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Mark Twain, a Biography   By: (1861-1937)

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MARK TWAIN A BIOGRAPHY

THE PERSONAL AND LITERARY LIFE OF SAMUEL LANGHORNE CLEMENS

BY ALBERT BIGELOW PAINE

VOLUME I. Part 1: 1835 1866

TO CLARA CLEMENS GABRILOWITSCH WHO STEADILY UPHELD THE AUTHOR'S PURPOSE TO WRITE HISTORY RATHER THAN EULOGY AS THE STORY OF HER FATHER'S LIFE

AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Dear William Dean Howells, Joseph Hopkins Twichell, Joseph T. Goodman, and other old friends of Mark Twain:

I cannot let these volumes go to press without some grateful word to you who have helped me during the six years and more that have gone to their making.

First, I want to confess how I have envied you your association with Mark Twain in those days when you and he "went gipsying, a long time ago." Next, I want to express my wonder at your willingness to give me so unstintedly from your precious letters and memories, when it is in the nature of man to hoard such treasures, for himself and for those who follow him. And, lastly, I want to tell you that I do not envy you so much, any more, for in these chapters, one after another, through your grace, I have gone gipsying with you all. Neither do I wonder now, for I have come to know that out of your love for him grew that greater unselfishness (or divine selfishness, as he himself might have termed it), and that nothing short of the fullest you could do for his memory would have contented your hearts.

My gratitude is measureless; and it is world wide, for there is no land so distant that it does not contain some one who has eagerly contributed to the story. Only, I seem so poorly able to put my thanks into words.

Albert Bigelow Paine.

PREFATORY NOTE

Certain happenings as recorded in this work will be found to differ materially from the same incidents and episodes as set down in the writings of Mr. Clemens himself. Mark Twain's spirit was built of the very fabric of truth, so far as moral intent was concerned, but in his earlier autobiographical writings and most of his earlier writings were autobiographical he made no real pretense to accuracy of time, place, or circumstance seeking, as he said, "only to tell a good story" while in later years an ever vivid imagination and a capricious memory made history difficult, even when, as in his so called "Autobiography," his effort was in the direction of fact.

"When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not," he once said, quaintly, "but I am getting old, and soon I shall remember only the latter."

The reader may be assured, where discrepancies occur, that the writer of this memoir has obtained his data from direct and positive sources: letters, diaries, account books, or other immediate memoranda; also from the concurring testimony of eye witnesses, supported by a unity of circumstance and conditions, and not from hearsay or vagrant printed items.

MARK TWAIN A BIOGRAPHY

I. ANCESTORS

On page 492 of the old volume of Suetonius, which Mark Twain read until his very last day, there is a reference to one Flavius Clemens, a man of wide repute "for his want of energy," and in a marginal note he has written:

"I guess this is where our line starts."

It was like him to write that. It spoke in his whimsical fashion the attitude of humility, the ready acknowledgment of shortcoming, which was his chief characteristic and made him lovable in his personality and in his work.

Historically, we need not accept this identity of the Clemens ancestry. The name itself has a kindly meaning, and was not an uncommon one in Rome. There was an early pope by that name, and it appears now and again in the annals of the Middle Ages. More lately there was a Gregory Clemens, an English landowner who became a member of Parliament under Cromwell and signed the death warrant of Charles I. Afterward he was tried as a regicide, his estates were confiscated, and his head was exposed on a pole on the top of Westminster Hall.

Tradition says that the family of Gregory Clemens did not remain in England, but emigrated to Virginia (or New Jersey), and from them, in direct line, descended the Virginia Clemenses, including John Marshall Clemens, the father of Mark Twain... Continue reading book >>




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