Having read the review of "The Twain Shall Meet," I am certainly intrigued
by the possibility of a living Twain descendant and eagerly await
additional evidence that will seal the verdict in this developing case.
While reading it, however, I couldn't help noting that, should the mystery
be solved, Kevin MacDonnell will have played a significant role in its
solution. Does anyone else see a pattern here?? First, Kevin produces the
first piece of real evidence bearing on the question of Clemens' adoption
of the "Mark Twain" moniker, presented at last year's Elmira conference and
published in the Mark Twain Journal. Then, he treats us to a
cogently-argued explanation of the probable cause of Charley Webster's
demise in a subsequent issue of the Mark Twain Journal. What's next?- Is
Kevin about to produce the missing copy of Orion's manuscript,
"Autobiography of a Damned Fool?" Will we then learn about additional
descendants, and the real reason Twain absquatulated from California and
headed east in 1866? Inquiring minds want to know.
Who is this Kevin "MacDonnell" anyway?
Just a thought.
Martin Zehr, Kansas City
On Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 2:32 PM, Kevin Bochynski <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> BOOK REVIEW
> _The Twain Shall Meet: The Mysterious Legacy of Samuel L. Clemens'
> Granddaughter, Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch_. By Susan Madeline Bailey and
> Deborah Lynn Gosselin. Self-published, 2014. Pp. 352. Paperback. $14.99.
> ISBN-10: 1499799497. ISBN-13: 978-1499799491.
> Many books reviewed on the Mark Twain Forum are available at discounted
> prices from the Twain Web Bookstore. Purchases from this site generate
> commissions that benefit the Mark Twain Project. Please visit
> Reviewed for the Mark Twain Forum by:
> Taylor Roberts
> Copyright (c) 2014 Mark Twain Forum. This review may not be published or
> redistributed in any medium without permission.
> I wonder which publishers declined the opportunity to work on this project
> and sell a film option? Possibly they felt it was 'wildcat speculation', as
> Mark Twain did in 1877 when he refused a chance to invest in Alexander
> Graham Bell's new invention.
> _The Twain Shall Meet_ is the most amazing event in Twainiana since the
> discovery of the first half of the manuscript of _Adventures of Huckleberry
> Finn_ in a Hollywood attic in 1991 after it had been missing for more than
> century. Mark Twain's last descendant has long been thought to have been
> only grandchild, Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch, who died in 1966. Now,
> 77-year-old Susan Bailey of South Carolina has stepped forward with a
> convincing claim that she is Nina's daughter, delivered secretly in Europe
> around January 1937.
> DNA tests to date have been promising, and conclusive results are within
> reach. Kevin Mac Donnell--the generous Mark Twain scholar and collector,
> has items from Clara Clemens' estate, including letters and
> photographs--stepped forward this week with an offer to donate envelope
> flaps and postage stamps for additional DNA testing. Susan Bailey has
> accepted the offer, and they are hoping that a specialized lab that
> such items will be able to resolve this important historical question.
> Even if a revised edition of _The Twain Shall Meet_ is never prepared, a
> complementary article in a journal of genetic science would put Bailey and
> Gosselin's claim on a pedestal that could not be toppled, which in turn
> would make the authors' research all the more remarkable, in that they
> have ascertained an unexpected conclusion by inference from brilliant
> The possibility that Samuel Clemens may have descendants alive today will
> understandably annoy many Twain enthusiasts who are regularly beset by
> acquaintances claiming to be 'descendants of Mark Twain,' just as they are
> assailed by quotations wrongly attributed to him. Since 1966, granddaughter
> Nina was sole, incomparable, the terminus of the descendants of Samuel
> Clemens, and for all the troubles she may have faced in her own life, she
> made ours easier in being able to dismiss such claims quickly.
> Anyone who writes a book like this had better be brave--and right.
> Co-authors Susan Bailey and Deborah Gosselin know they face a hard
> and they have met the challenge well.
> _ The Twain Shall Meet_ comprises distinct parts that can be evaluated
> separately. Its strongest contribution is the biography of Nina Clemens
> Gabrilowitsch, which has never been given in such detail. The main sources
> of information are Nina's diaries from 1921-1941, which are held by Brigham
> Young University; correspondence and photos from a box of Nina's personal
> effects held by the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford; as well as
> correspondence that the authors have tracked down among descendants of
> friends of Nina. While Caroline Harnsberger's _Mark Twain's Clara_ (1982)
> solidified the stereotype of Nina as a failure, in which Twainians have
> lazily complicit--unable to achieve success as an actor, and hospitalized
> regularly for mental illness and alcoholism--Bailey and Gosselin use their
> sources to humanize Nina, explaining why the granddaughter of America's
> famous author ended up the way she did.
> Considering how accustomed we have become over almost half a century to
> regard Nina as Mark Twain's last descendant, the most shocking revelation
> _The Twain Shall Meet_ may be that Nina was sexually active, likely
> pregnant on more than one occasion, and probably delivering at least one
> child. Chapters 39-40 are the most important in making the case that her
> first pregnancy occurred shortly after cancer struck her father, Ossip
> Gabrilowitsch, pianist and conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
> apparently had a brief relationship with author Bailey's father, Elwood, an
> already married friend of a friend who was acquainted with the
> Clemens/Gabrilowitsch family, visiting Detroit from Tampa, and who himself
> was facing the imminent death of his mother. Just as Clara Clemens had been
> pregnant with Nina for about five months at the time of her father's death
> in 1910, Bailey and Gosselin argue persuasively that so too was Nina, then
> 26, pregnant when her father Ossip died in September 1936.
> Clara and Nina apparently did not attend the funeral service for Ossip in
> Detroit nor his burial in Elmira. This behaviour was distinctly out of
> character for socially conscious Clara. When her father had died in 1910,
> for example, Clara attended both the service in New York City and the
> in Elmira.
> Unfortunately for Nina, her child had been conceived outside of marriage,
> which at that time was considered to be a dishonour for the woman's
> family--magnified a hundred times for the daughter of Mark Twain, whose
> image his late-Victorian daughter Clara had spent her entire life
> protecting, refusing to publish _Letters from the Earth_, for example,
> more than half a century after her father had died. My own genealogical
> research of ordinary families in the 1920s and 1930s has uncovered more
> one young unwed mother being quickly married to a man who was not the
> biological father.
> _The Twain Shall Meet_ proposes events that are well reasoned, credible,
> have precedents. But skeptical readers who, perhaps like Clara, prefer not
> to imagine how Nina could have allowed it to happen, should adopt a form of
> counterfactual questioning that historian Niall Ferguson advocates for
> historians wanting "to recapture the uncertainty of decision-makers in the
> past" and to assess whether they made the best decisions.
> The first question obviously has an affirmative answer: "Is it possible
> a young woman in her 20s, who attended late-night bohemian parties with
> alcohol during her college years in New York during an era of increasing
> freedom for single women but inadequate birth control, might become
> _The Twain Shall Meet_ is essentially a masterful answer to the more
> interesting question: "What would happen if someone like Nina Clemens
> Gabrilowitsch, the unwed, only daughter of socially prominent parents in
> 1930s and the granddaughter of a famous author, were to become pregnant by
> married man who had since returned to his own city, when she herself was
> emotionally and financially unable to look after the child?" Even if one
> only considers the question hypothetically, the explanations offered by
> Bailey and Gosselin are not only highly plausible, but they render far less
> puzzling the unusual real-life actions of Clara and Nina following the
> of Ossip.
> Only five days after Ossip's death, they were en route for Chicago, the
> beginning of a month-long trip that took them to St. Louis, San Antonio,
> Mexico City, and ultimately to Europe a month later, after they had
> requested "emergency" passports. Letters written by both Clara and Nina
> during this period are filled with cryptic and ominous comments. Nina had
> "no conception of what really lay ahead," while her mother writes to
> siblings in Europe that "it was difficult to delay our coming at this
> point." One of Nina's friends tells her "he was afraid this trip of ours
> going to be an ordeal, and it was all wrong....Take care of yourself and
> keep your soul." In December, Nina stated in her diary that she had "wrote
> letter to child" with quotes from a letter she had received from a
> boyfriend. While such a statement does not reveal Nina's meaning literally,
> the astute reader will guess its meaning not from unlimited possibilities
> but rather from a narrower range of reasonable options.
> Equally revealing is not only what was said, but what was omitted. Having
> kept her diary almost every day since was eleven years old, its early pages
> especially are filled with details. Bailey and Gosselin themselves describe
> such early pages as 'boring'. But Nina also admitted in her diary to a
> practice of revising or destroying passages that concerned troubling
> of her life. Intriguingly, Nina's diary, so diligently kept even for
> details, appears to be silent and/or missing during the exact periods of
> possible conception (April 1936) and birth (January 1937) of a child.
> Among Nina's effects preserved at Hartford is a late-1930s photo of Nina in
> a dark, unusual pose with a man whom co-author Bailey says is her father.
> Another photo shows a woman, apparently Nina, with a baby. The photo is
> unusual because it shows the woman only from behind (her face is not
> visible) leaning toward a baby on the couch, whose face is visible. Whoever
> the baby may be, Nina apparently kept the photo until she died, suggesting
> that the child had importance to Nina.
> Many more arguments are cited by Bailey and Gosselin, but this review does
> not want to give everything away and spoil your pleasure in reading the
> book. Considered singly, any oddity can be dismissed, but there are so many
> that, taken together, they demonstrate powerfully that Clara and Nina were
> hiding something scandalous after Ossip's death.
> If one accepts the possibility that Nina had a child during this time, her
> later behaviour also becomes less puzzling. While many Mark Twain
> enthusiasts have satisfied themselves with the easy answer that Nina was
> simply alcoholic or mentally ill, whether by personal failing or by an
> unfortunate quirk of nature (or by the stress of having to live as an only
> child with famous and busy parents, raised by a governess and chauffeur),
> the likelihood that Nina had been forced by her mother to give up a baby
> would have been a sufficiently traumatic event to trigger her extreme
> behaviours (excessive drinking and sexual relations with inappropriate
> partners) and the episodes of institutionalization that followed this
> period. The son of Nina's last companion, George Wrentmore, also confirmed
> to Bailey and Gosselin that he was aware of a rumour that the loss of a
> child of Nina "supposedly was why she drank."
> By 1953, a psychiatrist at Camarillo State Mental Hospital stated that
> "Nina's hatred for her mother was well-established" (p. 222). There is
> evidence from Nina's diary that although Clara may have seemed a distant
> mother due to her and Ossip's busy schedules, their relationship was
> relatively good. An extreme emotion like 'hatred' may have emerged after a
> trauma. Had the event been as simple as Clara withholding money, it would
> have been stated clearly for posterity, just as such dirty laundry was
> when Nina contested Clara's will, which bequeathed most of her estate to
> second husband Jacques Samossoud.
> Whatever triggered the hatred had happened years earlier--before Clara
> disinherited Nina in 1958 in favour of Samossoud's friend William Seiler as
> contingent beneficiary--was never stated. _The Twain Shall Meet_ is
> therefore a shocking but persuasive answer to the question that has to
> arise: "Given these people and the period in which they lived, what kind of
> unspoken action(s) could have triggered intense hatred and mental illness?"
> The claim that Nina had at least one child is well argued. The related, but
> separate, assertion of _The Twain Shall Meet_ that must be evaluated
> independently is whether Susan Bailey is Nina's biological child.
> In her favour, Bailey is unlike everyone else who claims to be descended
> from Mark Twain. Bailey recalls reading _The Adventures of Tom Sawyer _ as
> child and being told that she was related to its author, whose real name
> Samuel Clemens, which meant nothing to the nine-year-old. She was actually
> disappointed, remembering "I would have been far more thrilled had we been
> related to Tom Sawyer." Everyone who sees Bailey immediately recognizes her
> similarity to Clara. Bailey's son resembles Ossip Gabrilowitsch, while her
> grandson resembles Nina. Taken individually, these similarities can be
> coincidences, but taken together, they raise eyebrows. Also ironic is that
> Bailey came late to her comprehension of how exactly she might be related
> the Clemens family, in a twist that she herself had not expected.
> Bailey's co-author Deborah Gosselin had also grown up being told that her
> family was related to Mark Twain via her great-grandfather Ira Clemens
> Lucia, who had told his family that he was the daughter of Cynthia Clemens,
> a sister of John Marshall Clemens, who was the father of Sam. As an adult,
> Gosselin--an engineer and professional genealogist--wanted to prove the
> connection and soon discovered that John Marshall Clemens never had a
> Cynthia. Thinking that perhaps her great-grandfather had not understood the
> relation well himself, Gosselin pushed on in her research, locating second
> and third cousins who had independently carried forward the same yarn as
> spun a century earlier by Ira Clemens Lucia.
> Prepared to put the family legend to rest, Gosselin was intrigued by an
> atypical response in 2007 from an apparent half-cousin of multiple degrees,
> Susan Bailey. Unlike other cousins who had written to Gosselin with the
> old story from Ira Lucia, Bailey mentioned casually that she thought there
> must indeed be a relation to Mark Twain "because I knew Clara Clemens when
> was a child. I visited with her a few times in Detroit."
> Bailey had never known who her real mother was, and she was more interested
> in finding that information rather than trying to prove a distant kinship
> Mark Twain. Bailey's journey in writing _The Twain Shall Meet_ has been her
> own attempt to reconstruct the facts from sketchy childhood memories about
> leaving Europe near the beginning of World War 2, to live with new parents
> in the United States. Incidentally, Clara Clemens had experience spiriting
> family members away from risky situations, as her husband Ossip had been
> briefly taken hostage by Germans at the start of World War 1, and in 1921
> she and Ossip had paid bribes to help Ossip's brothers escape from Russia
> (which would have created a family debt to Clara).
> Bailey was brought to Tampa, where she would inexplicably dream in French.
> One day in 1944, when she was seven-years-old, Bailey was called to the
> principal's office to meet her 'Aunt Nina,' a well-dressed lady who Bailey
> agreed must be her relative, because Nina knew Bailey's middle name:
> Madeline. Aunt Nina took the child for ice cream, telling her that Bailey
> was "a little French girl" and "I named you." They went to a movie theatre,
> where soon the police arrived to separate the pair. To avoid a repeat of
> this intrusion into the young girl's life by someone who even then was
> described as an alcoholic, Bailey was moved to Chicago to be raised by an
> older cousin, and the man whom she had known as her father died shortly
> If we believe Bailey that the incident happened as she relates, surely the
> adult most likely to have taken the trouble to find young Susan and tell
> such curious things would have been her mother.
> Family trips between Tampa and Chicago were punctuated for Bailey by
> occasional visits to cousins in Detroit. I will not give away more details
> than you may already have read in the media because, if you are willing to
> go along for the ride, you will enjoy a few goosebumps yourself reading
> about Bailey's few remembered trips to dinner and the symphony, as a
> nine-year-old, with an older couple she had known only vaguely as 'Aunt
> Clara' and 'Uncle Jacques'.
> Skeptical readers will understandably disregard the remote memories of
> childhood. I am admittedly more sympathetic, as my own research on other
> families during the same interwar period has proven to me how a woman in
> 80s can recall details, including names, from when she was only five or
> years old. Co-author Gosselin herself knows that the absence of a European
> birth certificate for Bailey is problematic. Bailey believes that a
> family friend helped to create her American birth certificate, but we are
> not told what birth date is stated for her. It is possible that the stated
> birth date is her actual birth date, in which case it could help narrow in
> on potential births in Europe, possibly using names from Gabrilowitsch's
> family, and in places where they lived, or where Clara had been known to
> visit. Similarly, if Bailey indeed accompanied Clara Clemens to the Detroit
> Symphony where, as she writes, Clara attracted a lot of attention in her
> front-row seat as the widow of former conductor Ossip Gabrilowitsch and
> daughter of Mark Twain, a Detroit newspaper possibly would have mentioned
> Clara and the little girl with her. These documents may well exist, but
> perhaps the records have not been digitized to the extent that would make
> the searches easy.
> A weakness of _The Twain Shall Meet_ is that we are not always told the
> details about what searches have been made. It is unfortunate that we do
> not learn more about the dead ends that were encountered--not only so that
> we can assess how thorough of a search was made, but how likely it is that
> certain supporting documents may turn up in the future.
> For example, if Nina was taken into custody by police after removing
> seven-year-old Bailey from school, might there be a written record? Also,
> when she attended Stetson University, Bailey's tuition was paid--something
> that Bailey did not think much about, as she had grown up being told to
> maintain good grades because there would be money for her to go to a
> university. If Clara had indeed arranged for an annuity before her second
> husband began to draw on the Clemens wealth, might there be a record
> somewhere? (Recall that Clara's father had paid quietly for Warner T.
> McGuinn's law school tuition.) Perhaps too much time has passed and such
> documents have been destroyed--but we are not informed if at least a search
> was made.
> In the absence of supporting documents, the reader is ultimately asked to
> believe Bailey's memories. Fortunately, she does not try to overstep the
> reader's tolerance, but rather states where her memories may be unclear.
> narrative is well presented from the perspective of the child, supplemented
> occasionally by the adult's reassessment of what must actually have
> occurred. For example, seven-year-old Bailey's trip to the ice cream
> with Nina is a short but unexpected adventure with someone she has never
> before seen, whereas the adult Bailey surmises that Nina may have chosen
> that time to visit suddenly because of a falling-out with her mother
> pertaining to her marriage to Samossoud that year (1944). Bailey and
> Gosselin do not pretend to know the truth any better than we do, but they
> assemble the many parts of this complex puzzle in a way that explains the
> motivations and actions of the players very well. The narrative is
> believable exactly for its uncertainty.
> Will this evidence suffice to prove that Bailey is Nina's daughter? Lineage
> societies such as Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, or the
> United Empire Loyalists, accept 'preponderance of evidence' in proving
> descent from the relevant ancestor. Because obligatory birth registration
> the Americas is relatively recent (coinciding with industrialization and
> urbanization), in lieu of a birth certificate, lineage societies will
> a well-reasoned argument that shows that the right ancestors could only
> been where they need to have been, and those organizations would accept _
> The Twain Shall Meet_ without blinking (other than to acknowledge that
> rarely do
> they receive anything so well presented).
> Twainians are not so easy to convince.
> DNA testing offers the promise of settling the question with certainty,
> although it requires a good understanding of where one's ancestors appear
> the family tree. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is passed from mother to child.
> To consider one's ancestors as far back as the second great-grandparents
> (which for many people today would mean around 1850, when paper trails in
> the Americas are patchy), there would be 30 ancestors, of which readily
> available DNA tests are only able to 'see' eight. Unfortunately there is
> very little mtDNA in this line in the last century or so against which
> Bailey may test. While three of Samuel Clemens' four children were
> daughters, only one survived (Clara), who herself had only one child
> Turning to Livy herself, she did have one sister (Susan) who lived a long
> life, but she was adopted, and so did not carry the same mtDNA as Livy. One
> has to move to the next higher generation (Jervis Langdon and Olivia Lewis,
> married in 1832) to look for sisters (who would have been Livy's aunts) who
> had children that survived to the present day--in other words, long enough
> to submit their DNA for testing against Bailey.
> Although the paper trail is slim, Bailey has many matches along this mtDNA
> line, but they are necessarily distant, partly because, as explained above,
> there are not enough closer surviving mtDNA carriers (indeed, that is part
> of the very excitement of Bailey's claim), and partly because only a
> segment of people from the overall population (regardless of family) have
> submitted their DNA for testing. There are different ways of interpreting
> Bailey's matches. If someone like Bailey has the 'Langdon' mtDNA from
> Clemens' family, and if we believe her account of an 'Aunt Nina' and a
> wealthy 'Aunt Clara' in Detroit, there are surely not many candidates for
> those roles who could be other than Mark Twain's descendants. On the other
> hand, there remains a possibility that, biologically, Bailey may be one of
> those more numerous distant cousins of Nina, rather than a descendant, if
> the degree of mtDNA matching does not adequately distinguish between such
> genealogically close descendants.
> A weakness of _The Twain Shall Meet_ is that it provides few details about
> the specific mutations along which Bailey is matching (even such broad
> classifications as HVR1 and HVR2 are not mentioned) nor does it provide
> in the way of expert guidance. The mtDNA of such historical figures as the
> Romanovs, Marie Antoinette, and Jesse James, have been reviewed by experts
> in journals of forensic science (http://www.isogg.org/famousdna.htm) but
> Mark Twain has not received the same treatment, precisely because Nina was
> thought to be his last descendant. Until Bailey and Gosselin's book, there
> was no need to give much thought to Mark Twain's DNA, but now that such a
> time has arrived, _The Twain Shall Meet_, as it stands, does not yet
> the 100% certainty that some readers will want. However, as mentioned
> earlier, there is a good possibility that it may arrive in the future.
> The final aspect of the book is its biography of Susan Madeline Bailey.
> Interspersed among the chapters about Nina, and the authors' efforts to
> discover how their families are related to Mark Twain, are chapters by
> Bailey describing her own extraordinary life. To the extent that you
> she is Mark Twain's great-granddaughter, you may feel that you are reading
> Prince and Pauperish tale that Mark Twain himself might have written. Nina,
> like her mother, lived in Mark Twain's large shadow, whereas Bailey was
> to live outside it, which surely contributed to her greater resilience in
> the face of difficult events. While the entire book is clear and well
> written, the only improvement that could have been made to supplement these
> chapters would be a genealogical tree of Bailey's and Gosselin's families,
> to assist some readers who otherwise may end up having to draw their own.
> Scholars will want to have certain other things that Bailey and Gosselin
> have not delivered. For example, there is no index, and not every point or
> letter is referenced in as orderly a way as we have been fortunate to have
> grown accustomed to from editions prepared by the Mark Twain Project. There
> are no references at all, in fact, until chapter 12. Unfortunately, the
> authors tried but were not able to learn more about Nina's incipient
> autobiography, _A Life Alone_, but perhaps it is lost.
> Aside from bibliographical quibbles, and even if the reader cannot go along
> with Bailey's claim that she is the great-granddaughter of Mark Twain, _The
> Twain Shall Meet_ stands untouched as the best biography to date of Nina
> Clemens Gabrilowitsch, a result of which Bailey can be proud, as she began
> her project to learn who her mother was, and it led her to a place that
> neither she nor anyone expected. Mark Twain is, in fact, surprisingly
> missing from most of the book.
> It will be revealing to compare readers' reactions to _The Twain Shall
> to the strong reaction incited seventeen years ago by a book that had
> equivalent shock value, Andrew Hoffman's _Inventing Mark Twain_, which
> speculated that Clemens may have engaged in homosexuality as a young man on
> the Western frontier. _The Twain Shall Meet_ differs from _Inventing Mark
> Twain_ in that--even in the current absence of DNA certainty--its premise
> so plausible because there are antecedents for these events in unrelated
> families, and its claims are well supported from a variety of unpublished
> primary sources connected to the Clemens family (diaries, photos, letters,
> and interviews). Bailey and Gosselin do not hold back anything that could
> shed light on Nina's life--or death: the book even provides autopsy
> and reprints Nina's death certificate, which shows the coroner's
> as to whether her death was accidental or suicide.
> In contrast to the skeptics mentioned at the start of this review, some
> people will want Bailey's claim to be true, for the hope it gives that Mark
> Twain may live on not only in his remarkable work, but in live descendants
> who themselves may one day produce art. But humans are more alike than they
> are different, and we should not forget that, even if Halley's Comet may
> have been responsible for Mark Twain's genius, he was nevertheless born in
> unique time and place that was a long time coming, and that created a set
> coincidences (most of which were not genetic) that we likely will never see
> ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Taylor Roberts founded the Mark Twain Forum in 1992. He
> has written about Mark Twain's travels in Canada, as well as the discovery
> in 1997 of the author's annotated copy of _Morte Darthur_ (the inspiration
> for _A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court_), which had been sold to
> an unknown buyer at an auction in 1951 by the aforenamed Clara Clemens.
> ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Kevin Mac Donnell and Barbara Schmidt kindly provided
> comments on an earlier draft of this review.