared to brighten and be out of danger. At eleven o’clock on the sixth night, a Dr.Peyton advised Sam, in the event that Henry could not rest, to ask the physician in charge to administer a one-eigth of a grain of morphine. Henry, disturbed by the complaining of the other sufferers, woke and could not rest, growing ever worse. Sam couldn’t bare his brother’s agony. A young medical student was the only one in attendance, and Sam told him what the doctor had said. The student was unsure how to measure the one-eigth of a grain of morphine, but eventually tried. Henry sank into a heavy sleep and died before morning. Whether he died from an overdose of morphine or from his terrible injuries, Sam blamed himself.
The ladies of Memphis had been so taken with Henry that they raised funds to provide him with a metallic casket, rather than see him in a plain wooden coffin. Henry was laid out wearing Sam’s clothes, and on his chest an ederly lady placed a bouquet of white roses with a single red rose in the middle. Curiously, Sam had experienced a chillingly prophetic dream weeks earlier, while staying at Pamela’s house in St. Louis, in which he had seen Henry’s body in a metallic casket, with white roses and single red bloom on his chest. Henry was taken back to Hannibal and buried beside his father, John Clemens, in the Baptist cemetery. In 1876, Sam arranged for them to be moved to the Mount Olivet cemetery.
Sam Clemens reflected in The Autobiography Of Mark Twain, “I never knew Henry to do a vicious thing toward me or toward anyone else ~ but he frequently did righteous ones that cost me as heavily. It was his duty to report me, when I needed reporting and neglected to do it myself, and he was very faithful in discharging that duty. He is Sid in Tom Sawyer. But Sid was not Henry. Henry was a very much finer and better boy than ever Sid was.”
Olivia “Livy” Louise Langdon Clemens (1845 ~ 1904)
B: 27 November 1845, Elmira, New York.
D: 5 June 1904, Florence, Italy.
Married: Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 2 February 1870.
Son: Langdon, died aged 1½ years.
Daughters: Susan “Susy”, Clara, Jane “Jean”.
(See below listings for Livy, Susy, Clara and Jean.)
Wife of Samuel Clemens. Olivia was born on 27 November, 1845 in Elmira, New York. The second of three children born to Jervis and Olivia Langdon, the family was destined to become one of Elmira’s richest, thanks to their booming coal business. Livy had a comfortable, sheltered childhood, attending seminary schools until she was 16. As a teenager she experienced frail health, being treated from about 14 to 20 years of age for medical problems that are now tentatively attributed to Pott’s disease, or tuberculosis of the spine. Although she received no specific training, she had a fondness for reading.
Livy met Samuel Clemens for the first time at the end of 1867. Sam had become enchanted by an ivory miniature that her brother, Charles Langdon, showed him during the Quaker City voyage. To Sam, she was the epitome of genteel refinement, and everything that he wasn’t. He encouraged her to “reform” him while courting her for a year before proposing marriage in September 1868. Livy rejected him at first but accepted his second proposal that November. The engagement remained a secret while the Langdon family enquired into Sam’s background. Finally, Jervous Langdon decided that he knew Sam better than some of his dubious referees, and the engagement was formally announced in February of 1869. The marriage took place on 2 February, 1870.
Jervous Langdon gifted the couple a comfortable, furnished house in Buffalo, New York. However, their first year of marriage was grim. Livy’s health collapsed as she watched her father die of cancer in August, and her close friend Emma Nye, staying in the Buffalo house, die a month later. In October, Livy almost suffered a miscarriage before giving birth, prematurely, to their first child Langdon Clemens, in November. By February, 1871, Livy had typhoid fever and both she and the baby seemed close to death.
Disillusioned, Sam moved the family to Elmira, where Livy’s sister, Susan Crane, nursed them until they were able to move to Hartford. Livy gave birth to the first of three daughters, Susy Olivia Clemens, in March 1872, a few months before baby Langdon, often sickly, died in June.
Throughout her 36 years with Sam, Livy’s health swayed between fair and very frail. Her inheritance enabled the family to live comfortably during the early years of their marriage, when Sam was often away lecturing, or visiting England. Livy had a hand in the design of the Hartford house, and when it was completed she took on an ever increasing array of household duties, attending to the needs of the children, organizing a staff of servants, and hosting an endless procession of house guests and visitors. Livy also became Sam’s literary critic, proof-reading most of his longer works, removing words or comments that she considered distasteful.
When the burden of maintaining the Hartford house lifestyle began to drain their health and finances, Sam and Livy closed down the house in 1891 and moved their family to Europe, intending to remain there a year. Livy did not return until 1895. During this period, Sam crossed the Atlantic several times attempting to revive his business interests. In 1894, his publishing company went bankrupt, and Livy was declared the primary creditor, saving the family home and Sam’s literary copyrights.
Livy and Clara, their eldest daughter, joined Sam on a round-the-world lecture tour in 1895. When they reached England at the end of the tour in August 1896, they received news that Susy was ill, being cared for in the Hartford house. Livy and Clara departed for home, but Susy died of meningitis before they arrived. Both Livy and Sam were so devastated by Susy’s death that they could not return to Hartford to live, instead living in a number of European cities with daughters Clara and Jean during four years of self-imposed exile. By the end of January 1898, royalties from Following The Equator, and other earnings, had paid off the creditors in full.
In October 1900, the family returned to the US to live. Although Sam was bouyed by the public’s growing fondness for him, on both sides of the Atlantic, Livy’s health declined seriously. The doctors advised a warmer climate, and late in 1903 the family moved to Florence, Italy, where Livy died on June 5, 1904. Sam escorted her remains to Elmira, for her burial at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Langdon Clemens (1870 ~ 1872)
B: 7 November 1870, Buffalo, New York.
D: 2 June 1872, Hartford, Connecticut.
First child and only son of Samuel Clemens. Born prematurely – like his father, Langdon weighed just four and a half pounds at birth, and barely suvived his first weeks. Livy had been weak throughout the pregnancy, and had almost miscarried in October.
Sam announced Langdon’s arrival to his friends, the Rev. Joseph Twichell and wife, with pride and light relief, in a letter on the 12th of November:
Dear Aunt and Uncle,
I came into the world on the 7th inst., and consequently am about five days old, now. I have had wretched health ever since I made my appearance. First one thing then another has kept me under the weather, and as a general thing I have been chilly and uncomfortable.
I am not corpulent, nor am I robust in any way. At birth I only weighed 41/2 pounds with my cloths on–and the cloths were the chief feature of the weight, too. I am obliged to confess. But I am doing finely, all things considered. I was at a standstill for 3 days and a half, but during the last 24 hours I have gained nearly an ounce, avoirdupois.
They all say I look very old and vunerable–and I am aware, myself, that I never smile. Life seems a serious thing, what I have seen of it–and my observation teaches me that it is made upmainly of hiccups, unnecessary washings, and colic. But no doubt you, who are older, have long since grown accustomed and reconciled to what seems to me such a disagreeable novelty.
My father said, this morning, when my face was in repose and thoughtful, that I looked precisely as young Edward Twichell of hartford used to look some 12 months ago–chin, mouth, forehead, expression–everything.
My little mother is very bright and cherry, and I guess she is pretty happy, but I don’t know what about. She laughs a great deal, notwithstanding she is sick abed. And she eats a great deal, though she says that is because the nurse desires it. And when she has had all the nurse desires her to have, she asks for more. She is getting along very well indeed.
My aunt Susie Crane has been here some ten days or two weeks, but goes home today, and Granny Fairbanks of Cleveland arrives to take her place.
P.S. Father said I had better write because you would be more interested in me, just now, than in the rest of the family.
Credit: ~ Mark Twain’s Letters Vol. 1, 1917, by Albert Bigelow Paine.
Langdon suffered from repeated colds, causing incessant crying, throughout his first 12 months. He became seriously ill, time and again, and each time was given up for dead. Sam blamed the baby’s nurses for overfeeding him by day, and overdosing him on laudanum at night. A measure of his poor development is the fact that he had not learned to walk before his death at the age of 19 months.
Both Sam and Livy believed that Langdon would grow stronger, and to this end began taking him on carriage rides. Livy usually took him, but on the 1st of April, 1872, she was feeling poorly, and so Sam accompanied Langdon. It was during this outing, on a brisk morning, that Langdon’s fur blankets slipped off, and
by the time the coachman noticed this “the child was almost frozen”.
Langdon was soon seriously ill again. He died on the 2nd of June, not of pnuemonia, but of a decline attributed to diphtheria. Sam, however, would never cease to blame himself for the child’s death.
Langdon Clemens is burried at Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery.
Olivia Susan “Susy” Clemens (1872 ~ 1896)
B: 19 March 1872, Elmira, New York.
D: 18 August 1896, Hartford, Connecticut.
First daughter of Samuel Clemens. Susy (at first spelled Susie) was named after her aunt, Susan Crane, of Elmira. From an early age, an extraordinary bond developed between Susy and her father. As a child, her health was fragile, but she demonstrated obvious literary and musical abilities, aspiring to become a writer or a singer. She was gentle, thoughtful, romantic, sometimes lit up with joy, other times melancholic. She had an easy intimacy with her father, able to openly admire or chastise him, in an endearing manner that he encouraged. At the age of 13, she began writing a biography of her father, which he robustly praised and would later incorporate into his Autobiography. Susy’s work was not published in full until 1985 “Papa, An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain,” edited by Charles Neider.
“We are a happy family! We consist of Papa, Mama, 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 described many times, but very incorrectly; he has beautiful, curly, gray 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 figure–in short, is an extraordinarily fine-looking man.”
“He is a very good man, and a very funny one; he has got a temper, but we all have in this family. He is the loveliest man I ever saw, or ever hope to see, and oh, so absent-minded!”
Credit: ~ Papa, An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain, by Susy Clemens, edited by Charles Neider.
At 18, Susy Clemens, was a central figure of the family, bright, talented, eager and ambitious. She had blossomed into a slender beauty with a strong spirit, only somewhat restrained by her delicate frame. She was the pride of her father.
Susy was educated at home by her mother, governesses and tutors, until the fall of 1890 when she entered Bryn Mawr, living away from her parents for the first time. This separation was difficult for Susy and her father, who would make any excuse to visit her. While visiting as a guest speaker, he insisted on telling the shocking Golden Arm ghost story, despite Susy’s protestations. Susy left Bryn Mawr the following Spring, for reasons that are unclear. She was certainly homesick, her father had begun to disapprove of how the college was run, and Susy had encountered issues after becoming close to another student, Louise Brownell.
Susy sailed with her family to Europe, where they lived for four years before returning to America in May of 1895. After a month or so resting at Quarry Farm, Elmira, her father embarked on the first leg of a round-the-world lecture tour accompanied by Livy and Clara., while Susy, having declined the opportunity to join them, remained at Quarry Farm with her Aunt Susan. She had decided to focus on a singing career and intended to apply herself studiously to singing lessons.
When the lecture tour ended in England at the end of July 1896, the intention was to re-unite the family there. Susy and Jean were to arrive on the 12th of August, with Katy Leary. But a letter arrived instead, with the news that Susy was ill, that it was not serious, and that their sailing had been postponed. Her parents cabled at once for details, receiving a less positive update to the effect that Susy’s recovery would be slow but certain. Livy and Clara sailed for America to nurse her, while Sam remained to arrange a winter residence for them all at Guilford.
Livy and Clara had sailed for home on the 15th of August, the same day that Susy was diagnosed with spinal meningitis. Her father wrote: “Three days later, when my wife and Clara were about half-way across the ocean, I was standing in our dining-room, thinking of nothing in particular, when a cablegram was put in my hand. It said ‘Susy was peacefully released to-day.'”
“It is one of the mysteries of our nature,” he reflected nearly ten years later, “that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live.”
Susy had died in the Hartford house, at the age of 24, surrounded by Jean, her Aunt Susan, the Rev. Joseph Twichell, Patrick McLeer and Katy Leary. Her decline had followed a tireless schedule of singing lessons, and a visit to Hartford, after which a physician had prescribed quiet rest in her family home. She had become feverish and delirious, and had finally fallen unconscious. When Livy and Clara arrived, Susy was taken to Elmira for burial beside her little brother.
This crushing blow left Sam and Livy bereft of heart and hope. Such was their grief that they would never again live in the Hartford house. When Susy was buried, they ordered a headstone with some words from a poem they had found in Australia, by Robert Richardson:
Warm summer sun, shine kindly here;
Warm southern wind, blow softly here;
Green sod above, lie light, lie light!–
Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.
Clara Langdon Clemens (1874 ~ 1962)
B: 8 June 1874, Elmira, New York.
D: 19 November 1962, San Diego, California.
Married: (1) Ossip Gabrilowitsch 6 October 1909, at Stormfield.
Daughter: Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch. B: 18 August 1910, Redding, Connecticut. D: 16 January 1966, Los Angelos, California. No Children.
Married: (2) Jacques Samossoud 11 May, 1944.
Second daughter of Samuel Clemens. Clara was the only daughter to survive her father and live a long life. Tutored mostly at home, she also attended public high school in Hartford for a year, and studied at a Berlin boarding school for girls while her family was in Italy in 1892/93. She was musically inclined and independently-minded. In August of 1893 she sailed to America with her father, making the return journey to Italy alone, to rejoin her mother and sisters. At the age of twenty-one, she was the only daughter to accompany her parents on Mark Twain’s round-the-world lecture tour during 1895/96.
In 1897, the Clemens family moved to Vienna, in part because Clara desired to study piano under the renowned teacher Theodore Leschetizky. Here, she met another piano student, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, her future husband. She eventually gave up piano in early 1899 to focus on a singing career as a contralto.
When the family returned to America in 1900, living in New York, she continued to study singing while maintaining a long-distance relationship with Ossip, crossing the Atlantic once in 1902 to visit him. However, her mother’s illness and the Clemens household now became her primary concern, requiring most of her time and energy. Following the death of her mother in 1904, Clara suffered a nervous breakdown and spent most of the next year in a Connecticut sanatorium receiving treatment. Declared well in November of 1905, she moved into her father’s home in New York and resumed managing the Clemens household. In 1906, she chose the site for Stormfield, the last family home at Redding, Connecticut.
Singing occasionally at informal concerts, she had her first professional success at a recital at Norfolk, Massachusetts. In 1908, she revisited Germany to further her singing studies, returning to New York in October. She took an apartment, but continued to oversee the Clemens household, disapproving of Isabel Lyon’s and Ralph Ashcroft’s dealings in her father’s business affairs, persuading him to remove them early in 1909.
Clara’s relationship with Ossip had been broken off in 1904, but in 1909 she invited Ossip to Stormfield, to assist his recovery from an operation, and their relationship resumed. They were married at Stormfield on October 6th, 1909, in a ceremony conducted by the Rev. Joseph Twichell. The couple departed for Europe to settle and pursue their careers. In April of 1910, receiving news of Sam’s decline, they returned to Stormfield, arriving four days before his death.
As her father’s heir, Clara stayed to oversee estate issues, returning to Europe with Ossip after the birth of their only child, Nina Gabrilowitsch, at Stormfield, in August of 1910.
Ossip, a Russian, could not remain in Germany after the start of World War 1, so they moved back to America, settling in Detroit, Michigan, where Ossip became the director of the Detroit’s Symphony Orchestra. Clara occasionally sang and acted in local theatre groups. Ossip held his director’s position for the remainder of his life, dying of stomach cancer in 1936, aged 58.
Clara moved to Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, living comfortably off the estates of her father and husband. On May 11, 1944, she remarried, another Russian musician, Jacques Samossoud. After seven years, they moved to La Jollas, San Diego, where Clara died at the age of 88 in 1962.
Throughout her life, Clara was determined to preserve her father’s public image as a lovable humorist, co-operating closely with the like-minded Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain’s literary executor. After Paine’s death, Clara clashed repeatedly with his replacement, Bernard DeVoto, refusing to allow the publication of his compilation of Letters From The Earth, with its religious cynicism. DeVoto eventually quit.
Clara, in her will written in 1958, left most of her father’s papers to the University of California, giving rise to the Mark Twain Papers project and the Mark Twain Foundation. Clara, herself, wrote My Father: Mark Twain, published in 1931.
Jane Lampton “Jean” Clemens (1880 ~ 1909)
B: 26 July 1880, Elmira, New York.
D: 24 September 1909, Redding, Connecticut.
Third daughter of Samuel Clemens. Jean was weakened by scarlet fever at the age of 2, and remained a frail child. She began suffering from seizures around 1890 at the age of 10. Consequently she was less able to focus on a career, but she was nonetheless bright, and was particularly kind-natured, with a deep-felt empathy for animals.
Jean’s condition lead her family to search for a diagnosis and treatment, and in 1896, shortly after Susy’s death, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. In 1899, the family travelled to Sweden so that Jean could be treated there. Without a career and with little hope of a cure, Jean was sheltered and discouraged from seeking a husband. After the death of her mother in 1904, Jean’s epilepsy became worse and she spent most of the next five years in and out of sanatoriums.
Twice, in 1905 and again in 1906, she broke down, attacking the family house-keeper Katy Leary, attempting – it has been said, to kill her. Following a journey to Germany with a friend to seek treatment, in September of 1908, she returned in better health at last, moving into Stormfield, replacing Isabel Lyon as her father’s private secretary.
At Stormfield, Jean and her father found a new closeness, often taking walks together in the country-side. Jean became the favorite of the local children, who marvelled at her Russian wolfhound, which she commanded in Russian. The day before Christmas, 1909, after her usual morning ride to West Redding for the mail, Jean retired to her bathroom, where she died in her bathtub, apparently from a heart-attack suffered during a seizure. She was aged 29. Her father, unable to attend her funeral because of ill-health, remained at Stormfield, writing The Death of Jean, his last substantial work, recounting their final days together.
The Clemens Family ~ 1884
The family on the ‘Ombra’ of the Hartford House. From left: Olivia (Livy), Clara (standing), Jean (youngest daughter), Sam, and Susy (eldest daughter). It looks like ‘Hash’ the dog may also be present.