Deaths never came singly in the Clemens family. It was on the 11th of December, 1897, something more than a year after the death of Susy, that Orion Clemens died, at the age of seventy-two. Orion had remained the same to the end, sensitively concerned as to all his brother’s doings, his fortunes and misfortunes: soaring into the clouds when any good news came; indignant, eager to lend help and advice in the hour of defeat; loyal, upright, and generally loved by those who knew and understood his gentle nature. He had not been ill, and, in fact, only a few days before he died [Nov. 30] had written a fine congratulatory letter on his brother’s success in accumulating means for the payment of his debts, entering enthusiastically into some literary plans which Mark Twain then had in prospect, offering himself for caricature if needed [MTB 1052].
A cable was sent to the Clemens family in Vienna, Austria. At 9:30 p.m. Sam sent a cable of sympathy (not extant). At 10 p.m. Sam wrote to Mollie Clemens, now a widow. He noted the cable was now in Mollie’s hands, in what was a “wintry mid-afternoon of the heaviest day” she had known since her daughter Jennie Clemens died, 33 years before, “& we were too ignorant to rejoice at it.”
We all grieve for you; our sympathy goes out to you from the experienced hearts; & with it our love; & with Orion, & for Orion, I rejoice. He has received life’s best gift.
He was good—all good, and sound; there was nothing bad in him, nothing base, nor any unkindness. It was unjust that such a man, against whom no offence could be charged, should have been sentenced to live 72 years. It was beautiful, the patience with which he bore it [MTP].
Sam also wrote to Franklin G. Whitmore in Hartford.
“My brother Orion died to-day in Keokuk. Please send to Mrs. Orion Clemens $50 extra when you receive this, because of her heavy immediate expenses.
“Continue to send her the usual $50 per month upon the usual date.”
He then asked how things were; he hadn’t received a statement “for a while.” The family was settled in the hotel for the winter and liked it; they couldn’t find a furnished flat [MTP].
The London Academy ran an anonymous review of More Tramps Abroad, (FE): “a good-humoured, instructive, entertaining, careless, ill-considered, and rather disappointing book” [Tenney 25].
Speaker p. 671 also reviewed More Tramps Abroad, ( FE). From Tenney: “A disappointing book, though ‘distinctly worth reading,’ it contains prosy and labored sections as well as some good specimens of MT’s humor and some ‘quick witted an caustic social judgments’” .
December 11 after – Samuel E. Moffett, now in N.Y. on the staff of Hearst’s N.Y. Journal, wrote to Sam and Livy, the letter not extant but referred to in Livy’s reply of Jan. 6, 1898. From her response it is clear that Moffett wrote of Orion’s death, and of the Reichsrath disturbances of November. See Livy’s reply.
December 12 Sunday – In Vienna, Austria Sam wrote an aphorism to an unidentified person: “The
proper proportions of a maxim: a minimum of sound to a maximum of sense. Truly yours, Mark Twain. Vienna,
Dec. 12/97” [MTP: Philip C. Duschnes catalog].
December 13 Monday – The New York World ran an article, “Mark Twain in Vienna” p.6, that contained Sam’s reply to the question, had he ever seen the like of this Austrian parliament?
“Not quite!” said Mark Twain. “A scene I witnessed in America once was what approached it most nearly. It was when one gentleman had gone off on another gentleman’s horse—by mistake—and was caught and
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.