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Tracy Wuster <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 31 Jan 2011 21:44:18 -0600
text/plain (58 lines)

There is a passage in the Kaplan biography about Twain dancing in Hartford
with a gathering of Howells, Aldrich, and their wives in 1874. Here is a bit
I wrote on it recently:

The night made a clear impact on Howells and Mrs. Aldrich, both of whom
included it in their memoirs.  For Aldrich, the night was still as clear as
if those present “lived still sentient with life and happiness.”  The group
planned to drink wassail at midnight, but finding they were out of ale,
Twain donned “his historic sealskin coat and cap” and ventured into the
night.  Aldrich writes:  “In an incredibly short time he reappeared, excited
and hilarious, with his rapid walk in the frosty air—very wet shoes, and no
cap.”  Justin Kaplan, in his biography, speculates that Twain had sampled
the whiskey at a saloon and returned “excited, hilarious, distinctly
over-heated.”[1] <#_ftn1>  After sending the butler to search for the cap
and changing into cow-skin slippers, with the fur on the outside, Mark Twain
performed what Kaplan calls “a crowning act of confident alienation from his
guests”: he danced.

In Howells’s recollection, Twain, shorn in fur shoes, danced “a crippled
colored uncle to the joy of all beholders. Or, I must not say all, for I
remember also the dismay of Mrs. Clemens, and her low, despairing cry of,
"Oh, Youth!"”[1] <#_ftn1>  Mrs. Aldrich remembered the same slippers and the
same dance:

…with most sober and smileless face, he twisted his angular body into all
the strange contortions known to the dancing darkies of the South.  In this
wise the last day of the joyous, jubilant visit came to the close.  Untroubled
by the flight of time I still can hear a soft and gentle tone, “Youth, O
Youth!” for so she always called him.[2] <#_ftn2>


[1] <#_ftnref> Kaplan, 174.  As a side note: Kaplan writes that Mark Twain
sang several spirituals this evening, but it is unclear from the sources he
cites if this is true.  Does anyone have ideas on this?

[1] <#_ftnref> My Mark Twain, end of section 1.

[2] <#_ftnref> Mrs. Aldrich, 160.

I don't know if this is your story, but it is an instance of Twain's


Tracy Wuster

On Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 3:06 PM, Darryl Brock <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I'm trying to find a description I once read of Twain dancing, lost in
> the music and in his movements, oblivious of others but certainly
> attracting their attention.  I think it occurred out west during during
> his mining/journalism  years.   Does this ring a bell with anybody?