The elaborate Victorian Gothic style home built by Samuel Clemens (who wrote under the penname, Mark Twain) and his wife Olivia still stands on Farmington Avenue in downtown Hartford, CT – once the national hub of the publishing industry. Now known as the Mark Twain House and Museum, the building has been restored and furnished to closely resemble the nineteenth century living quarters of the Mark Twain family. For writers, what could be more motivating than to wander the same halls, sit in the same library, and look across the same writing desk as Mark Twain – the most famous American writer and literary icon?
The House and Adjacent Museum Give Full Account of Mark Twain’s Life
No expense was spared when Samuel and Olivia Clemens built the house in 1874. Nineteen rooms on three floors with elaborate woodwork, Tiffany glass, hand-painted walls, and imported furniture made it a showplace in its day. It was in this home that he raised his family and wrote his most famous works including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, and Life on the Mississippi. And it was in this home that Mark Twain spent the happiest years of his life.
Twain once wrote in a letter to a friend, “To us our house was not unsentient matter–it had a heart and a soul and eyes to see us with, and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome … and we could not enter it unmoved.”
Most people are not aware that Mark Twain went bankrupt after most of his famous works were written and published. His beautiful home in Hartford was eventually sold at auction, as was the furniture and most of the contents. A non-profit group later purchased the home and was able to buy up most of the original furniture or comparable reproductions. This group has opened the home – now known as the Mark Twain House and Museum to the public allowing travelers to see the famous Hartford home looking much as it did in the author’s time.
Additionally, there is a museum and visitor’s center located on the property with artifacts and interpretive displays detailing the remarkable life of this great American author. Mark Twain quotes are etched on the walls throughout the museum reminding the visitor that Twain is one of the most quoted authors worldwide. While waiting for the guided tour of the house to begin, visitors can view a 20 minute excerpt from the film Mark Twain directed by Ken Burns, browse the museum exhibits or shop in the gift store.
Writers Vicariously Experience Mark Twain’s Writing Life
Original manuscripts, letters, photos and writing implements of Mark Twain are on display at the museum. Visitors enter a veritable time warp as they enter the house restored to it original grandeur with most of the furniture recovered including the Twain writing desk and his famous bed from where he wrote much of his work in later years. The personal affects and home space of the author and his family get the imagination of any writing enthusiast going.
Mark Twain’s study – or writing studio was on the third floor, quietly located away from the buzz of his busy young family. The room includes two balconies, a pool table, writing desk, book cases, pipes and manly art on the walls. The room is well lit by windows on two outside walls and a walk-out balcony where Twain could step out, have a smoke and survey the surrounding landscape. To be in the room where the master worked, and created a significant chunk of American literary history, one almost loses a sense of time. Twain’s presence permeates the space. What a sanctuary to foster creativity!
Whose Ghost is Haunting the Mark Twain House?
Evidently, some feel Mark Twain’s presence is very real in the house. The cable television series, Ghost Hunters investigated the Mark Twain House, and the findings will be aired on December 2nd at 9:00 pm on the SyFy Channel.
The investigation was done in September of 2009 and was conducted in partnership with the Connecticut Science Center. Staffers in the Mark Twain House have mentioned seeing the apparition of a woman in Victorian dress walking about the house. Others claim to have seen Twain’s oldest daughter Suzy. Suzy was Twain’s favorite and died in the house at a young age when the rest of the Mark Twain family was living in Europe.
Writers Gain Inspiration from the Palpable Twain Presence
When visiting the Mark Twain House, a personal tour guide takes you room by room covering all three floors and the servant quarters. The guides have a remarkable knowledge of the Clemens family, how they lived, where much of the furniture was purchased and details of the architecture. The recreation of the home as it was in Mark Twain’s time has allowed a strong presence of the author to emerge. There is a well of deep inspiration any writer can draw from while making a visit – or rather a pilgrimage to the Mark Twain House.
To capitalize on the literary visitor draw, the Mark Twain House will provide tours just for writers upon request. Literary groups can also hold writing classes and conduct conferences in the Visitor center. For any writer who suffers from writers block, or has a hankering for a jolt of inspiration, a day trip to Hartford to visit the Mark Twain House would be a worthwhile venture sure to brighten the mundane blahs of a writer seeking purpose.