Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mark Twain in Motion

One of the things always mentioned in descriptions of Mark Twain, along with his slow Missouri drawl, was his "rocking and rolling gait." The way he walked was a distinctive part of his persona, but it's something nearly impossible to recover. But here is a tantalizing glimpse of Mark Twain in action, captured on film by Thomas Edison in 1909, the last year of Twain's life. In the first half of the short film, Twain is walking around his home in Redding, Connecticut, which he named Stormfield. The house, in the Tuscan style, was designed for him by the architect John Mead Howells, the son of Twain's closest friend in the literary world, novelist and critic William Dean Howells. Twain moved into Stormfield (originally called "Innocence at Home") in June 1908. In the second half of the film, Twain is playing cards and drinking tea on the loggia with his two surviving daughters, Clara (center) and Jean (right). Jean was epileptic, and died (from an apparent seizure while in the bath) on Christmas Eve, 1909. Clara Clemens, who died in 1962, was the only one of his three daughters to outlive him. Stormfield itself burned to the ground in 1923.

Video: Mark Twain at Stormfield, 1909, filmed by Thomas Edison.

Edited: The embedded video wasn't working properly, so click one of the links above to see the video.


Bleeet said...

For some reason, that's entirely how I pictured Mark Twain walking in my mind.

You know, all those times I've spent thinking about how famous, dead authors walked...

Okay, fine, maybe I've never really thought about how Mark Twain walked, but I do think he walks exactly how Mark Twain should have walked at that age.

It fits. It's jaunty but geriatric. Clearly the gait of a man comfortable with satire.

Thanks for the link, Rob. Did his surviving daughter ever write anything?

Rob Hardy said...

The surviving daughter, Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch, wrote a memoir titled My Father Mark Twain (Harper & Brothers, 1931).

New Poem: "Phrasebook"

My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .