Hartford House Hosts Conversation about Mark Twain’s Granddaughter

One of the sad stories that accompanies the tale of Mark Twain comes in the aftermath of his life– the tale of the granddaughter he never knew, Nina Gabrilowitsch, who died in 1965 after battling severe addiction problems for years. Nina was the daughter of Clara Clemens, the only child to survive her father.

Nina Gabrilowitsch, from the Mark Twain House and Museum

Independent scholar Alan Rankin, learned of Gabrilowitsch in a roundabout way: In 1992, a friend inherited the 1924 diary of a 13-year-old girl, and though Rankin was charmed and fascinated by the life portrayed in it, he didn’t make the connection to the Clemens family until much later. Rankin has written an extensive essay about his journey learning about Nina Gabrilowitsch for the Center for Mark Twain Studies.

On Thursday, June 25, at 5:30 p.m., Rankin will be interviewed by Steve Courtney, Mark Twain House & Museum historian, as part of the online “Trouble at Home” series. The series maintains the insight, flavor and humor of “The Trouble Begins at 5:30,” the museum’s decade-long lecture series.

Rankin is working on a book focusing on Gabrilowitsch’s life in the 1920s, which he calls an “overlooked and generally happy period in the lives of the surviving Clemens family.” He sees Gabrilowitsch as worthy of study in her own right: “Her charming, literate teen diaries reveal the lasting impact of Samuel Clemens on the daily lives of those who survived him.”

Alan Rankin

A lifelong writer, Rankin has worked at various times as a journalist, reviewer, online content creator, and copy editor. He currently writes a biographical column for Renaissance magazine. He presented his work on Gabrilowitsch at the 2019 Clemens Conference in Hannibal, Missouri, and he is a 2020 Quarry Farm Fellow at the Center for Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, New York.

This program is free to attend, though while registering for the event, the Mark Twain House and Museum hopes registrants will consider contributing what they would call a fair ticket price.  Register here!

Hartford House Host Conversation with Historical Impersonator of Susy Clemens, Next Conversation Scheduled

Grace DiModugno as Susy Clemens

The story of Olivia Susan Clemens is an important one in Samuel Clemens’s — Mark Twain’s — life. “Susy,” the eldest of his and Livy Clemens’s daughters, early on showed talent for writing, drama, and music. “Like other children she was blithe and happy, full of play,” her father wrote, “unlike other the other average of children she was at times much given to retiring within herself and trying to search out the hidden meanings of deep things that make the puzzle and pathos of human existence.” Her death in her 20s was a deeply tragic moment for the family.

The Living History program at The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut features several historical interpreters who play the role of Susy in her teens — an earlier and happier time, when the family lived in the Hartford house. Among these is historian and actress Grace DiModugno.

Like all the house’s interpreters, DiModugno has been rigorously trained in Twainian matters, along with the skills particular to her role as Susy. On Thursday, May 28th, at 5:30 p.m. she was the second interviewee in “Trouble at Home,” the online series that, for the moment, is taking on the role of the museum’s beloved 10-year-old series “The Trouble Begins at 5:30.” (The series title plays off Twain’s own lecture posters, which advertised “The Trouble Begins at Eight.”)

DiModugno graduated from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, in 2018. Her degree is in both English and History. She is currently employed at both The Mark Twain House & Museum and the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co. Of her Living History role, she says, “I find it a fantastic experience to combine both my love of history and my love of acting.” She was interviewed by Mark Twain House historian and founder of the “Trouble Begins” series Steve Courtney.

The next event, on Thursday, June 11, at 5;30 p.m. EDT, takes on the tale of Twain’s interest in spiritualism, as Steve Courntey chats with two people who have lectured together extensively on that subject and others: Mallory Howard, our Assistant Curator, who organized an important exhibition at the Hartford House on the subject a few  years back; and Jason Scappaticci, a local educator and historian.