Thursday Thirteen 38: A Few Things About Mark Twain

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A view of the conservatory from the porch of Mark Twain's home in Hartford, Connecticut.


On Saturday we visited Mark Twain's house in Hartford, Connecticut. It sits alongside fellow author Harriet Beecher Stowe's house and defies many conventions just by being there. For one, the kitchen faces the main street because, two, it actually faces Stowe's house, and, three, it looks more like a riverboat than a house anyway. None of these things bothered Twain, who like the place just fine and lived there with is family for 17 years at a time Hartford was the richest country in the nation and he was the most famous person in the world.

Twain's house is lovingly and faithfully restored to look exactly as it did when he and his family entertained the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and other famous people of the time. We took the tour from the kitchen to the billiards room at the top floor and enjoyed every minute of it and of the docent's presentation. She knew her Twain and she loved the history. I am grateful to her for imparting that joy to my daughter because she brought the house to life. On the way home, we thought up 13 things we learned from this nice lady. Here goes:

1. Most of the walls of the rooms in the house are red because that was Twain's favorite color; he called it the color of life.
2. The wallpaper on the first floor was stencilled by Tiffany, whose tiles also adorn the wall behind the fireplace in the dining room.
3. His children were home-schooled by their college-educated mother Olivia.
4. He worked as a printer, boatswain, miner, and reporter.
5. He spoke German fluently.
6. He was offered the opportunity to invest in the fledgling telephone industry but declined. His was one of 50 Hartford homes with a phone in the 1870s.
7. He was a master of self-promotion; he believed all publicity was good. His servants' quarters were on the third floor of his home; this scandal was enough to get people talking; it did and he loved it.
8. When he lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, he timed his exit from the hotel on Sundays to coincide with the end of church services so he could be seen in his white suit with his white cat on his shoulder.
9. Though he lost all his money and declared bankruptcy in 1873, he eventually made back all his money and paid all his debts.
10. He was so beloved in his time that a movement began to elicit $1 from every American to help Twain pay his debt; the author refused the money.
11. He was a social critic as well as a humorist and a fiction writer. Most famously, some of his works focused on the evils of slavery. Less well-known was his concern for animal welfare.
12.His wife was his best critic and helper. Because their tastes complemented each other, her insights helped him revise his works to reach a broad audience.
13. He built a home in Redding, Connecticut, that burned to the ground shortly after he died.

A few words from the man himself:

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.

If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Comments

  1. Some cool Twain trivia there, Sandy. It's amazing how many pithy things the man had to say that cut through time and are still relevant. Thanks for sharing!

    I'm back from end of the school year insanity this week, stop by if you've got time.

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  2. Oh, I love Mark Twain! I was just talking to my friend about him too.

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  3. Interesting ! I never knew most of that.

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  4. Awesome! I'm going to have to find a way to get myself on this tour. I hadn't known ANY of this. Shame on me!

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  5. Wow, Some great Twain history here. I really enjoyed reading your TT. I love history. Happy TT.

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  6. Anonymous6:46 PM

    I'm happy to read this list. We have packed Huck Finn to take to the lake to read to the boys this summer... this will provide additional entertainment. I love the $1 project!

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  7. Anonymous6:57 PM

    Very interesting. I have always been an admirer.

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  8. Anonymous7:24 PM

    thanx for the history lesson (even tho school's officially out! ):) always a student... and i love his quotes happy tt

    blessings gp in montana
    http://fvclassic.wordpress.com/2008/05/21/summer-time-simplicity/

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  9. Ten years ago, I went to Hartford w/ my husband. He was on a short business trip. I spent my one day there shopping. Next time, I will visit Mark Twain's house. I didn't know about it and I am glad you shared it on your blog. Good to know that Mark's favorite color was red. He must have had an artistic blood on him to know it's the color of life.

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  10. He certainly was a fascinating character, and I love that his wife was college-educated. That must have been quite rare in those days.

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  11. Very very interesting! I'd love to visit him home. Happy TT

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  12. Anonymous8:02 PM

    How fun! I don't really know anything about him. You always share the best things. Not the taudry he slept with a billion people things. That's a blessing to me!

    Happy TT

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  13. Thanks for the lesson - he sure was an interesting man.

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  14. I had a friend I met when I was working at the Naval Hospital on Camp Lejeune, NC. He was a Twain fanatic and knew so much about him (and was so intelligent besides) that I used to joke that he was Twain reincarnated. Your post made me think of him. We've both moved on to other places, and I've often wondered what became of him.

    Nice post! Peace - D

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  15. I've always love the Twain house. Was last there as a chaperone for my daughter's class. You mentioned the storm Monday night. I live in Tolland and from our house I could see twisters forming from the clouds and trying to touch down - have never seen that here before. With Saturday's storm we had marble sized hail in Bolton and a tree just ten feet from my mother in laws house was struck by lightening. Crazy weather - glad your peonies survived it all!

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  16. I learned something here! Good T-13!

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  17. You gotta love Mark Twain!!

    Great TT Sandy!

    Thanks for visiting mine! :)

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  18. Ah Twain. I love the quote about the truth being easier to maintain than a lie. It makes such sense. Thanks for the fascinating facts.

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  19. Oh, I love this! I had no idea about all this. Great list!

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  20. Wow...very cool. Happy TT and thanks for stoping by:)

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  21. we love him and knew some of those

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  22. This was great, I learned something new. I didn't know a lot of these. Thanks for stopping by my T13.

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  23. I would love to visit that house! Twain was one of the "characters" of historical persons in my opinion, a very interesting man!

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  24. Anonymous11:16 PM

    Neat. So many things I didn't know about him.

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  25. I've loved Mark Twain and his stories...and I've always wanted to go to his house! I think I'll ask a friend if she'd like to do a road trip Saturday...thanks for the reminder!

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  26. Very cool post about Mark Twain! Thanks for all the info. I love his writing.

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  27. I am such a Mark Twain fan!

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo
    http://thepinkflamingo.blogharbor.com/blog/_archives/2008/6/18/3751571.html

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  28. Many facts I did not know about Twain. He was quite a writer.

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  29. That was some great Twain tidbits!! I love the bit about him timing his exits on Sunday...too funny!

    Happy TT!

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  30. Happy TT! I did not know that Mark Twain's house was in CT - interesting!

    I'm up here!

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  31. Great list here! Happy Thursday Thirteen! mine's is up hope you can drop by.

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  32. Anonymous5:12 AM

    Very cool trivia list. I love it! He was such an intersting man.

    Happy TT!

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  33. The second quote is so true. Try putting a coincidence in a story and no one believes it.

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  34. Great list, Sandy! Twain is certainly a national treasure! I love that he loved red, it's also my favorite color! It always makes me happy!

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  35. That is a very cool list idea Sandy! I have been meaning to do a write up on him for our history blog. Fascinating man! Happy TT and I hope your week has been a goodly one :)

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  36. Mark Twain is a favorite of mine! We got a chance to go through his birthplace years ago, Hannibal Missouri...it was very enlightening to know just how his writing came about and we got a deeper meaning to Huck Finn, Becky Thatcher, and Tom Sawyer.

    My 13 is posted, come join me?
    Happy Thursday.

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  37. Thanks Sandy, What a great and entertaining figure in our American history and literature.

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  38. I remember peeking one time when the house was closed to the public, into the conservatory windows there and looking at all of the plants. Wondering if Twain's little girls ever did the same thing. I'm sure they did.

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  39. Anonymous9:55 AM

    Some great lesser known facts about the man. I also think it's interesting that his real name was Samuel Clemons. What a wit he was and I loved that he spoke out against war and on social issues.

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  40. Anonymous10:46 AM

    That was very interesting. I see you have kept your Twain quotes to the less controversial and earthy. :)

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  41. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Mr. Twain is one of my favorite authors. :) Great TT!

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  42. Wonderful post! I love Twain and it's nice to learn more about him.

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  43. Anonymous2:04 PM

    Cool! Thanks for all of the great Twain info. He used to write for the Sacramento Union, a newspaper that has sadly passed on.

    My TT this week is about Tolkien.

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  44. Love #12. I find that very touching. And he has a point about the clothes making the man! (Thanks for visiting my TT)

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  45. I love these kinds of facts! Truly a Renaissance man!

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  46. "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on Society." True, but he said this before the days of supermodels!

    Interesting things about him and his home. Thanks for the history lesson.

    Happy TT!

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  47. Anonymous6:17 PM

    My husband's favourite author, and one that I should read more of. How cool to visit his house!
    I took my daughter to visit jane Austen's house once...we sat at the same desk that she'd written some of her books at. It was quite a feeling!
    Thanks for a fascinating T13!

    Mine's up at http://bellamocha.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/thursday-thirteen-11/

    Bella:)

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  48. I love the educational 13s, love Mark Twain and so I really enjoyed your post! :)

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  49. How fun to learn more about Mark Twain. Thanks for sharing your recent visit with us today. Enjoyed #1, 7, and 8 most of all because I didn’t know these things.
    Hugs and blessings,

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  50. I just used your 13 to quiz my son and he knew who it was by the 4th one. I didn't realize that there was a house in Conn. that you could visit.

    This was a fun 13. Thanks for stopping by.

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  51. That was thoroughly enjoyable. It's interesting to know that Mark Twain was a man ahead of his time, as well as a literary talent. He's always been one of my faves.

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  52. Great Twainisms, Sandy. And several facts I didn't know.

    And the fact that his house was a contrary one does fit the man. Maybe the house makes the man as much as the clothes. Unhoused, naked people have next to no influence.

    Surrounded by red walls--I can see him like that. Thank you for the image.

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  53. Anonymous4:25 PM

    Twain is one of those authors who sort of gets forced on you in school. Sometimes it's years later than you realize the brilliance. That makes re-reading fun and worthwhile.

    There's always so much to learn, catch up on or revisit...

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  54. Anonymous7:14 PM

    Wow, what a fascinating list! I love Mark Twain, and now love him a bit more. How great that his wife was college-educated, home-schooled their children, and was a huge help to him!

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  55. I found this fascinating. I loved Twains writings as a child. I remember some of the things about him too - the quirky stuff (of which there is much!) like the white suit and white cat, and the servants on the 3rd floor. Also his sayings - that one about not having to remember if you tell the truth is the best.

    Thank you so much for this. I had no idea a home of his still existed or what it looked like, where it was...

    A great Thursday 13.

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