Mr. Smith will tell you something about the affairs , because to day he will call on you” [MTP].
March 18 Friday – The New York Times, Apr. 10, 1904, ran an anonymous feature datelined Mar. 18, 1904 from Florence:
MARK TWAIN TO REFORM
THE LANGUAGE OF ITALY
He Tells His Neighbors in Florence of His Proposal to Furnish
the Government with a Standard Grammar.
Special Correspondence THE NEW YORK TIMES.
FLORENCE, Italy, March 18.—Outside the Prato Gate, in the flat part of the Arno Valley, only approached by traversing some of the slums and workmen’s quarters of Florence, on a slight rise of the ground stands the so-called royal villa of Quarto. It acquired this title of “royal” from the fact that it was for a while owned by the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, who bought it and enlarged and embellished it, though in so doing she deprived it of its medieval character, for it was originally a stately fifteenth century pile. The gardens, too, have been modernized in the manner Mrs. Edith Wharton so justly condemns in her articles on Italian villa gardens.
Nevertheless, despite these defects, it is a stately pile, with room to turn about in both inside and out of the house. This is the place that was taken for Mark Twain upon his second visit to the City of Flowers. Its latest inhabitant, before the present owner, who is an American, was the King of Wurtemberg, who spoiled a number of good rooms to build a fine stairway, and so there is not, perhaps, quite so much room as Mark Twain and his family require. But for the moment they are located. As to the large amount of room required by this small family, Mark Twain tells a funny, long-winded tale.
It seems while still out West he knew a family of the name of Morley. This family numbered some twenty or more of direct descendants only. As time wore on they married and multiplied until the family took on formidable proportions. Of each member of this huge tribe Mark tells all the life history before he reaches his point, which is that it is his fixed purpose to invite them to join him in Florence, and look out for a villa big enough to harbor them all. When that is found, he will bid them go their way, and he doubts whether the villa even then will suffice the needs of the Clemens family.
The Return of the Humorist.
It was in November last that Mark Twain came back among us after an eleven years absence, but through circumstances I did not go out to call till early February. I found him looking well, and not at all changed, if anything looking stronger. Of course I welcomed him back to the fair land.
“And how do you like Italy again after your long absence from here?” I asked.
“Oh, Italy is right enough. The best country in the world to live in. Perhaps England runs it rather close, but here all is quiet, town and country alike. In England there is always London with its great unquiet pulse.”
“And the Italians?”
“Right enough, too. I love to watch them, and to study their gestures and their ways. That is why I do not object to the slow pace of our horses, like my daughter there, even if they do take a time to land us in town.”
“And the language?” I asked, vividly remembering an incident that occurred when he was last here.
It was this. One day Mark returned home to Settignano, where the family then had a villa. To the horror of his wife, his beautiful white mane was cropped close to his head, after the manner of Italians in the Summer. When asked to account for this mutilation, he explained in his comic way that he had resorted to this as a forlorn hope, a last desperate effort to learn the Italian language. He had, he said, slept for weeks in vain with an Italian dictionary under his pillow. Finally, it occurred to him to watch the natives and see if he could catch any peculiarity of theirs that might account for their capacity to master the language. Then he noticed that their heads were all as smooth as billiard balls. Who knew whether the secret did not reside there? Perchance his heavy crop prevented the tongue from filtering through. So he went straight to a barber, with this result. However, this drastic measure does not seem to have proved successful, for he expresses himself as much as ever at sea with the tongue.
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.