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26 June, 2013
Mark Twain, A Biography Vol III, Part 2: 1907 - 1910|
CCLXXI. Death of "Sam" Moffett
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|Clemens' next absence from Redding came on August 1, 1908, when the
sudden and shocking news was received of the drowning of his nephew,
Samuel E. Moffett, in the surf of the Jersey shore. Moffett was his
nearest male relative, and a man of fine intellect and talents. He was
superior in those qualities which men love--he was large-minded and
large-hearted, and of noble ideals. With much of the same sense of humor
which had made his uncle's fame, he had what was really an abnormal
faculty of acquiring and retaining encyclopedic data. Once as a child he
had visited Hartford when Clemens was laboring over his history game.
The boy was much interested, and asked permission to help. His uncle
willingly consented, and referred him to the library for his facts. But
he did not need to consult the books; he already had English history
stored away, and knew where to find every detail of it. At the time of
his death Moffett held an important editorial position on Collier's
Clemens was fond and proud of his nephew. Returning from the funeral, he
was much depressed, and a day or two later became really ill. He was in
bed for a few days, resting, he said, after the intense heat of the
journey. Then he was about again and proposed billiards as a diversion.
We were all alone one very still, warm August afternoon playing, when he
"I feel a little dizzy; I will sit down a moment."
I brought him a glass of water and he seemed to recover, but when he rose
and started to play I thought he had a dazed look. He said:
"I have lost my memory. I don't know which is my ball. I don't know
what game we are playing."
But immediately this condition passed, and we thought little of it,
considering it merely a phase of biliousness due to his recent journey.
I have been told since, by eminent practitioners, that it was the first
indication of a more serious malady.
He became apparently quite himself again and showed his usual vigor-light
of step and movement, able to skip up and down stairs as heretofore. In
a letter to Mrs. Crane, August 12th, he spoke of recent happenings:
DEAR AUNT SUE,--It was a most moving, a most heartbreaking sight,
the spectacle of that stunned & crushed & inconsolable family. I
came back here in bad shape, & had a bilious collapse, but I am all
right again, though the doctor from New York has given peremptory
orders that I am not to stir from here before frost. O fortunate
Sam Moffett! fortunate Livy Clemens! doubly fortunate Susy! Those
swords go through & through my heart, but there is never a moment
that I am not glad, for the sake of the dead, that they have
How Livy would love this place! How her very soul would steep
itself thankfully in this peace, this tranquillity, this deep
stillness, this dreamy expanse of woodsy hill & valley! You must
come, Aunt Sue, & stay with us a real good visit. Since June 26 we
have had 21 guests, & they have all liked it and said they would
To Howells, on the same day, he wrote:
Won't you & Mrs. Howells & Mildred come & give us as many days as
you can spare & examine John's triumph? It is the most satisfactory
house I am acquainted with, & the most satisfactorily situated . .
. . I have dismissed my stenographer, & have entered upon a
holiday whose other end is the cemetery.