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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol III, Part 2: 1907 - 1910|
CCLXIV. Citizen and Farmer
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|The procession of guests at Stormfield continued pretty steadily.
Clemens kept a book in which visitors set down their names and the dates
of arrival and departure, and when they failed to attend to these matters
he diligently did it himself after they were gone.
Members of the Harper Company came up with their wives; "angel-fish" swam
in and out of the aquarium; Bermuda friends came to see the new home;
Robert Collier, the publisher, and his wife--"Mrs. Sally," as Clemens
liked to call her--paid their visits; Lord Northcliffe, who was visiting
America, came with Colonel Harvey, and was so impressed with the
architecture of Stormfield that he adopted its plans for a country-place
he was about to build in Newfoundland. Helen Keller, with Mr. and Mrs.
Macy, came up for a week-end visit. Mrs. Crane came over from Elmira;
and, behold! one day came the long-ago sweetheart of his childhood,
little Laura Hawkins--Laura Frazer now, widowed and in the seventies,
with a granddaughter already a young lady quite grown up.
That Mark Twain was not wearying of the new conditions we may gather from
a letter written to Mrs. Rogers in October:
I've grown young in these months of dissipation here. And I have
left off drinking--it isn't necessary now. Society & theology are
sufficient for me.
To Helen Allen, a Bermuda "Angel-Fish," he wrote:
We have good times here in this soundless solitude on the hilltop.
The moment I saw the house I was glad I built it, & now I am gladder
& gladder all the time. I was not dreaming of living here except in
the summer-time--that was before I saw this region & the house, you
see--but that is all changed now; I shall stay here winter & summer
both & not go back to New York at all. My child, it's as tranquil &
contenting as Bermuda. You will be very welcome here, dear.
He interested himself in the affairs and in the people of Redding. Not
long after his arrival he had gathered in all the inhabitants of the
country-side, neighbors of every quality, for closer acquaintance, and
threw open to them for inspection every part of the new house. He
appointed Mrs. Lounsbury, whose acquaintance was very wide; a sort of
committee on reception, and stood at the entrance with her to welcome
each visitor in person.
It was a sort of gala day, and the rooms and the grounds were filled with
the visitors. In the dining-room there were generous refreshments.
Again, not long afterward, he issued a special invitation to all of
those-architects, builders, and workmen who had taken any part, however
great or small, in the building of his home. Mr. and Mrs. Littleton were
visiting Stormfield at this time, and both Clemens and Littleton spoke to
these assembled guests from the terrace, and made them feel that their
efforts had been worth while.
Presently the idea developed to establish something that would be of
benefit to his neighbors, especially to those who did not have access to
much reading-matter. He had been for years flooded with books by authors
and publishers, and there was a heavy surplus at his home in the city.
When these began to arrive he had a large number of volumes set aside as
the nucleus of a public library. An unused chapel not far away--it could
be seen from one of his windows--was obtained for the purpose; officers
were elected; a librarian was appointed, and so the Mark Twain Library of
Redding was duly established. Clemens himself was elected its first
president, with the resident physician, Dr. Ernest H. Smith, vice-
president, and another resident, William E. Grumman, librarian. On the
afternoon of its opening the president made a brief address. He said:
I am here to speak a few instructive words to my fellow-farmers.
I suppose you are all farmers: I am going to put in a crop next
year, when I have been here long enough and know how. I couldn't
make a turnip stay on a tree now after I had grown it. I like to
talk. It would take more than the Redding air to make me keep
still, and I like to instruct people. It's noble to be good, and
it's nobler to teach others to be good, and less trouble. I am glad
to help this library. We get our morals from books. I didn't get
mine from books, but I know that morals do come from books--
theoretically at least. Mr. Beard or Mr. Adams will give some land,
and by and by we are going to have a building of our own.
This statement was news to both Mr. Beard and Mr. Adams and an
inspiration of the moment; but Mr. Theodore Adams, who owned a most
desirable site, did in fact promptly resolve to donate it for library
purposes. Clemens continued:
I am going to help build that library with contributions from my
visitors. Every male guest who comes to my house will have to
contribute a dollar or go away without his baggage.--
[A characteristic notice to guests requiring them to contribute a
dollar to the Library Building Fund was later placed on the
billiard-room mantel at Stormfield with good results.]--If those
burglars that broke into my house recently had done that they would
have been happier now, or if they'd have broken into this library
they would have read a few books and led a better life. Now they
are in jail, and if they keep on they will go to Congress. When a
person starts downhill you can never tell where he's going to stop.
I am sorry for those burglars. They got nothing that they wanted
and scared away most of my servants. Now we are putting in a
burglar-alarm instead of a dog. Some advised the dog, but it costs
even more to entertain a dog than a burglar. I am having the ground
electrified, so that for a mile around any one who puts his foot
across the line sets off an alarm that will be heard in Europe. Now
I will introduce the real president to you, a man whom you know
So a new and important benefit was conferred upon the community, and
there was a feeling that Redding, besides having a literary colony, was
to be literary in fact.
It might have been mentioned earlier that Redding already had literary
associations when Mark Twain arrived. As far back as Revolutionary days
Joel Barlow, a poet of distinction, and once Minister to France, had been
a resident of Redding, and there were still Barlow descendants in the
William Edgar Grumman, the librarian, had written the story of Redding's
share in the Revolutionary War--no small share, for Gen. Israel Putnam's
army had been quartered there during at least one long, trying winter.
Charles Burr Todd, of one of the oldest Redding families, himself--still
a resident, was also the author of a Redding history.
Of literary folk not native to Redding, Dora Reed Goodale and her sister
Elaine, the wife of Dr. Charles A. Eastman, had, long been residents of
Redding Center; Jeanette L. Gilder and Ida M. Tarbell had summer homes on
Redding Ridge; Dan Beard, as already mentioned, owned a place near the
banks of the Saugatuck, while Kate V. St. Maur, also two of Nathaniel
Hawthorne's granddaughters had recently located adjoining the Stormfield
lands. By which it will be seen that Redding was in no way unsuitable as
a home for Mark Twain.