DescriptionSamuel Clemens Family Archive of Seven Letters, Including a Humorous Autograph Note Signed by Clemens Together with Five Original Photographs Annotated on the Verso. Five Autograph Letters signed by Jean Clemens, one of which includes Clemens's note in the closing, and two Autograph Letters Signed by Clemens' sister-in-law Susan Crane written between September 1901 - September 1903, to members of the Millard Sewall family of York Village. A rich archive replete with private details and behind-the-scenes information about this period, including news that Clemens was almost hit by a speeding train.
During the summer of 1902 the Clemens vacationed in York Harbor, Maine. As was his habit, Twain had taken a work-room in a separate cottage "in the house of a friend and neighbor, a fisherman and boatman." This "friend and neighbor" was almost certainly Millard Sewall. Unfortunately Mrs. Clemens was struck by a severe heart attack Tuesday, August 12th.
A. B. Paine writes, "Nurses were summoned, and Mrs. Crane and others came from Elmira. Clara Clemens took charge of the household and matters generally, and the patient was guarded from every disturbing influence." This archive reveals that Twain and his daughter Jean definitely found temporary quarters at the Sewall residence. They remained there until the morning of October 15th, when Mrs. Clemens was well enough to make the trip back home to Riverdale on the Hudson.
Jean L. Clemens Autograph Letter Signed "J. L. C." to Millard Sewall, 12 pages, 4.5" x 7 ", Riverdale on the Hudson, Oct. 16, 1902. A small excerpt provides how thankful the Clemens' were, and relates details of a near tragedy:
"We intended to wire you yesterday when we arrived, but in the excitement of the arrival our intention was forgotten. I am very sorry. After all you did to help us I think the least we could do was to let you know as quickly as possible that Mother got through the journey better than we hoped considering the behavior of her bed... At the station here there came near being a tragedy. Clara had just stepped off our car and Father was following when a lightning express passed between our car and the platform. Some men yelled and the train whistled so that Clara leaped for the platform and Father managed to stay on the car steps. If either of them had been half a minute later [^or earlier], they would have been killed..." With uneven toning, sporadic soiling, and minor separations at the folds.
Jean L. Clemens Autograph Letter Signed "Jean L. Clemens" with a Samuel Clemens Autograph Note Signed "SLC" to Grace Sewall, 4 pages, 4.5" by 7", Riverdale on the Hudson, Oct. 23, 1902, on imprinted letterhead. Jean writes about not being charged enough money for room, board, & services rendered by the Sewall family. Very good condition, with original transmittal envelope addressed by Jean Clemens postmarked October 24, 1902.
Jean writes in part: "...As to our Sewalls' account, we were glad to get it even though it proved rather unsatisfactory. We had two and even three rooms at your home for some time, besides the myriad of things your father did and made for us... Our complaint is that his kindness and generosity are much too large, even though he refuses to write to anyone save his life..."
Clemens adds his own thoughts, "Miss Sewall, You are not bringing your father up properly. He will go on robbing himself until he will become an abandoned & incurable criminal. Let him beware! SLC."
Susan Crane Autograph Letter Signed "Susan L. Crane" to Grace Sewall, 11 pages, 5" x 8", Quarry Farm Elmira N.Y., Oct. 31, 1902, on personalized stationery, near fine condition, with original transmittal envelope postmarked Nov. 2 1902.
Susan sends news of Livy Clemens' recovery: "You will be interested to know that the last flowers, which I took to the train, came out beautifully, and were sent in to Mrs. Clemens as a good omen... Yes we are very much encouraged in regard to Mrs. Clemens. She sat up an hour, out of doors on Tuesday and did not suffer from it. No doubt a long time will be required to restore the tired nerves, but I believe it will come to pass, with care... On the afternoon of the day after Mrs. Clemens was put in her own room she began to improve, as if new courage was given her by the fact that she could take that journey and live. We are all so very thankful it was taken that very day..." Much more content relating news of the arrival of Mrs. Stanchfield, a longtime friend of Livy's for whom Clara had been named.
Jean Clemens Autograph Letter Signed "Jean L. Clemens" to Grace Sewall, 6 pages 4.5" x 7", Riverdale on the Hudson, Nov. 11, 1902, on personalized stationery. In near fine condition, with the original transmittal envelope addressed by Jean Clemens and postmarked November 12th, 1902. Jean sends news on the severity of her mother's condition, and Clara's weakened spirit:
"For the past twelve days there had been absolutely no improvement in Mother's condition. Indeed two of her heart attacks were quite as bad or worse than the ones she had at York. Dr. Dana the nerve specialist is partly to blame. He ordered some heart stimulants which had an extremely bad effect. We are tired of experimenting doctors & shall call in NO more consultants. Dr. Moffat seems good and says Mother's condition isn't really dangerous even tho' she is so weak that she cannot have alcohol baths. Clara is on the verge of a serious illness, I am afraid, caused by nervousness and anxiety. I hope she will be able to withstand the strain she is constantly under, but it seems doubtful. Of course being in such a condition physically makes her mental condition very bad & in her anxiety she is constantly building mountains out of mole-hills where Mother's illness is concerned..."
Jean L. Clemens Autograph Letter Signed "Jean L. Clemens" to Millard Sewall, 4 pages, 4.5" x 7", Riverdale on the Hudson, Dec. 16, 1902. Jean sends early Christmas greetings and adds: "Mother is a good deal better; she has been sleeping much more regularly for the past ten days. I haven't seen her yet but on my return I hope to be able to... My efforts in photographing father have been failures so far." On personalized stationery, light soiling and minor separations at folds, overall very good condition.
Jean L. Clemens Autograph Letter Signed "Jean L. Clemens" to Grace Sewall, 4 pages, 4.5" x 7", Riverdale on the Hudson, Feb. 16, 1903, on personalized stationery. In part: "...I reached here after ten last Friday night [February 13], having left Old Point soon after eight A.M., and was consequently nearly ready for my coffin. Also I have much work for my father to do (type-writing) and on that account and because of my great weariness I have not written you before..." After Jean caught pneumonia in December, she was sent to Old Point Comfort on the Virginia shore to help recover, & also to keep her illness a secret from her mother. In near fine condition save a few stray stains on a single page, with the original transmittal envelope addressed by Jean Clemens postmarked February 16th, 1903.
Susan Crane Autograph Letter Signed "Susan L. Crane" to Grace Sewall, 11 pages, 5" x 8", Quarry Farm Elmira NY, Sept. 28, 1903, on personalized stationery, sending news of Mrs. Clemens' illness.
In small part: "...The month of July gave us especial cheer in the steady improvement of the beloved patient, but in Aug she took on too many interests & cares & the gain has been more fitful & the slight backsets have been frequent. Mrs. Clemens has almost lived on the big porch, eating & sleeping there, only going in for the night, and for a rest & bath in the afternoon... Mr. Clemens had a severe cold, which kept him in bed several days. Now however he is well, having been several days in New York, and has just returned, very greatly to our pleasure... Miss Jean is very well this summer, and has been a great comfort to her mother in her tender consideration... Miss Clara is now in New York, taking a few last lessons of her favorite teacher before they sail. It was a great pleasure to have her here, and she is pretty well, though not very strong..." Minor separations at folds, an ink note by a Sewall family member on verso of page 11 pertaining to this collection, very good overall condition.
Also included are five original photographs taken by Jean, with lengthy annotations on the versos and gave to the Sewall family. Each photograph measures approximately 4.75" by 3.75", mounted to 6" x 5" overall, and contains additional notes likely made by a Sewall family member. The images as identified by Jean are: "My aunt's home at Quarry Farm..."; "The Riverdale House looking South..."; "My sitting and work room at Riverdale..."; "The Western view from my wisteria balcony..."; "View of the Hudson and the Palisades..." A wonderful group of private letters and pictures providing a unique glimpse into a special chapter of Clemens family life.
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