Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
One day in late 1906, seventy-one-year-old Mark Twain attended a meeting on copyright law at the Library of Congress. The arrival of the famous author caused the usual stir—but then Twain took off his overcoat to reveal a "snow-white" tailored suit and scandalized the room. His shocking outfit appalled and delighted his contemporaries, but far more than that, as Pulitzer Prize finalist Michael Shelden shows in this wonderful new biography, Twain had brilliantly staged this act of showmanship to cement his image, and his personal legend, in the public's imagination. That afternoon in Washington, less than four years before his death, marked the beginning of a vibrant, tumultuous period in Twain's life that would shape much of the now-famous image by which he has come to be known—America's indomitable icon, the Man in White.
Although Mark Twain has long been one of our most beloved literary figures—Time magazine has declared him "our original superstar"—his final years have been largely misunderstood. Despite family tragedies, Twain's last half- decade was among the most dynamic periods in the author's life. With the spirit and vigor of a man fifty years younger, he continued to stir up trouble, perfecting his skill for living large. Writing ceaselessly and always ready with one of his legendary quips, Twain would risk his fortune, become the willing victim of a lost-at-sea hoax, and pick fights with King Leopold of Belgium and Mary Baker Eddy.
Drawing on a number of unpublished sources, including Twain's own journals, letters, and a revealing four-hundred-page personal account kept under wraps for decades (and still yet to be published), Mark Twain: Man in White brings the legendary author's twilight years vividly to life, offering surprising insights, including an intimate, tender look at his family life. Filled with first-rate scholarship, rare and never-published Twain photos, delightful anecdotes, and memorable quotes, including numerous recovered Twainisms, this definitive biography of Twain's last years provides a remarkable portrait of the man himself and of the unforgettable era in American letters that, in many ways, he helped to create.
Vegas. He took their cash and ran, but they named the county after him anyway. Back East, he tried to buy respectability by lavishing money on his collection of paintings and rare books, and by building a home in Manhattan that was grander than anyone else’s. His 121-room mansion on Fifth Avenue and East Seventy-seventh Street was still under construction when Twain dined with him, but it was already the talk of the town. Some people were impressed, but others ridiculed it as a crude monstrosity.
where she became a pupil of one of the great piano teachers of the period, Theodor Leschetizky. She was twenty-three at the time, Vienna was dazzling in all its fin-de-siècle glamour, and her father’s reputation in Austria was so high that everyone treated her family like royalty. But in her struggles to prove herself as a musician, she was easily discouraged. In less than a year she lost patience and gave up the piano. She suddenly announced one day that she wanted to become a singer instead.
to her, but to many others, including his friends and even to the New York Times . After interviewing him for their Sunday feature, the paper referred specifically to Jean’s illness, which the family rarely mentioned publicly. “Mr. Clemens’s younger daughter is an invalid much of the time, and the site of the house … was chosen so that the author might give his family a permanent home for both Summer and Winter that would be accessible from New York. Added to this motive was Mark Twain’s ambition
himself in some way, she regretted not being able to keep him under her watchful eye. “When the King is on the ocean there is anxiety,” she noted solemnly in her journal; “but there is more anxiety of another kind when he is on land. … He ‘scares us to death,’ with his inclination for the unconventional.”10 As his companion and assistant for the trip, Twain chose a young man of thirty-two who was a relative newcomer to his circle. Ralph Ashcroft had known the author for only a few years, and
them, gentlemen,” he had said, “cords of them.”10 It is astonishing how much damage was done by Heinze, Barney, and their associates. They undermined faith not only in New York banks, but in the economy itself. The few weeks of uncertainty and confusion were enough to create a national business slowdown that would last for months. Their scheme also laid bare some of the worst aspects of the buccaneer capitalism that Rogers represented. Though the Standard Oil millionaire liked to think that his