On the centennial of Mark Twain's death
It was 100 years today that Samuel Clemens, the literary genius who wrote as Mark Twain, died at his home in Redding, Conn. Here's the headline from a Baltimore Sun article that noted his passing (and another article about his funeral.) As a fellow Connecticut Yankee, and frequent visitor to his former home and museum in Hartford, I have a soft spot for Twain. I've always admired his sense of humor and his understanding of the common man. He was an American writer through and through.
The Sun article (provided by archive expert Paul McCardell) was touching as it described him lying in "the carven bed," where he often worked. "Ranged about him were his books. Beside him was his tabouret set, with a jar of tobacco, a collection of pipes, a stand of cigars and matches in abundance. Above his head was a reading lamp." Not a bad way to go.
Another Sun article described a 1909 visit to St. Timothy's School in Catonsville, where he had some advice for the girls who were graduating: "There are three things that come to my mind which I consider excellent advice. First, girls, don't smoke -- to excess. I am 73 1/2 years old and have been smoking for 73 of them. But I smoke ... in moderation; only one cigar at a time.
"Also, never drink -- to excess.
"The third admonition is, don't marry -- to excess."
I'd love to see someone deliver that commencement address today, in our world of political correctness. But Twain was able to speak his mind -- and the truth -- in a humorous way, without insulting his audience. That was his real genius.