“Mark Twain’s Summer Home” – An Article from the NEW YORK TIMES (9/10/1882)

Editor’s Note: The following is an article that appeared in the NEW YORK TIMES on September 10, 1882. Thanks to Scott Holmes for bringing this to the attention of CMTS.

Mark Twain’s Summer Home

A Visit to his House and Study in the Suburbs of Elmira

Elmira, N.Y. – Correspondence Louisville Courier Journal

Quarry Farm c.1875

The Summer residence of Mr. Clemens is acknowledged to be in the vicinity of Elmira notwithstanding he has a house or two in other parts of the United States. His place is known as “Quarry Farm,” which is also the residence of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Theodore Crane, and is situated about two miles away from the business portion of the city, on an eminence known as “East Hill.” The funny man’s house is reached from the city by a winding road which is steep, very steep, and at times a really dangerous driveway. We go thither in a coupe, drawn by two large horses, to whom the task of climbing seems an unfamiliar one. Up and still up, and after an exciting dash up the hillside we see the house in the distance and handkerchiefs flutter from the veranda. A few moments later I alight from the coupe and am seated in a huge easy chair with the members of Mark Twain’s family on every side.

The house, an elegantly built and furnished structure, has an abundance of windows and glass doors on the south side, so that from within, the lovely scenery in the valley below is plainly visible. An arched carriageway connects with the veranda, and the whole is protected from glare and heat by vines and awnings so as not to obstruct the view. In front of the house and beyond, in place of the pretty lawn, is a huge field of oats, which completely shrouds the brow of the hill and with its undulating surface softens and disguises and abruptness or roughness which there might otherwise be in the foreground.

Parlor at Quarry Farm, c.1890.

The house throughout is furnished in an elegant and costly manner. Divans, Persian rugs, easy chairs, books, statuary, articles of virtu and bric-a-brac are on every side, and the whole has the appearance of a place where one could dream his life away. Mr. Clemens retires to his study every morning after breakfast and writes steadily until 4 in the afternoon. He does all his own work, and employs neither secretary nor amanuensis. He has become quite proficient in the use of the type writer, and utilizes that instrument in attending to his correspondence. During the past few weeks he has been somewhat annoyed by visitors and sight-seers. One day in the week and this happens to be the very day the genial humorist seeks repose and rest by going down to the city, meeting some of his friends, indulging in a hotel dinner and several games of billiards. This is what he calls rest from his literary labors. Owing to his absence we have an opportunity of peeping into his sanctum sanctorum. The visitor finds the humorists study higher up the hill, in the rear of the house, and screened by vines and evergreens.

Mark Twain writing in the Study, c.1885

It is a small octagonal building, containing but a single room. Here the humorist does the greater portion of his Summer’s work, and here fro eight Summers Mark Twain has worked industriously, for, notwithstanding that he has been called indolent, he is the most indefatigable worker. To keep away the large number of sight-seers who come up the big hill to his sanctum, Twain has posted on the door the following novel sign: “Step Softly; Keep Away; Do not Disturb the Remains;” In spite of this characteristic warning we open the door and enter. The floor is bare, and has across one corner some pages of manuscript and scraps of newspaper articles pinned to it to prevent dispersion by the wind. There is a table in the centre of the room, covered with books, pamphlets, newspapers, manuscripts, and all the paraphernalia of authorship. On one side is a comfortable looking lounge, somewhat soiled by use, and over the the fireplace is a shelf, on which rests a few books and a couple boxes of choice cigars. That is all except a pervasive odor of smoke.

The 5 o’clock dinner hour brings Mark Twain up from the city and he joins his family in the parlor. He is now 47 years of age, with iron gray hair, cut rather short, and mustache of the same color. He is of medium height, inclining to portliness, has a small, black, piercing eye, and a rather aquiline nose. He is pleasant in his manner, and talks when he has anything to say, but has a particular horror of people who expect to he entertained by witty remarks and especially of some who seem to think that they must talk nothing but nonsense in his presence. He is remarkably domestic is his tastes, and is blessed with a very lovely wife and three beautiful daughters. Mrs. Clemens is a slender, graceful lady of rare beauty, genial, chatty, and charming. She is the daughter of the late J. Langdon, of Elmira.

New York Times (September 10, 1882)