January 19, 1897

Mourning Daughter Susy, Mark Twain Describes His Family as Adrift, Indifferent and Derelict - They Cannot Bear to Return to Their Hartford Home

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Reeling from the sudden death of his precious daughter Susy just four months before, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) writes that his family is as if at sea, uncharted, derelict and indifferent; and explains, in this connection, how they cannot bear to go back to their Hartford home, for it was there that Susy lived and died.
 
No member of my family has been well since our bereavement; but they keep upon their feet, & that is something… We think of seeking a place in the country in May, but we may go back to the Continent.  We are restless and unsettled.  We had a charted course: we have none now. We are derelicts - & derelicts are indifferent to what may happen. I wish we could be at home… but we cannot look upon that house yet. Eighteen years of our daughter's life were spent in it; & by blessed fortune she was visiting in the town when she was taken ill, & so was privileged to die under the roof that had sheltered her youth, with none but familiar things before her fading eyes, & with the same servants to minister to her that had served her as a child. The house is hallowed, now, but we could not bear to see it yet.

Suzy’s tragic death became the crucial event of the last fourteen years of Clemens’ life. The best of it was over.

Autograph Letter Signed (“S.L. Clemens”), 3 pages, octavo, on black-bordered mourning stationery, 23 Tedworth Square, Chelsea, [London, England], January 19, 1897. To Francis H. Skrine.

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Transcript

23 Tedworth Square
Chelsea, S.W.

Jan. 19/ 97.

My Dear Mr. Skrine:

We were very glad to hear from you, but sorry that you & Mrs. Skrine have been ill. No member of my family has been well since our bereavement; but they keep upon their feet, & that is something. I myself have been & am well.

I wish I could do something in that matter you speak of, but I am debarred by being still in exile.  I can't work it by letter, as I am not acquainted with any rich Romanists, but if I were in America I could go & hunt some up - & would.  We shall be in London a while yet, but not at the above address for very long, I suppose.  We think of seeking a place in the country in May, but we may go to the Continent.  We are restless and unsettled.  We had a charted course: we have none now. We are derelicts - & derelicts are indifferent to what may happen.

I wish we could be at home to make you welcome; but we cannot look upon that house yet. Eighteen years of our daughter's life were spent in it; & by blessed fortune she was visiting in the town when she was taken ill, & so was privileged to die under the roof that had sheltered her youth, with none but familiar things before her fading eyes, & with the same servants to minister to her that had served her as a child. The house is hallowed, now, but we could not bear to see it yet.

You must let us know if you come to England. With best regards from us both, I am

Sincerely yours,

S.L. CLEMENS