At The Mark Twain House & Museum, Grace King, a Southern writer who was the Clemens family’s guest, helps set the table for tourist visitors. In a letter, she describes an 1887 meal: “Olives, salted almonds, and bonbons in curious dishes were on the table and decanters of quaint shape and color held the wine.” And on she goes, through the dessert.
King, author of short stories, novels, and volumes of New Orleans history, had more to say about Samuel and Livy Clemens and their family and the Hartford Yankee scene. The city’s citizens “have the contented expression of face and speech of souls assured of salvation in the next life and prosperity in this,” she wrote home to her family. Served a lesser meal by a neighbor, she describes the “little floury balls in it, highly seasoned with salt and pepper…How these people live on so little is a mystery to me.” She broadens her observations to the world, the controversies of the day, and her life as an independent woman.
The vivid correspondence of this opinionated author has now been brought out of the archives by Miki Pfeffer, independent scholar of Thibodeaux, Louisiana, who has been painstakingly transcribing King’s letters since 2004. The result is A Connecticut Author in Mark Twain’s Court: Grace King’s Court: Letters from Grace King’s New England Sojourns (LSU Press).
Pfeffer will share Grace’s wit, snark and charm in the sixth of the Mark Twain House’s virtual “Trouble at Home” series. She will be interviewed by Twain house historian Steve Courtney.
Dr. Miki Pfeffer says she agrees with the adage that “historians are people who like to read other people’s mail.” A New Orleans Author in Mark Twain’s Court grew out of research for her previous award-winning book, Southern Ladies and Suffragists, on the literary side of the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair. Dr. Pfeffer has been a Quarry Farm Fellow at Elmira College’s Center for Mark Twain Studies. Like King, she is a native of New Orleans, but she now lives serenely on Bayou Lafourche.
The online conversation takes place on Thursday, July 23 at 5:30pm EST.
Dr. Pfeffer gave a lecture for CMTS’ 2018 Fall “Trouble Begins” Lecture Series. Her talk, “Getting to Know Mark Twain through the Eyes of Grace King, a Southern Woman of Letters,” can be found HERE.
She also wrote an essay about Grace King for MarkTwainStudies.org. The essay can be found HERE.