Romancing Mark Twain with E.E. Burke

Livy and Sam 

The author Mark Twain is best remembered for his satire and his scathing observations about human nature. But there was another side to the man, Samuel Clemens--a romantic one. 

At age 32, Sam returned from a successful trip abroad with a new friend, Charles Langdon, who invited Sam to an outing with his family. It was late December 1867 when Sam joined the Langdons at Steinway Hall in New York City to hear Charles Dickens read from David Copperfield. The reading didn’t impress Sam, but the young woman he met certainly did. He says of his official “first meeting” with Olivia Langdon: “It made the fortune of my life--not in dollar, I am not thinking in dollars; it made the real fortune of my life in that it made the happiness of my life.”

At first, happiness wasn’t certain. With typical spontaneity, Sam popped the question soon after the first date. Livy turned him down. Crushed, though not defeated, he penned a respectful, yet ardent, letter, the first of many in their two-year courtship. Here’s an excerpt from that letter, in which he claims to accept her refusal and addresses her as “honored sister.” 

For once, at least, in the idle years that have drifted over me, I have seen the world all beautiful, & known what it was to hope. For once I have known what it was to feel my sluggish pulses stir with a living ambition. The world that was so beautiful, is dark again; the hope that shone as the sun, is gone; the brave ambition is dead. Yet I say again, it is better for me that I have loved & do love you; that with more than Eastern devotion I worship you; that I lay down all of my life that is worth the living, upon this hopeless altar where no fires of love shall descend to consume it. If you could but—

He goes on to profess friendship, but he more or less begs her to open her heart and give him a chance. She does, and after two years and many more letters, finally admits to loving him, but adds that she hopes it will pass!

Sam, undaunted, redoubles his efforts until his determination pays off. Triumphant, he writes to share the news in a letter to his friend, Joseph Twichell. Here's a brief excerpt:

Refused three times—warned to quit, once—accepted at last!—& beloved!—Great Caesar's Ghost, if there were a church in town with a steeple high enough to make an object of it, I would go out and & jump over it. And I persecuted her parents for 48 hours & at last they couldn’t stand the siege any longer & so they made a conditional surrender:—which is to say, if she makes up her mind thoroughly & eternally, & I prove that I have done nothing criminal or particularly shameful in the past, & establish a good character in the future & settle down, I may take the sun out of their domestic firmament, the angel out of their fireside heaven...
Oh, no—there isn’t any persistence about me—certainly not. But I am so happy I want to scalp somebody.

Mark Twain House, Hartford CT
Sam and Livy spent their happiest years in their romantic home in Hartford, CT.  Four years into marriage, Sam pens an endearing letter to his wife from London that ends with him imagining his return. I love to write about arriving—it seems as if it were to be tomorrow. And I love to picture myself ringing the bell, at midnight—then a pause of a second or two—then the turning of the bolt, & “Who is it?”—then ever so many kisses—then you & I in the bath-room, I drinking my cock-tail & undressing, & you standing by—then to bed, and — —everything happy & jolly as it should be. 
I do love & honor you, my darling.

Photos and letters courtesy of the Mark Twain House and Museum. Home photos by John Groo.


A "shelfie" with Mark and me 
Be my guest at Romancing Mark Twain

Join me for an exclusive online Valentine's event Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. Eastern.  I'll be appearing with Rebecca Floyd, the Director of Interpretation at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Conn., to talk about how Mark Twain inspired me to write love stories featuring his beloved characters. You'll also hear more about the true love story between Sam and Livy.

Through the technological wonder of Crowdcast, you can join us for this LIVE online discussion from the comfort of your home. Watch the program online, and, if you’d like, participate in the Q&A.

FREE digital tickets are waiting for you to claim them. All you have to do is sign up at the Mark Twain House & Museum's online event page. Select 1 "digital connection" to order your front row seat. Don't worry, you will not be charged. If you wish to make a donation to this worthy institution, you can do so, though it is not required. 

I hope you'll be there on the evening of Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. EST. (6 p.m. Central Time). 

Have you read one or both of my New Adventures books? If so, I'd love to hear what you thought about these "grown up" characters. If not, tell me which character--Tom or Huck--you think would be your favorite. 

Happy Valentine's Day!