In spite of his frequent journeys, speaking engagements and lectures, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) was a family man; a fact that is readily apparent when visiting his Hartford, CT home. The library served as a gathering place for family and friends. His feeling towards both are illustrated by the library mantel, the room’s focal point. Clemens regularly stood before the large oak mantelpiece and recited poetry, told stories and read excerpts from his works. To complete this setting, he added a brass smoke shield inscribed with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”
I marveled at his creativity during my tour of The Mark Twain House & Museum. Although many of his famous quotes are inscribed on the walls of the museum, his legendary imagination was further defined by my guide. When he gathered his family together in the library, he created a new story on the spot for their delight. Each new story had to feature the items displayed along the top of his bookshelves, and they had to be recounted in the correct order. If he made a mistake, his children demanded he begin again.
For all its charm, Clemens didn’t write in his library. His favorite place to work was the third floor billiards room, where he could write at his desk and spread his manuscripts out on the oversize table. He penned some of his most famous works, The Gilded Age, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Tramp Abroad, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, in this home.