Nevada Appeal at 150: April 22, 1910: Part 2 — Mark Twain called by death; Famous writer dies of broken heart at Connecticut home

April 22, 1910: Part 2

Mark twain called by death; famous writer dies of broken heart at Connecticut home

It is certain to be recalled that Mark Twain was for more than 50 years an inveterate smoker, and the first conjecture of the laymen would be that he had weakened his heart by over-indulgence in tobacco. Dr. Halsey said tonight he was unable to predicate that the angina prectoris from which Mark Twain died was in any way a sequel to nicotine poisoning. Some constitutions, he said, seem immune to the effects of tobacco. This was one of them.

Yet, it is true since his illness began the doctors had cut down Mark Twain’s daily allowance of 20 cigars and countless pipes to four cigars a day.

No privation was a greater sorrow to him. He tried to smoke on the steamer while returning from Bermuda, and only gave it up because he was too feeble to draw on his pipe. On his death bed when he had passed the point of speech and it was no longer certain his ideas were lucid he would make the motion of waving a cigar and smilingly expel the air from the moustache still stained with smoke.

Where Mark Twain chose to spend his declining years was the first outpost of Methodism in New England, and it was among the hills of Redding that Gen. Putnam, of Revolutionary fame, mustered his sparse ranks. Putnam Park now encloses the memory of his camp.

Mark Twain first heard of it at the dinner given him on his 70th birthday, when a fellow guest who lived there mentioned its beauties and added there was a vacant house adjoining his own.

“I think you may buy the old house for me,” Mark Twain said.

Sherwood place is the delectable name of that old house, and where it stood Mark Twain reared the white walls of the Italian villa he first named “Innocents at Home,” but first experience of what a New England winter storm can be in its whitest fury quickly caused him to christen it anew “Stormfield.”

The house had been thus described by Bigelow Paine:

“Set on a fair hillside with such a green slope below, such a view outspread across the valley as made one catch his breath a little when he first turned to look at it. A trout stream flows through one of the meadows. There are apple trees and grey stone walls. The entrance to the hall is a winding, leafy lane.”

Through these lands the “Innocent at Home” loved to wander in his white flannels for homely gossip with his neighbors. They remember him best as one who, above all things, loved a good listener, for Mark Twain was a mighty talker, stored with fairy tales for the little maids he adored, and racier, ruddier speech for more stalwart, masculine ears. It is a legend that he was vastly proud of his famous mop of white hair and used to spend the pains of a court lady in getting it to just the proper stage of artistic disarray.

Last summer the walks began to falter; last fall they ceased for good. The death of H.H. Rogers, a close friend, was a severe blow. The death of his daughter, Jeanne, who was seized with an attack of epilepsy last fall while in her bath, was another blow from which he never recovered. It was then that the stabbing pains in the heart began. Mark Twain died, as truly as it can be said of any man, of a broken heart.

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, in Florida. Mo., Nov. 30, 1835. “My parents,” he writes in his own burlesque autobiography, “were neither very poor nor conspicuously honest. The earliest ancestor the Twains have any record of was a friend of the family by the name of Higgins.” The county chronicles have it that the elder Clemens failed in business and died, leaving his son the ample world to make his fortune in.

“I had to seek another livelihood, so I became a silver miner in Nevada; a gold miner in California; next a reporter in San Francisco; next a special correspondent in the Sandwich Islands; next a roving correspondent in Europe and the East; next an instructional torch bearer on the lecture platform; and finally, I became a scribbler of books and an immovable fixture among the other rocks of New England.”

Mark Twain’s first book was “The Jumping Frog.” His best known in this country possibly was “Innocents Aborad.” His surest title to fame generally is believed to be “Tom Sawyer,” and its companion volume, “Huckleberry Finn.” In all, his books had a sale of more than 500,000 copies and were translated into six languages. Others among the better known are: “A Triumph Aborad,” The Price and the Pauper,” “A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” “Puddin Head Wilson,” “Joan of Arc,” “A Double Barreled Detective Story,” and “Eve’s Diary.” He left an unfinished autobiography, portions of which have appeared serially.

This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.


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