Thanks to my wife, Kimberley for her love and support. Special thanks to Thomas A. Tenney for his continual support, anecdotes, and advice, to whom this 2nd edition volume is dedicated.
Without his many calls, this project would have been completed six months earlier (though perhaps not as complete). Thanks to JoDee Benussi for sharing mountains of paper and extra books. Thanks to the folks at the Mark Twain Project, especially Robert Hirst and Victor Fischer, who really do possess quite a good sense of humor, and who gave freely of their time, advice, and opinions, as well as permissions for use of MTP material. Thanks also for help and contributions made by the following: Barb Schmidt, Robert Slotta, Kevin Mac Donnell, Robert Monroe, Martin Zehr, Ron Vanderhye & Carol Beales for permission from the James S. Copley Library, La Jolla, Ca., and Debby Applegate, the 2007 Pulitzer prize winner for Henry Ward Beecher’s biography. Lastly, thanks to certain readers of the MT ListServ who have encouraged my efforts, including Jason Horn, Michael McBride, Arianne Laidlaw, Wes Britton, and Steve Crawford. A personal thanks also to Duncan Carter at Portland State University for his friendship and encouragement even though he favors Dickens over Twain, as well as David W. Robinson for his steadfast faith in my ability in the face of much evidence to the contrary.
Thomas A. Tenney (1931-2012)
Scholar, editor, friend, who made this work possible.
This second edition completes his vision.
What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, and every day, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history. His acts and his words are merely the visible, thin crust of his world, with its scattered snow summits and its vacant wastes of water—and they are so trifling a part of his bulk! a mere skin enveloping it. The mass of him is hidden—it and its volcanic fires that toss and boil, and never rest, night nor day. These are his life, and they are not written, and cannot be written. Every day would make a whole book of eighty thousand words—three hundred and sixty-five books a year. Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man—the biography of the man himself cannot be written.
“David H. Fears’s log of Samuel Clemens’ life is often downright interesting in itself for Twainians. Furthermore, they will get a heightened sense of the whirligig he somehow shaped into an ongoing presence—his now well-known business activities, his tireless socializing, his dealings with plumbers, and his paying bills for groceries (including pilsener beer and cigars, of course). As for Mark Twain authors, Fears will help resolve some cruxes while setting up others unsuspected until now. I’m envious that my generation didn’t have this resource when we were starting out.” – LOUIS J. BUDD – Professor Emeritus at Duke University, author of Mark Twain: Social Philosopher
“More fascinating and far better documented than any existing biography of Mark Twain, this study provides a window into every waking—and for that matter, sleeping—moment of Twain’s hyperactive life. Many scholars before David Fears had contemplated undertaking this staggeringly daunting but incredibly useful project….All students of Mark Twain should give heartfelt thanks for this masterful accomplishment. Fears interweaves even Twain’s most quotidian activities into a textured fabric, threading helpful explanations where needed. This book now qualifies as the single most essential reference work in Mark Twain scholarship. We will be indebted to David Fears forever.” – ALAN GRIBBEN – Author of Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction
“Mr. Fears must be fearless! To undertake such an immense project certainly requires courage. Going day-by-day in Twain’s life gives valuable information regarding Twain’s multi-faceted literary, business, and speculative career. Despite the short length of the quotations the flavor of Twain is there: his attention to household matters, his caring role as husband and father, his experience with publishers, the wide-ranging friendships and his biting wit. Fears’ volumes will be a major contribution to Mark Twain Studies.” – HOWARD G. BAETZHOLD – Author of Mark Twain & John Bull
“In these pages there is a rich record of the life, works, and Twain’s family and friends.” – THOMAS A. TENNEY, author of Mark Twain A Reference Guide; editor of The Mark Twain Journal.
David H. Fears’s enormous Mark Twain Day By Day: An Annotated Chronology of the Life of Samuel L. Clemens…takes Twain’s activities all the way from [1835-1910]. A huge index even lists such things as Twain’s donations and individual gifts. Surely all Twain scholars and editors will want to have this research available in their campus or personal libraries. This massive project, undertaken by an independent scholar unsupported by grants, subventions, or even a conventional publisher, has to rank as one of the most extraordinary individual efforts by any one student of Twain ever to see print.” – ALAN GRIBBEN, American Literary Scholarship 2010.
Introduction (from First Ed.)
Samuel Langhorne Clemens lived 74 years, 4 months, and 23 days—or 27,171 days. At 27 years of age he began using the nom de plume, “Mark Twain,” which most Americans have known him by since. It is understatement to say that his life was a full one. His life has become an area of study that can occupy a lifetime and still reward researchers with fresh insights into the man, his era, and the human condition.
Some 40 years ago I gained an undergraduate degree in history, and started but did not finish a graduate program, focusing on the Populist Movement of the 1880s and 90s. I was surprised then to discover that Mark Twain had visited my hometown, Portland Oregon, in 1895 on a world tour. It was a fact I tucked away for four decades, till I turned back to graduate school after careers in business and computers. I often wondered what Sam did here in the Rose City—what did he see? Whom did he talk with, and what words of wisdom and mirth did he leave on our stage? Those musings were the beginning of this work.
Sam Clemens has remained a fresh interest since that time, possibly because I may be something of a humorist myself, and most certainly have always been a “willful boy.” Or, possibly because I have a passionate feeling for cats, or for writing, or for women, and God knows I enjoy a good glass, though I gave up cigars in my twenties, something Sam was never able to do, and should he have, I’d have perhaps another decade of chronology in front of me.
By the time I returned to the ivory tower for my masters, I was senior to all of my professors. I’d had fifteen or so short stories published and was hard at work on a few detective novels, and I studied composition theory and Huck Finn. I sat in some of the same classrooms I had four decades before. My thesis work involved original research on correlating writing apprehension and writing myth. Composition theory and fiction writing were my passion, and I was blessed to be able to teach English Composition for two career colleges—or try to anyway, since for many propeller heads, the idea of writing an essay was akin to root canal work without anesthetic.
About this work, I confess to being naïve and chuckleheaded about the scope of the project at the beginning. I am still naïve and chuckleheaded enough to believe I will finish a second volume, just begun. I remember being astonished that with all the miles of paper about Mark Twain, no one had yet published a detailed daily chronology. I started by using the MT Project volumes of letters. Like a man struggling on the foothills of Mt. Everest I kept a steady pace. I was dedicated, if at times overwhelmed, but ploughed on through standard works and adding bookcases as I went.
I smouched (as Sam would say) a vision of a readable, enjoyable, daily chronology, as made possible by one hundred years of scholarship. But a chronology with a difference—one that is essentially a narrative of the man’s life, by lining up, highlighting and summarizing as many of those 27,171 days as possible. As my friend Tom Tenney would say, “a different sort of biography.”
Many times I have concluded there is simply too much information, too little time. The minutiae of this man’s life often threatened to rob my joyful climb. Seemingly everything was interesting, everything needed—what to include, leave out? The biographer has the luxury of excluding the mundane; a detailed chronology should not. Sam was on the go for most of his life, touching hundreds, if not thousands, of places, speaking and lecturing hundreds of time, and writing thousands of notes and letters (by some educated estimates, 50,000 letters written and received), both personal and professional—not to mention his vast array of literary works. Before the term “multi-tasking” was coined, Sam lived it.
To study the life of Mark Twain is to study America’s passage from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries, and also to understand what is quintessentially the American spirit. Other scholars and biographers have articulated these realities much better than I am able, so I’ll leave it there.
The dual purpose of the book is to give the general reader a more comprehensive chronology of Sam’s incredible life, and to aid researchers in locating taking-off places for further study. The book is a general reference guide for dates, places and events, built mainly from the scholarship of others who have invested lifetimes in their passion, and of my humble diggings through primary and secondary sources.
A chronology can be another way of reading a life story. Where was Sam on a particular day? What was he doing, thinking about? Whom did he interact with? Moreover, what is the significance of the events? How much do we know; what might we deduce? What is missing that would enlighten our understanding? Who were those in Sam’s life now mostly forgotten by history? What was the relationship with those closest to him, his friends and allies as well as his antagonists? Hopefully, this work might begin to answer some of those questions for some readers. Or, simply create more questions.
It is definitely true that the world knows him as Mark Twain, but to me that was his stage persona, the humorist, and the unparalleled writer. I maintain that the man—the heart and soul of the man—is, and always has been, simply, Sam. Academics often call him “S.L.C.” which is fine but does not serve the purpose of intimate narrative. Most of his friends called him “Sam,” and his best friend Howells called him simply, “Clemens.” His wife called him “Youth” in person and “Mr. Clemens” when writing to others. In many ways his nom de plume hid his real face, and purposely so. My use of Sam is perhaps a reflection of the intimacy I feel with him, both as a fellow writer and a human being. Plus, it has the advantage of making the entries shorter and you’ve got to call the man something.
This book is not offered as major discovery of primary sources as yet unprinted, though I have visited the Mark Twain Project and waded through many primary documents; neither is it an analysis in the normal sense of the word, but a day-by-day timeline extricated from most known major historical sources in print. I have not attempted to present any historical “thesis” or position on the significance of Twain’s life or works, aside from those events that are often pointed to as turning points in his path. I have offered few opinions on issues, only some where I could not resist. I have not knowingly told any “stretchers,” nor have I made this work essentially my “take” on the man. Neither have I set out to discredit or show up any of the recognized Mark Twain scholars, by pointing out errors or omissions in their work. Where there is disagreement on a particular date/place/experience, I attempt to present the various sides.
I was principally guided in the effort by the Berkeley MTP’s multi-volume works, both in print and electronic of Mark Twain’s Letters as well as other letters available there. I have reviewed most of the major biographies, from Albert Bigelow Paine’s 1912 work, through contemporary studies by Kaplan, Powers, Perry, Hoffman, and others. We all owe a great debt to those scholars who devoted their energies and talents to the tedious and time-consuming research tasks: Albert Bigelow Paine, Bernard DeVoto, Dixon Wecter, Henry Nash Smith, Justin Kaplan, Andrew Hoffman, Ron Powers, James D. Wilson, Kenneth Andrews, Hamlin Hill, Margaret Sanborn, all the tireless workers of the Mark Twain Project—and many, many others. I could not have put this book together without them. I deeply appreciate the guidance and support of Thomas A. Tenney, retired English professor at the Citadel, and also Editor of the Mark Twain Journal since 1982. Barbara Schmidt, another retired educator who is no doubt busier now with research and her Mark Twain website (www.twainquotes) and ListServ responsibilities, has also been very helpful.
I do not pretend that this work is without error, or that it stands complete. There are many errors in biographies and secondary sources, and even in Sam’s dates and memory. Other sources remain elusive. Not all sources are equally credible. This work is certainly not the last word. I ask the scholar, expert, or interested fan of Sam Clemens to inform me of errors and omissions, so that addenda might be published in forthcoming volumes.
Entries should be read in context. That is, by reviewing dates before and after any particular entry, a deeper understanding of the elements may emerge.
Last, I emphasize that this work is a beginning. There is so much work left to do. But, what other American life is so worthy of study?
David H. Fears 2005-2007
Forward for the Second Edition:
Since the first edition was released in 2008, three volumes have followed, improved in many respects from the original first volume. Many additions and corrections have surfaced since 2008. This second edition of the first volume incorporates over a hundred additions and corrections, including those posted on the website. Also, several noteworthy works on Twain have been published which inform this new edition, especially: Thomas Reigstad’s important work, Scribblin’ for a Livin’ which updates and revises the much-neglected Buffalo period of Twain’s life; and David C. Antonucci’s work on the Tahoe episodes, Fairest Picture: Mark Twain at Lake Tahoe. Other publications have also been reviewed.
Most important, my scholarship and scope improved as I continued through volumes two through four, bringing the realization of the shortcomings of volume one. Incoming letters were mostly not examined for the first edition, and are not summarized, paraphrased, or excerpted here. In many cases, having the incomings greatly illuminates Clemens’ letters, though when Kevin Mac Donnell first mentioned the need for these I thought him mad and was dumbstruck. The sheer increase in work at first stalled me. Then, as I worked along through the final three volumes I understood the increased value of this reference work that accrued by including those incoming letters to Clemens. A small handful of letters shown in the catalogue were not found at the Mark Twain Project. Often misfiling or burial beneath staff papers may account for these. When they are forthcoming I will put them on the website.
I’ve been asked a few times why on earth I’d set forth on such a daunting project. Because I love Mark Twain? Because it’s never been done? To organize the vast array of data that exists? Possibly all are valid reasons and partly to blame or credit for this work. But I’ve sensed lately that I simply wanted to get closer to the man, to avoid the cherry-picking and incomplete pictures given to us by various biographers, though not to say they are not valuable. But incomplete. Livy called Samuel Clemens a name that reflected his eternal boy-ness: “Youth.” In that way I am a kindred spirit to Twain, to Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and all those boys ages two to a hundred-two who, in their hearts, do not take note of old age and who keep an outlook of fun, curiosity, and yes, humor throughout life. I, too, am “Youth.” I often say things to people I don’t know that embarrass my better half, things I see as humorous. Perhaps their reactions provide a crude but instant way of seeing into them and finding if they too have a kindred spirit. After my first visit to the Mark Twain Project I wrote a short essay on whether or not the people there had a sense of humor (I judged, mostly, they do). I discovered later that several academics on a Mark Twain website do not have a sense of humor. I no longer frequent the place. The academics I deal with in my own part-time teaching and most all of my students have a perfectly muscular sense of humor.
After the thousands of hours spent on research for this four-volume work (and the second edition for the first volume), I do feel closer to the man, in many ways a giant who rose above the vicissitudes and sorrows of life to cling to his humor. Without humor, what would Mark Twain be? What would I be? What is man without humor? Not much, I suspect. I still believe that analyzing humor sucks the marrow from it (as Clemens also believed), though the sourpuss academics I speak of would disagree. I can think of no greater aim for my own life than to remain a “Youth” in my outlook and relationships, and to do so requires a fresh, positive view of all that is humorous and interesting in life.
I was saddened by the deaths of Tom Tenney, Lou Budd, and Howard Baetzhold—all of whom gave this work a glowing “puff” when it had only begun. There is no connection with their glowing praise and early departure, and only Alan Gribben now survives of those original four testimonials. I hope he’s well. To paraphrase Clemens, I’m not feeling well myself.
Finally, I owe much to the Mark Twain Project at UC Berkeley, especially Victor Fischer and Robert Hirst. I cannot express my thanks fully—to do so would take another four volumes.
David H. Fears 2014