Notes: this may be Wilbur Henry Siebert (1866-1961), History professor at Ohio State University, whose book, The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom, was published in 1902. The references Sam makes here, however, are likely of the Nov. 29 wedding of his niece, Julia Langdon.
Sam also wrote to A.H. Tyson, who was one of those who responded to the Dec. issue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine and Mark Twain’s article, “Was it Heaven? or Hell?” Tyson had suffered the same experience told in Sam’s tale, with his dead daughter even having the same name—Helen.
Yours is a heart-breaking story. I thank you for telling it to me.
I think the similarity of the two stories is very remarkable: the child’s age and quality and character; and the child’s little transgression; the laying it before the sick mother; the mother’s disease not known at the moment; the child’s acquiring it, the doctor’s reproaches; the kindly deception practiced later upon the mother to account for the child’s absence; the concealment of the poor child’s death; the pathetic forgery of her dead hand; her name—Helen—it is a marvellous chain of coincidences.
But I suppose they are only coincidences—unless you mentally telegraphed the name to me, but that I doubt. Helen is a favorite name with me and I would be likely to use it.
If I had invented my story I should say that it was all mental telegraphy. But the only thing in it that I invented were (besides the young girl’s name) the doctor’s outburst and his lecture and the dying girl’s mistaking the old aunt for her mother. My own dying daughter (26 years old)—blind the previous 3 hours, and out of her mind, rapturously embraced the maid who had tended her from childhood, and died happy, thinking she was her mother. (Her mother was in mid-Atlantic flying to herside, but destined to be too late.)
So I was merely telling a true story, just as it had been told to me by one who well knew the mother and the daughter and all the beautiful & pathetic details. I was living in the house where it had happened three years before; and I put it on paper at once, while it was still fresh in my mind and its pathos still straining at
my heartstrings [MTP: Cyril Clemens, Mark Twain: The Letter Writer 1932 p.108]. Note: See also MTB 1189-90.
Sam’s notebook: “Jean fell on the ice” [NB 45 TS 34].
Henry W. Fisher (Fischer) wrote from NY to Sam: “I would like to say something more appropriate, but can’t. So let Brisbane do the talking.” Fisher’s comment was written above a pasted clipping, entitled “One of Mankind’s Truest Benefactors,” a short, unsigned article about Sam turning 67 the previous Sunday [MTP].
Richard Watson Gilder wrote to Sam, thanking him for “a great night you gave us at the Metropolitan Club”. He enclosed a clipping notice of a book by Gouverneur Morris (b. 1876) Aladdin O’Brien (1902) “which seems to justify your interest in the lad” [MTP]. Note: See Gribben, p.486.
Howard E. Wright for the Plasmon Co. of America wrote from NY to Sam, sorry that his letter of Nov. 28 had asked for $500 when he should have asked for $5,000. He was sending under separate package Plasmon rolled wheat [MTP].
December 6 Saturday – In Riverdale, N.Y. Sam wrote to Minnie Dawson, daughter or daughter-in-law of his old Hannibal schoolmaster, J.D. Dawson:
“I thank you very much for the pictures of the cemetery and the Brittingham Building. If the water melon had landed on John Meredith’s head instead of my brother Henry’s, I doubt if Henry would have shed any tears on that account” [MTP]. Note: see Apr. 14, 1847 and Jan. 13, 1885 entries, vol. I.
Sam also wrote to Mrs. Goodwin (not otherwise identified).
As I am a little lame I will allow myself to answer you by the hand of an amanuensis. I shall be very glad to be your guest, and shall bring my pyjamas with me, but you must not tell any profane stories at dinner the
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.