This is where thanks go out to those special few who have supported for, rooted for, and even supplied material and countless unpaid hours to the work. First, because I know where my bread is buttered, I would like to thanks to my wife, Kimberley for her love and support. Again I offer special thanks to Thomas A. Tenney, editor of the Mark Twain Journal, for his continual support, anecdotes, materials, obsessions, and advice. Thanks also to the folks at the Mark Twain Project, especially Robert Hirst, who really does possess quite a good sense of humor, and who gave freely of his time, advice, and opinions, as well as permissions for use of MTP material, and putting up with all my questions and suggestions. During the preparation of this volume, however, Bob was mostly away during my trips to Berkeley, raising money to help the MTP cause, I suspect. Victor Fischer was my host there and my invaluable aid to answer questions, dig for letters, and to generally provide a friendly assistance which has proven invaluable. Holger Kersten has graciously continued giving his time and effort to translate many of the German and French letters.

I was blessed to be invited to speak at Quarry Farm in September of 2009, and I’d like to thank Barbara Snedecor and Mark Woodhouse at Elmira College for the wonderful opportunity, which created a vivid, permanent set of memories of the Farm, the College, and Woodlawn Cemetery—the final resting place of the Clemens family. My talk was informal and covered the making of this work and featured my placing the date on the first meeting of Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain—a date not published before the issuance of Vol. II. I must acknowledge the emotional impact that these places gave me, and the renewed passion for doing the work. Mark has also aided me in a few important ways, answering questions and giving sources; he has always been eager to help.

I will not repeat thanks to the several who aided in some ways with Vols. I & II, but they are mentioned in those volumes, and I continue to be thankful.

I reserve the greatest thanks to the lady who gave the greatest help: my “arch, virtual” editor JoDee Benussi for delivering mountains of emails, paper and extra books, for her continual patience while comparing entries and her exacting editing skills and uncanny ability to highlight every textual error of mine, as well as a few errors of fact. For most souls, this task would cause brain damage, but Ms. Benussi seems only to improve with each error found. She has been a valuable and critical resource to this work. A good, snarky editor is a prize, especially one who nudges you where you don’t wish to go. If she had been paid what she is worth, I would be bankrupt. It is true that at times I had to yell, “Beyond the scope of the work!” but she took that in stride as well. With no previous work or pattern to follow, I was forced to create my own pattern, to use common sense when it wasn’t always common, and to offer a work that has been called “The Ultimate Mark Twain Reference Work.”

David H. Fears

To Kimberley

Who makes any struggle worthwhile

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.


In late summer 2010 it became evident that Volume III would have to be Volume III and IV. So much material is available that to take shortcuts would lessen the value of this historical reference work. Volume III has evolved from the first two volumes, and thus includes a few improvements forged along the way. Though I’d hoped to do it all in three volumes, like Huck Finn, I had no way of gauging what I’d find—and, like Huck, I often think if I’d known what a trouble it would be to write these volumes—well, any number of possibilities might be inserted here. Ignorance of the journey’s distance and obstacles often lead to success, and I was pitifully ignorant of the vast amount of material that survives from, to, and about, Mark Twain. The journey is akin to starting off with a mountain in view off in the far distance, a length unknown and surprisingly farther than suspected.

The scope of this work and my technique have understandably evolved since it began formally in 2005 (informally in 1971). I had no real pattern to follow, so had to create one and improve it as I went. In retrospect, I see now that the first volume should be brought up to the level of the last two volumes, and I hope yet to do so, incorporating all the improvements, changes, edits and additions since it was published in late 2008. As pertains to scope, the researcher should be advised that not all letters of the direct Clemens family are included. A few by Olivia, Clara, and Jean are included, however, but hardly any by other family members. For example, there are literally hundreds of letters between Pamela Moffett and her son Samuel Moffett in the MTP files, which are not included, for various reasons, timely publication being one important factor. Letters between other parties are few and far between. Also, not every notebook entry or person named is included, though most are. And, as Mark Twain became so well known and popular, so that every movement and rumor were published far and wide, common sense dictated that all reprints, anecdotes, mentions, etc. could not be included, much after Vol. I. The New York Times, because of it’s survival and accessibility is utilized more than any other newspaper, but it should be understood that the paper often made errors in its reporting, and as Louis Budd points out, was never the good friend of Mark Twain, nor his favorite newspaper. MTDBD is not, in any sense, a literary bibliography, does not pretend to cover ALL of his works, and is most certainly not an exercise in literary criticism—such works abound and will continue to be churned out. Reprints of works and articles are not often given. Anecdotes which cannot be documented are also passed by, as these would take several volumes just to include the “embroidery” surrounding them. Lastly, editorial opinion is limited to a few instances. I do enjoy “burying” a humorous line or two somewhere (my “oesophagus”!) in the million-plus words of this work—if you stumble upon one of them, my wish is that you should remember that to properly be a Twain scholar, one should have a sense of humor. Sadly, many do not, as I discovered early on. Imagination offers much that Clemens would say to such people.

I often wonder, looking at all the Mark Twain biographies and papers, if it is possible to write a biography of the man without all the psycho-interpretive, reading-between-the-lines sophistry, jumping to conclusions (unwarranted or suggested), forcing “themes,” or inserting assumptions, including “presentism” (the viewing of history through today’s lens and morals). Is it possible to simply put down the What-Where-When- Who without falling into the vanity trap of thinking the Why is one’s gift to the world? Can a work, essentially by one man, standing on the shoulders of giants, be one that bypasses much of the detritus of the subjective and yet lead many who follow to find a fuller understanding of Mark Twain? That’s been my goal and guide since I began. I’ve studied the myriad of secondary works along side the primary ones, perhaps mentioning the more glaring conclusions but focusing on the historical. I am a historian, after all, who also enjoys the literature and reading some criticism (as long as its not right after a meal). Seriously, literary devotees will never stop theorizing, nor should they: literature invites this, and Twain scholarship certainly has a dominant place for those types of studies. Still, the pure history of Mark Twain has sometimes been lost under the mountain of psychological analysis: one of the motivators for this project was the discovery of so many errors in dates, places and persons (one recent, popular bio has four date errors in the first half of the book!). Let’s face it—many such books are written with an aim to book sales—the wilder and more “undiscovered truth” so-called, about Mark Twain, the more sales may be had. Sensationalism in biographies is nothing new—recently we even have a well-documented book with the very misleading title of Mark Twain’s Other Woman, which suggests an extra-marital affair not claimed between its covers. We also have a work titled The Complete Interviews, which, if you consult several interviews in this work, is certainly not a complete compendium, though quite helpful as a resource and reference. In fact, both books add significantly to Twain scholarship, even with such misleading titles, which is my only criticism of these works.

When it comes to significant additions to Twain scholarship, perhaps the most important has been the 2010 release of volume I of “The Complete and Authoritative Edition” of the Autobiography of Mark Twain, edited by Harriet Elinor Smith and other editors of the Mark Twain Project, UC Berkeley. It informs this volume, and will undoubtedly inform Volume IV even more, as well as a planned second edition of Volume I. My compliments to the Mt. Olympus of all things Twain, and to the hard-working staff there. I urge any billionaires planning on expiring in the near future to will their assets to the MTP.

Book sales here are not my aim; I did not seek to ferret out the sensational, nor to make any claims beyond what primary documents offer. But Mark Twain has long been legend and perhaps the man cannot be separated from the legend. I aim only to document as far as possible what can be documented, leaving apocryphal tea leaves to others. Still, it is my hope that literary types would benefit from this work. Examining all the evidence, it is clear that Samuel Clemens was far more than a writer, though perhaps the best American writer who ever lived.

What is given here is primarily a historical account. I have attempted in these volumes to search out and lay down day-by-day, the profound alongside the trivial (and who can say which is which, with certainty?), to avoid interpretive traps and sensationalism for its own sake. And, though it is true that Mark Twain was a literary giant (many would add the label “genius”) there are also several streams of history that flow through his life: the opening of the West, the evolution of copyright laws, the expansion of America into a world power with accompanying anti-imperialism, industrialization and the widespread changes of technology, changes in the rights of minorities including suffrage—literally the transformation of America after the Civil War and into the twentieth century. He touched, and was touched by, many thousands of individuals, both famous and obscure. He is perhaps the most quoted of all Americans, both accurately and inaccurately. To study the life of Samuel Clemens is to study America’s passage from the rural, nineteenth century into the technological and heady power and possibilities of the early twentieth century. It was an exciting period to live through, and Sam did more than his share of living. The America of 1835 that Sam was born into was quite a radically different place than the one of 1910 in which he exited.

Why is a day-by-day chronology helpful? Any period of history is made up of days upon days —indeed, there were a few periods in which I might even be writing an hour-by -hour history. Simply put, for understanding of any period or moment in time of importance, one must see what went before and after that period, down to the day, and sometimes to the hour or minute. We need to know what happened, and when—what came first? last? Who was involved—how did they relate to events? No man can fully be understood apart from the time he lived in and left behind—especially Samuel L. Clemens, often said to be “ahead of his time,” yet in so many ways he was characteristic of it, and of America. Sam reflected the contradictory and shifting nature of his times—but here I stop and leave such observations to critics and biographers to expand upon. I hope that MTDBD achieves a detailed chronology for such scholars and others to use as a take-off point for further research, in ways that no other secondary work can—as one reader put it, “The Ultimate Mark Twain Reference Work.”

I have striven to fill gaps or unknowns to the extent it is possible to do so—and with each piece found, other pieces can likely be included with new understanding. Some have remarked that MTDBD is “a different sort of biography,”—a biography that does not skip over any major or minor period, that includes seemingly trivial as well as significant detail, events, persons and experiences. Twain himself understood that “biographies are the buttons and clothes of a man,” only a slice of what was possible (see his statement in the front pages on this.) I hope I’ve gathered widely scattered details about the buttons, the clothes, and how they were worn. A few cataloged letters were not found at the MTP and continue to be elusive. Mis-filing there rarely causes some letters to be filed in the wrong pew, as I’ve experienced on a few occasions. Missing letters are noted by the phrase, “text not available at MTP.”

There are over 100 illustrations within Vol. III. I have saved most pictures of individuals for a future book in the planning stages, but sought to include here diagrams, advertisements, cartoons, insignias, Clemens residences, and a few pictures of the man himself.

As for the people in Mark Twain’s life, they deserve their own volume or two, or four. I’ve been forced to limit the information on most all but the most important of them to one or two lines, putting in birth and death years where possible, and what they were best known for, and perhaps something unusual as well. But early on I realized that each person who interacted with Twain had a unique and full story, one that cannot be fully presented here. As of this date there are biographies of several of “Twain’s People” as I would call them. And yet, there are no biographies for some important persons, such as Joseph T. Goodman, whose influence on Sam’s early development as a courageous writer was surely profound. I have learned there are many more books to write.

In doing these volumes I have come to know Samuel Clemens beyond what I could discover in all the biographies or all the published volumes of his notebooks and letters. I have been asked if my views of the man have changed through doing this work. Undoubtedly. I see more sides of him now; I recognize his inconsistencies, his flaws, but also have a greater appreciation for his brilliance. I believe he would have been a great man if he had not written a line, though in what way exactly I cannot say. It is true that I am not in awe of him as I was earlier, but this by itself is not loss, but a kind of sanctification. Like Sam, I am a Westerner with Southern roots; have had the advantage of being an ass for well over xx years, and a published fiction writer, of adoring cats, and of being the father of three girls, and the husband to a woman with a heart very much like Olivia Langdon’s. If I’d lived in Sam’s day and we had known each other, I’d like to think we’d be friends. At least we might play chess, smoke a cigar and enjoy a mean game of billiards. I’d even welcome his rules, especially the one that used a kitten in one of the pockets.

David H. Fears 2011