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"Kevin. Mac Donnell" <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 24 Apr 2008 10:54:41 -0500
text/plain (63 lines)
Twain did have a fit over a missing button. His family may have been out on
the lawn (at Hartford) to witness his performance. He threw the shirt out a
second floor window, along with some choice words. The next shirt he found
was also missing a button, so he threw it out a window, and so on. The story
is related by his longtime housekeeper Kate Leary, who tells the story with
some bemusement in her 1925 memoir.

Yes, Livy did confront him about his temper, and once when he nicked himself
shaving (I think) he began cursing, unaware that she was standing in the
bedroom just outside the bathroom door. When he came out she repeated back
to him everything he'd said in an effort to show him how awful he sounded.
This did not work as she intended. Twain was hugely amused because, as he
said, she got the words right, but completely muffed the inflection, making
the point that good cursing should be left in the hands of an expert like
himself. I have a Howells book from Twain's library with Livy's pencil
comment in one margin "Oh pish!" and another comment "la, la, la." Twain
must have loved it when Livy talked dirty.

And yes, Twain did learn that his daughters were afraid of him, and was
dumbfounded by the news, although his espression of the this discovery gives
hints of his frequent overstated feelings of guilt. I'm not sure of the
source (either a letter or his autobiography) but his shock was genuine (if
overstated), although I don't recall if the specific source of the fear was
given. But this news hardly changed his behavior toward his daughters. I
have a letter from 1909 that his daughter Jean wrote to a friend asking her
friend to visit her for Christmas because she dreaded spending the time with
her father who got cranky at Christmas and would tell her to "go to Hell."
She was not expressing fear, so much as noting that he still had his temper
and directed it toward her. Her friend came to visit, but Jean died in her
bath-tub on Christmas Eve morn, hours before the friend arrived.

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----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carmela Valente" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2008 9:29 AM
Subject: Twain's temper tantrums

> Dear Group:
> Unlike most of you, I don't have a Twain biography at my fingertips, so I
> cannot check the authenticity of the story I am about to relate.  It seems
> that Sam found a button missing on his shirt, and went into a total
> throwing things and screaming.  If memory serves me correctly, his
> were scared to death of him.  Did anyone ever confront him with this fact?
> Did Livy ever bring this to his attention?
> I'm just wondering what any of you know including Andy.  Oh, by the way,
> Andy, I apologize for not sending greetings for a happy Passover.
> Camy