Sam and Livy’s House

“To us, our house . . . had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.”                                                                                  ~~~Mark Twain describing his family’s home in Hartford, Connecticut

 

The Twain home in Hartford, Connecticut. I can only show pictures of the home’s exterior because photography inside the home is not allowed.

 

We did a little time traveling the other day and toured the Twain home with Mark’s best friend, Reverend Joseph (Joe) Twichell. The year was 1903, the year the beloved author sold his Hartford, Connecticut home. The Twain family built the 11,500 square foot home in 1874 in the Nook Farm area of Hartford. According to Mark (AKA Samuel Clemens), the family enjoyed the best years of their family life and the time was Twain’s most productive as a writer. But Samuel Clemens was a lousy businessman. He had absolutely no business acumen. For one example, he invested $300,000 in a typesetting machine and lost his shirt. (That’s over eight million in today’s dollar!) When the Clemens family built the home, Nook Farm residents were the wealthiest in the country. He and Livy, his wife, spent exorbitant sums on the home and staff and also on entertaining. Unfortunately, his business blunders and their extravagant lifestyle landed them in serious financial trouble and they had to go to Europe in 1891 to make money on the lecture circuit in order to pay off debts. Livy was very wealthy in her own right and the deed to the home was in her name, so it is not clear to me why she couldn’t just pay off their debts. However, Sam did have to promise her father when he married her that he would not spend her money.

Our guide in his role as Rev. Joseph Twichell, Mark Twain’s best friend.

I suppose that it’s time for me to tell the truth and admit that we really didn’t travel back in time, but we did take a tour through the home with an actor assuming the role of Rev. Joe Twichell. Although Twain was not a religious man, the minister really was his best friend. The tour was both entertaining and educational and the home is simply incredible. The walls and ceilings of the public spaces of the home were hand decorated by artists associated with Louis Tiffany. In addition, the home was tricked out with the latest modern innovations in heating and lighting and even had three telephones. The couple spent lavishly on entertainment; they usually had a dozen dinner guests six nights a week.

At the time, Mark Twain was the most recognized American in the world and was quite the celebrity in literary circles. Due to his popularity on the lecture circuit in Europe, he recouped his financial losses and the couple decided to return to the US. Sadly, before they could get home, their daughter, Suzy, passed away of spinal meningitis in the Hartford home. Because of this, Sam and Livy could not bring themselves to return to their Nook Farm home and never lived in Hartford again. They remained in Europe and sold the house in 1903. Livy died in Rome in 1904. Their daughter, Jean, died in 1909.

In 1909, Twain quipped that he came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835 and that he would go out with it. Weirdly, that’s exactly what happened. He died on 21 April 1910; the day before, 20 April, the comet came closest to the sun.

Twain’s home is very popular with visitors to the Hartford area which is a testament to the charm of his folksy style and droll sense of humor. We left the property smiling and I am planning to reread some of his classics. Everyone should stop every once in a while and read some of his quotes. Some are funny, some are not, but every single one of them holds a golden nugget of enduring truth. In many ways, Mark Twain is the quintessential American and I hope today’s children are being acquainted with him and his work.

Mark Twain called his white suit his “dontcareadam” suit.

 

Even in 2024, Mark Twain is quite charismatic.

 

Twain would probably get a chuckle out of being immortalized in Legos. The Hartford airport has a Lego version of his home.

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Judy on April 7, 2024 at 5:54 am

    Strange house! However, excellent commentary with facts that we did not know before!

  2. Kakie on April 7, 2024 at 3:49 pm

    Oh my, what fun you guys have! Thanks for taking us along!

  3. Pam Morgan on April 8, 2024 at 10:05 am

    Loved the trip! I like the idea of revisiting some of his writings.

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