He was the greatest American literary figure ever. Vastly underrated by his countrymen as a writer of "Boys" books. He was the quintessential American...born dirt poor in the Midwest...dug for gold in California...married into the social set in New York. Lionized in Europe and welcomed at the Russian Court.
He set trends. He backed crazy inventions, like any true American did in those days, till he went broke, refusing to cheat creditors, setting off on a world tour at 60, in those days...speaking in Australia and India to earn the money to pay back every cent to every creditor. reporters used to flock to him to get his comments on any political development, or anything at all.
What I wouldn't give to have played billiards with the man in the upstairs gameroom at his home in Hartford, which I visited twice and could feel his spirit harrumphing through the place. He was a much loved speaker and to have heard his voice and watched his delivery was said to be a thing like no other.
He even crossed the arts, in sculpture no less. Once while at dinner with some friends in his home, a woman came to the door insisting to be addmitted, that she had to see Mr. Twain. She was so determined he interrupted his meal to hear her story. She was the wife of a struggling sculptor, Gustave something, who was a tool maker at the Colt Arms factory in Hartford, Connecticut. He had been posing her for a year, a full sized nude, which was in danger of collapsing for lack of money to cast it...would the kind gentleman do something to help? He did. The entire dinner party left immediately to visit the studio. Twain liked the man, his work, and paid right then to have it cast in bronze. He also paid him to make a portrait...you can see it there. In addition he sent the couple to Europe to study for three years paying all expenses. Though the guy never made it big, he did secure enough work to add his art to the world's collection.
Twain also quietly sent several gifted Blacks to college, paying all their expenses. There has never been, and never will be a man and writer like Mark Twain. He is the one who has written THE great American novel...in Huckleberry Finn. Nothing else has ever captured the full breadth and depths of the American spirit.
In other writings, especially as he grew older, he expressed his deep sadness at a significant shift he perceived in the direction this country took. He'd seen it all...born in 1834, when memories of the War of 1776 were still vivid, through Slavery to Civil War and Emancipation...and up to the Spanish American War, which for him was a great and sad turning point in American history. It marked the first time America shifted its stance from defender of liberty and the "little guy" to one which would lead to today. In that war, "Hearsts War" as many called it for it was brought on by the incessant lies he printed in the papers he owned across the country, America opposed Spain, as were the Phillipines and several other holdings...only in the end to steal the Phillipines, Puerto Rico and several other countries. In the Phillipines especially did they betray their promise, turning their guns against the Rebels who'd fought off Spain, inspired by the ideals of America, only to have America attack and kill their young leader Aguinaldo.
Twain was ashamed of America from that day forward, though he loved his country all the more. His essay "To The Person Sitting In Darkness", is a stinging dissection of American complacency, stupidity and jingoism...things he detested.
Twain received an honorary doctorate from Oxford the same year Auguste Rodin did, they met...oh how I wish to god Rodin had sculpted Mark Twain!!! I've made about five attempts to portray him and haven't gotten any of them right...looks too much like Ashurbanipal, who of course looks just like me.
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