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Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884

Edited by Leslie Myrick and Christopher Ohge

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Jane E. Kellogg to Samuel L. Clemens
31 March 1884 • New York, N.Y.
(MS: CU-MARK, UCLC 41959)

Clarendon Hotel March 31st. / 84.

Dear Mr. Clemens—

I often recall one very agreeable morning my daughter Miss Clara Louise Kellogg and myself spent with you at your pleasant home a few years since[1]—I always remember your telling us an amusing story of your being left in charge of two of your little children[2] one ^day^ during the building of an extension for flowers.[3] View Page
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You were occupied with your literary work, and quite forgot the little ones, whom you were caring for, and suddenly looked around to see where they were when you discovered them them “trotting” in with their hands full of mud and were busy building a large fortification all around the edge of your hearth

If I remember there was a good deal of work to be done to get that carpet in order before their dear Mama returned home—

As I think you can View Page
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recall our visit,—and us— May I beg the favor of your Autograph that I may never forget my visit—nor the mud fortification.

Very warmly yours

Jane E. Kellogg—

P. S. Some time when most convenient to you—yet I presume nearly all the world possess one by this limit. I know some times it is a “great bore”—but I hope you will make an exception in this case—my daughter suffers in the same manner—


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S. L. Clemens Esq. | Hartford | Conn [postmarked:] new york apr 1 6 am d 84 [docketed by SLC, in pencil:] Clara Louise Kellogg's | Mother [rule]

Explanatory Notes

1. There is no evidence in Clemens's notebooks or letters by which to date this visit. The Kellogg family had strong ties to the Hartford area. George Kellogg had been born in New Hartford, twenty miles to the northwest, and Clara Louise Kellogg retired there with her husband, Carl Strakosch, in 1877. [back]
2. This episode does not appear to have been recorded in Clemens's notebooks or letters. The Clemenses’ two oldest children were Olivia Susan, born 19 March 1872, and Clara Langdon, born 8 June 1874. Their third child, Jean, was born 26 July 1880. [back]
3. The conservatory, which the Clemens children called "The Jungle," was a glassed-in structure off the library for plants of various kinds. Work began on the Hartford house, designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter, in the spring of 1873. The Clemens family did not move into the house until the fall of 1874, after their customary summer stay in Elmira. [back]

Textual Commentary

Copy-text:MS, Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (CU-MARK).

Persons Mentioned

Clara Louise Kellogg  (1842–1916)

Soprano and musical actress Clara Louise Kellogg was considered the first American prima donna. She made her professional debut as Gilda in Rigoletto in February 1861 at the New York Academy of Music. Over the next two decades she sang in over forty roles in several languages. By the mid-1880s she was reduced to sporadic concert engagements, and retired shortly after marrying her manager, Carl Strakosch, in 1887. She died in New Hartford, Conn. She was a close friend of the Gilder family and a frequent participant in the Gilder Friday “At Home” gatherings.

Jane Elizabeth (Crosby) Kellogg  (1816–1892)

Born at Simsbury, Conn., Jane Elizabeth Crosby was the mother of Clara Louise Kellogg. She became her daughter's constant companion and manager on tour, “the sentinel that stood between her daughter and the outside world.” Harriet Prescott Spofford describes Clara's mother as “a case of suppressed genius,” who “might have made a great mark on the artistic world if she had not so forgotten and absorbed herself in her daughter” (Spofford, Our Famous Women: An Authorized Record of the Lives and Deeds of Distinguished American Women of Our Times [Hartford, Conn.: A. D. Worthington, 1884], 359–85).