From Neider's "Papa" introduction on, I've never seen anything more than
intriguing speculation on the relationship between Susy Clemens and Louise
Brownell; meaning nothing conclusive one way or another. Tom Tenney brought
to my attention before the Neider book was published, and, well, gee, folks,
even the doubtful among us must raise an eyebrow at the sheer intensity of
letters. But as Wes already has pointed out, some concessions must be made
"19th century vocabulary and behavior."
That doesn't add any new insight to the discussion, but did you know
Susy's friendship with Louise created a link to another great Southern
who settled in the Northeast? Louise Brownell, who taught English literature
Cornell, married Dr. Arthur Percy Saunders in 1901. She named her second
daughter Olivia, and Susy's full name was, of course, Olivia Susan Clemens.
How's that for intriguing? Known as Via, Olivia Saunders became the first
of Tennessee native James Agee, whose works included acclaimed novels ("A
in the Family" and "The Morning Watch"), poetry ("Permit Me Voyage"),
("Let Us Now Praise Famous Men"), film criticism ("Agee on Film") and
screenplays ("The African Queen" and "The Night of the Hunter"). Impressive
a writer who only lived to be 45. He was posthumously award the Pulitzer
for "A Death in the Family." Via was interviewed at great length for
filmmaker Ross Spears' Oscar-nominated biography, "Agee." She gave no
of knowing that she may have been named for Mark Twain's daughter (who was
for Mark Twain's wife). And Ross and other Agee scholars I've known have
unaware of the Twain connection.
None of that is helpful, I'm sure, but there you go, trivia buffs: a few
more scraps for the intrigue pile.