19 October 2011

The Mark Twain House

So, I'll admit. Classes have had me extremely busy lately, so much so I haven't had time to indulge in bookish things. However, a few weeks ago, a professor at my college I'd had a semester ago asked if I wanted to go on a trip with his current class to see the Mark Twain house. Obviously, I went, and it's been the only bookish thing I've done in a while so I thought I'd report!

So there's the house, if you look to the right. When I first saw pictures of it, I sort of felt as if it were in a rural area, but nope. That gorgeous house is right in the middle of an urban landscape.

Samuel Clemens adopted the name Mark Twain during his years on the water. A "Mark Twain" was a depth mark on the rope cast down into the water to judge how deep the water was beneath the boat. Sam had the house built for him in the charming city of Hartford, Connecticut. (Aside: Does anybody live here? Can anybody tell me why the city of Hartford was so DEAD? I've never seen such a quiet city...) Sam didn't have a lot of money, but luckily his wife did. So she paid for the house to be built.

The inside is gorgeous, and we got a personal tour. They don't let you wander very far from your guide, but that's alright. It's not hard to take everything in. The house is very, very dark, because apparently they went cheap, and to have more lighting in the rooms would be to reveal just how cheap they went.

The house is three floors accommodated not only the Clemons family, which was Sam, his wife, and their three daughters, but a multiple of friends and constant guests. Their greatest source of entertainment was, well, entertaining. Because really, what else is there to do? And gossip is the most common form of communication after all.

So right through the front door the first thing I noticed were the calling cards. Weird, I know, but I've heard them mentioned in several books, and always ad a pretty good idea of what that meant, but never really saw a clear picture. Literally, there's a tall stand, with a trey, with cards. It's like the answering machine of the day. Next stop on the tour was the drawing room, where the ladies "drew in" their guests for a visit. It was an awful pink, but it was the brightest room in the house, so my eyes didn't die...

Then the dining room, which was lovely, but still awfully dark. The next room adjoining was the library. It was such an inviting reading room. I sort of made this epic quest along the shelves to read the book spines, of which said professor thought was strange. I think he was secretly proud of me though. The room was fit for Sam/Mark and his wonderful family to relax and read, and this is the part on the tour where complete jealousy set in...

As you can see in the picture to the right, there was a room that connected off the library. This is the conservatory. It was very small, but stepping inside a room surrounded with windows, flowing water, and luscious greens made sure I didn't start sweating under the threat of claustrophobia. The rest of the house is so incredibly dark, and then this little room opens up into natural light. It's a drastic, yet gorgeous, transition.

Upstairs we find not only the family and guest bedrooms, but the nursery and school/play room for the girls, where they were taught by their governess. I can imagine that this level had some nice views... in its day. Honestly, all I saw was the apartment complexes across the street, but that's what urbanization does to places.

The last room of note is Sam's study/billiard room. This was the only room he was allowed to design himself. After all, the house was the product of his wife's family's money. She had most of the say as to what went on in her house. But Sam was proud of his room. In the center was his billiard table, which although I found to be distracting, apparently he found cleared his mind while he wrote.

In the corner of the room was his desk where he wrote. It was tucked away very casually, and it felt slightly surreal at the idea that some of America's most beloved classics had been written in that room. Other than the obvious sense of literature giddiness, however, the study wreaked of man. (No offense to my male readers, but an old fashioned man cave? Even you know that sounds interesting as heck.)

One more thing of interest to note, was that the tour took us down the servants stairs, which were narrow, steep, and not at all convenient for a person like me who readily admits to tripping on flat surfaces.

The history of the house goes on to say that, due to the entertaining of the guests constantly, and the lack of financial stability, Clemens went bankrupt and had to leave the house to live elsewhere. Although he kept the house and eventually got back on his feet, the death of his daughter in the house during his absence dissuaded him from living there again, so he eventually sold it to another family.

So I know I left a lot out, but  did that because I full expect a lot of you to check out the Mark Twain house if you're ever in the area. Some things to note if you do decide to visit, is that the house is really the best thing the museum has to offer. There's a small exhibit, a movie playing over, and over... and, well, the house. If you really think you can fork up the tickets and be satisfied with just the house, go for it. Don't get me wrong, it is beautiful, but it's hard to plan a day around it. The tour guides are great, though, and very informative, and it's in a quiet area of Hartford, so don't let the city scare you off.

Well, thank you for letting me rant! I love my little adventures, and I can only lecture so many people before they get sick of listening to me. If you have any questions or observations, please comment below. I know I don't always answer every comment I get on my blog, but if you have a specific question you're asking, I'll be sure to cover it. As usual, I just look forward to hearing from you!

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful house!! The conservatory is amazing. Mark Twain certainly was a lucky gent to live in such a place


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