Fri, 5 Mar 2004 15:29:53 -0600
Perhaps further information might be found in Isabel Lyon's diaries. In
Twain's book annotation (dated April 21, 1909 at 3 AM) he says he had
discussed his suicide attempt at the dinner table a few days earlier. Lyon
did not leave Stormfield until June 8, and Jean did not arrive until April
26, so it is possible that Isabel witnessed Twain's comments at dinner and
recorded them in her diary. She certainly hung on his every word. While
Lowell's letter certainly was the trigger for the note in the book, the
thought had obviously come up a few days earlier triggered by something
else, and it should be kept in mind that Twain's household seemed to be
falling apart at that very moment. Perhaps the new book based on Lyon's
diaries might shed some light...?
On the question of pistols or poison, Lowell said that many young men have
considered suicide more than once, and that he had himself once put a pistol
to his head but wasn't man enough to pull the trigger, and was ashamed of
himself at the time, and ever since whenever he thought of it. Twain said he
was "with him" down to the the word "trigger" but said he was never ashamed
for having contemplated the act.
Mac Donnell Rare Books
9307 Glenlake Drive
Austin TX 78730
[log in to unmask]
Member: ABAA, ILAB
You may browse our books at
----- Original Message -----
From: <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, March 05, 2004 1:45 PM
Subject: Re: Pistols or poison for one--exit me
> While it is possible that Clemens did entertain the thought of
> suicide more than once, the question or comment regarding Kipen's
> commentary was based on his statement:
> "Hardly any scholars have attempted to pin Twain down as to exactly
> when in 1866 he contemplated suicide..."
> Certainly scholars have long speculated and tryed to pin down the date.
> The Oct. 20, 1865 "pistols or poison" letter is evidence that the
> thought was in his head as early as Fall 1865. The 3 month time line
> was expanded upon by Fanning who writes it was "one day short of
> the deadline he set for himself" (p. 108).