460
460
Clemens, Samuel L.
Estimate
15,00020,000
LOT SOLD. 11,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT
460
Clemens, Samuel L.
Estimate
15,00020,000
LOT SOLD. 11,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

THE JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: ARTS & SCIENCES, INCLUDING THE MARK TWAIN COLLECTION

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New York

Clemens, Samuel L.

Autograph letter signed ("Sam"), 2 pages on Slote, Woodman & Co. letterhead with a fragment on a slip of paper,  New York, [late November or early December] 1868, to his sister Pamela Ann Moffett of St. Louis, professing his passion for and announcing his betrothal to Olivia Langdon. Together with: An autograph fragment of a letter signed ("Sam"), 2 pages on one leaf of stationery with the monogram "L," n.p.,  n.d., being pages 7–8 of a letter to his family, in which he expresses indecision about his future plans and sings Livy's praises.


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Catalogue Note

The first flush of a love that would last a lifetime. A giddy Sam Clemens writes to his sister Pamela of his romantic effusions for the lovely Olivia Langdon of Elmira, New York. While on a steamship tour aboard the Quaker City in 1867, Clemens befriended Charles Langdon and first saw his sister Livy in an ivory miniature that Charles kept with him. It was quite literally love at first sight. At the end of 1867, Clemens dined with the Langdon family in New York City and was permitted to escort Livy to one of Charles Dickens's public lectures. In 1868 he courted her during several visits to Elmira. Here in his contemporary correspondence as well as in his retrospective memoirs, he regarded Livy as a paragon of feminine refinement and gentility. Livy rejected his first proposal in September 1868.  He writes to his sister: "Now you know why I was so savage & crazy in St. Louis. I had just been refused by my idol a few days before─but was refused again afterward─was warned to quit after that  ... ."  But shortly after, Clemens took a hard fall on ice, which gave him a pretext to prolong a visit to Elmira.  "I have made that household spend several sleepless nights lately. But they all like me & they can't help it. ..." Livy finally accepted his proposal, and Clemens gushes that he is "the happiest man alive. If I were in St. Louis now you would see me in my natural character & love me. I drink no spirituous liquors any more─I do nothing that is not thoroughly right.─I  am rising."  From the very start Clemens credited Livy with the reform of his boorish habits and impious behavior.  

"I think Mrs. Fairbanks (who loves me like a son) will go beside herself for joy when she hears of my good fortune. For in her eyes & mine Livy Langdon is perfection itself," he continues. Mary Mason Fairbanks was a woman of fine literary taste and the Quaker City correspondent for her husband's paper, The Cleveland Herald. She was more than a "shipmother" to Clemens on that trip─she was in fact the most influential non-family member in his life.  A former schoolteacher, she gave him sound advice as to his letters, which he usually read to her, and he often sought her counsel in social matters. "Gentility, high sentiment, polish, piety, and decorum, along with an aversion to 'slang,' 'vulgarity,' irreverence,' were her literary and life values" (Kaplan, Mark Twain and His World, 75).

Love on trial. "Mind─no word of this to anybody ... Now─Private─Keep it to yourself, my sister─do not even hint it to any one─I make no exceptions. I can trust you. I love─I worship─Olivia L. Langdon of Elmira─&  she loves me.When I am permanently settled─& when I am a Christan ... Clemens confides to his sister. Given his profession and present financial situation, as well as his apathy toward religion, the Langdons expressed reservations about the match. The engagement would not be announced publicly until Mr. Langdon could piece together a picture of Clemens's character based on references from his circle of friends and associates, whence Clemens's need to exact a vow of silence from his sister.

In the letter fragment to his family, Clemens, now newly and happily married, is uncertain of his future plans. "My head is so busted up with endeavors to get my own plans straight ... I don't know whether I am going to California in May — I don't know whether I want to yield to Nasby's persuasions & go with him to the Toledo Blade— I don't know anything. And I don't care a dam." Reformed under Livy's careful tutelage but still relishing the occasional outburst of childish defiance, Clemens sings his wife's praises: "[I mean a mill dam, of course — for I have not been a profane man for 2 years (but between you & I, I put that 'don't care a dam' in solely for Livy's benefit, for I knew perfectly well that she had crept up behind me at that moment & was looking over my shoulder ... I ought not to tease her ... but I can't easily help it, & she is as long –suffering & patient as any Job. She is almost perfection.   I solemnly swear to that. I never have discovered a fault in her yet, or any sign or shadow of a blemish."

THE JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: ARTS & SCIENCES, INCLUDING THE MARK TWAIN COLLECTION

|
New York