Manuscript Reveals Mark Twain's Soul as a Father

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American writer and humorist Mark Twain thought of his daughter, Susy, as intense. Credit: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images


Mark Twain was alone in Europe when the news reached him that his beloved 24-year-old daughter Olivia Susan Clemens had died of spinal meningitis.

"It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live," he later wrote in his autobiography.

The daughter he called Susy was important to the writer, whose real name was Samuel Clemens. Most Twain scholars agree she was the favorite of his three daughters and, in many ways, his literary muse.

She continued to inspire his writing after her death.

A 64-page document Clemens titled "In Memory of Olivia Susan Clemens" and later renamed "A Family Sketch" recently resurfaced.

The manuscript was put on exhibit for the first time this week at Sotheby's in New York to mark the 100th anniversary of Twain's death at age 74. The Guardian of London reports it will be put up for auction by Sotheby's in June as part of a batch of letters, photographs and manuscripts connected to Clemens.

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

"She was full of life, full of activity, full of fire. Her waking hours were a crowding and hurrying procession of enthusiasms -- joy, sorrow, anger, remorse, storm, sunshine, rain, darkness. They were all there. They came in a moment, and they were gone as quickly.

"In all things she was intense. In her, this characteristic was not a mere glow, dispensing warmth, but a consuming fire."

Twain scholar Laura Skandera Trombley, who is also the president of Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., tells the Guardian that Susy was second only to her mother and namesake Olivia as an inspiration for Clemens' writing. Susy reputedly inspired the novel "Joan of Arc."

Twain with his family in Hartford, Conn. Credit: The Mark Twain House & Museum / AP


In 1885, at the age of 13, Susy wrote a biography of her father, published as "Papa: An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain."

Samuel and Olivia Clemens were in Europe when she died. Susy stayed behind at the family's beloved mansion in Hartford, Conn., and while Clemens was lecturing across Europe, Susy contracted meningitis.

Her mother was crossing the Atlantic to be at her side when Susy succumbed to the illness.

Clemens never lived in the Hartford house again.

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