- Historic Sites
Mark Twain In Hartford: The Happy Years
December 1959 | Volume 11, Issue 1
It was voted at dinner that the company would not disband until the genial morn appeared, and that there should be at midnight a wassail brewed. The rosy apples roasted at the open fire, the wine and sugar added, and the ale—but at this point Mrs. Clemens said, “Youth, we have no ale.” There was a rapid exit by Mr. Clemens, who reappeared in a moment in his historic sealskin coat and cap, but still wearing his lowcut evening shoes. He said he wanted a walk, and was going to the village for the ale, and should shortly return with the ingredient. Deaf, absolutely deaf, to Mrs. Clemens’s earnest voice, that he should at least wear overshoes that snowy night, he disappeared. In an incredibly short time he reappeared, excited and hilarious, with his rapid walk in the frosty air—very wet shoes, and no cap. …
Mr. Clemens was sent for George, with Mrs. Clemens’s instructions that George should carefully retrace Mr. Clemens’s footsteps in the quest for the mislaid cap, and also to see that Mr. Clemens put on dry shoes. When the culprit returned, the wet low shoes had been exchanged for a pair of white cowskin slippers, with the hair outside, and clothed in them, with most sober and smileless face, he twisted his angular body into all the strange contortions known to the dancing darkies of the South. In this wise the last day of the joyous, jubilant visit came to the close. Untroubled by the flight of time I can still hear a soft and gentle tone, “Youth, O Youth!” for so she always called him.
Clara describes their Christmas celebrations:
When Christmas Eve arrived at last, we children hung up our stockings in the schoolroom next to our nursery, and did it with great ceremony. Mother always recited the thrilling little poem, “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,” etc. Father sometimes dressed up as Santa Claus and, after running about a dimly lighted room (we always turned the gas down low), trying to warm himself after the cold drive through the snow, he sat down and told some of his experiences on the way.
In a letter written to Susy on Christmas morning, Twain played Santa Claus:
Palace of St. Nicholas in the Moon Christmas Morning
My Dear Susie Clemens:
I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands—for although you did not use any characters that are in grown peoples’ alphabet, you use the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister’s jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters—I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself—and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children. …
There was a word or two in your mama’s letter which I couldn’t be certain of. I took it to be “trunk full of doll’s clothes.” Is that it? I will call at your kitchen door about nine o’clock this morning to inquire. But I must not see anybody and I must not speak to anybody but you. When the kitchen door bell rings George must be blindfolded and sent to open the door. Then he must go back to the dining-room or the china closet and take the cook with him. You must tell George he must walk on tiptoe and not speak—otherwise he will die some day. Then you must go up to the nursery and stand on a chair or the nurse’s bed and put your ear to the speaking-tube that leads down to the kitchen and when I whistle through it you must speak in the tube and say, “Welcome, Santa Claus!” Then I will ask whether it was a trunk you ordered or not. If you say it was, I shall ask what color you want the trunk to be. Your mama will help you to name a nice color and then you must tell me every single thing in detail which you want the trunk to contain. … Then you must go down into the library and make George close all the doors that open into the main hall, and everybody must keep still for a little while. I will go to the moon and get those things …
Your loving SANTA CLAUS
Mark Twain, Businessman
In 1885, Twain was fifty. Paine summarized his position: