April 21: Rumors of His Death Were NOT Greatly Exaggerated

 

Today in 1910, Mark Twain, one of America’s most famous authors and Connecticut’s most famous residents, died at his home in Redding. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, he grew up in Missouri and traveled extensively, working as a newspaper reporter and fiction writer, until settling with his family in 1871 in the wealthy “Nook Farm” neighborhood of Hartford. Nook Farm became known for its concentration of notable authors, artists, and other creative personalities, who, in addition to Twain, also included Harriet Beecher Stowe. There, in his magnificent, custom-built Victorian mansion, Twain wrote and published some of his most famous and historically significant works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and (of course) A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

The home of Mark Twain and his family from 1873 – 1891 is now open to the public as a house museum.

Twain spent the last years of his life with his family at Stormfield, a spacious Italian-style country estate in Redding, Connecticut completed in 1908. There, the internationally famous author entertained a number of prestigious guests, including the inventor Thomas Edison, who captured what is thought to be the only film footage of Mark Twain in existence using a Kinetograph camera in 1909.

Twain’s residence at Stormfield was by no means altogether happy. He was the victim of a home break-in shortly after moving in. He also came to a bitter parting of the ways at Stormfield with a pair of long-trusted, live-in advisers. Moreover, in a devastating blow to Twain, his youngest daughter Jean died there suddenly on Christmas Eve 1909. During that same year, but prior to Jean’s passing, Twain had predicted his own death with trademark irreverence:

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: “Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”

True to his prediction, the man who had responded to an 1897 report of his death by saying,”The report of my death was an exaggeration,” actually did die of a heart attack at his Redding home in 1910, today in Connecticut history. This was just after Halley’s Comet shined its brightest.

Further Reading

About Mark Twain,” The Mark Twain House and Museum

Jenifer Frank, “Hartford’s Nook Farm,” connecticuthistory.org

Brent Colley, “Mark Twain’s Redding, Connecticut home: Stormfield,” historyofredding.net

Henry S. Cohn & Adam J. Tarr, “A Challenging Inheritance: The Fate of Mark Twain’s Will,” SSRN.com