tv Mark Twain and His Virginia Roots CSPAN February 18, 2018 9:05pm-9:56pm EST
, an author talks about literary icon mark twain and his ties to the state of virginia. financesdiscusses his as the subject of the latest book on how not to get rich. historical society bnr lecture program is 50 minutes. onto our speaker today. a former senate speech writer alan crawford. he has reviewed books on u.s. history, politics and culture for the wall street journal's is 1993.
the international center for jefferson studies at monticello and she is the author of several books, including unwise passion, a true story about a remarkable woman and the first great scandal of 18th century america. monticello and most recently, we are all here today to learn about his wonderful, entertaining new book "how not to get rich: the financial misadventures of mark twain." please join me in welcoming alan crawford. [applause] alan: thank you, jamie. we are all familiar with the story of how mark twain's death was greatly exaggerated.
there were two times in which this took place. the first one was in 1897 in london. the second one, the one he will today,out the first time , three yearsn 1907 before mark twain's death. this was during his last visit to the old dominion. he had come here for the jamestown exposition. the jamestown exposition was a thed's fair, celebrating 300 anniversary of the first permanent english settlement in the new world. exposition were steam engines, new forms of motorized engines, automobiles.
mark twain was crazy about these kinds of technological advance. he was also crazy about the inventors who made them possible and the investors and venture capitalists who brought them to market. he was also something of a speculator. rich, doad not to get not check it out at the richmond public library. was crazy about this stuff. -- he was crazy about this stuff. particular copper was a man named henry huddleston rogers. know asome he got to
the standard oil vice president who founded the virginia railway company. rogers and twain became very close friends. he was a guest of rogers on his yacht. somehow, the word got out that mark twain was coming. people were excited about this. bay, theulled into the crowd formed on the docks. they began to shout for mark twain to come out and greet them. he came out of the boat in his his hat,t and doffed and the crowd went crazy. reporters followed him everywhere around jamestown. and it came time to leave, rogers decided he would go back by rail and twain would get on
the yacht and sale it. , there was a thick fog on the bay. he was marooned for several days on the both. ,hile twain was on the boat servants rushed about, cracking ice and talking the tender leaves of the fragrant herbs in preparation of a famous concoction, guaranteed to dispel sorrow and lighten hearts that are heavy. as good virginians, you know this is the main julep. julep.t he will go safe and sound back in new york.
but the new york newspapers do not seem to have understood this. it was reported by the new york the vote had been lost at sea and mark twain had been drowned. was a rumorthere that started in the hampton newspaper. was reported by the new york that, which i think proves small provincial newspapers can be just as incompetent and you're responsible as great metropolitan papers like the new york times. his response was characteristic. learned this news comes he issued a statement to the press as follows. he plans to conduct an exhaustive investigation of this report.
if there is any foundation for -- report, i will what had happened was a kind of prank. officials alerted back in virginia that his boat had been lost at sea and sent out a call for a search party to find it. i do not know anything about the statute of limitation. i'm thinking maybe the could sueth code -- for the expenses of the search party, plus interest. standard oil operates today as bp. in that case, their lawyers have a lot of experience at defending against such claims. the largerrn to subject of mark twain's
relationship to the old dominion and whether he was a member of the first families of virginia. wasbackground, mark twain 1935.n missouri and his father was a man named john marshall clemens. he had been born in campbell county virginia. was mark twain's daughter 13, she wrote a biography which was published a number of years a."er called "pap i do not think suzy spent time in the archives. there are no footnotes or bibliography. it is a book of oral history. in it, she says that her maternal -- her paternal
grandfather was a member of the irginny. alluded to this in one of the autobiographies that which wasfter his -- published after his death. let the family nothing in terms of money, between had a sumptuous stock of pride and a good old name. the good old name changed for commercial purposes. clemens ishorne interesting because twain said he was named for an old and dear friend of his father's.
who exactly that is, we are not sure. the name that comes to mind, this is the one i always had difficulty pronouncing. house called -- in all the moral -- albemarle. railroad andf the the father of lady nancy astor. i think that is probably not a good candidate because langhorne would have been four years old -- markk between father twain's father died. was twain's mother's name jane lampton. we do not know a lot about her ancestry, but it seems to be kentucky and tennessee. her oral history of her family
also includes claims to an illustrious lineage. he had a nephew who decided -- they did this research and decided he was the rightful earl of durham in england. he expected people to address him as such. his attitude towards ancestral forbearingpically and comical. one of those wonderful passages in all of american literature is in innocence abroad on his first big hit that tells of his europe and the holy land on a cruise ship with a number of other prominent american socialites. they were on one of the first such pleasure cruise ships.
land,t trip in the holy the tour guide tells twain that they are standing at the grave of adam. that adam. wasn says how touching it coming here in the land of strangers, far away from home and friends, and all who cared for me. -- theover the blood grave of a blood relation. true, it was a distant one, but still a relation. the foundation of my filial affection was start with profoundest depths. i gave way to small tortuous motion. -- tumultuous emotion. i leaned against a pillar and burst into tears.
now, there is a wonderful little book. called the virginia gentleman, a field guide and owners manual and way of life. it is written by a lawyer in arlington called richard crouch, who describes himself as an undistinguished amateur of no great achievement. a lifelong virginian with a respectable rural background. an attorney with military experience, a landowner and a lover of hunting and historic preservation. i think positions him very well to write this book. some of what he says, describing the characteristics of a virginia gentleman are not only relevant but well expressed. he said the primary distinguishing feature of the virginia gentleman is his
modesty. this is not generally known. [laughter] seems thatct, it many people consider the same gentleman to be distinguishable by his pride. they wonder just what it is in modern times that he has to be so proud of. it is the virginia gentleman chief concern to be modest. what is truly unfortunate is so many people do not realize that modesty is what he is so insufferably about. mark twain was not modest. he was a relentless self promoter. he would have had to search hard to find a basket enough to hide .is bushel under he exhibits some characteristics of the virginia gentleman that i will go into now. we can all evaluate whether or
not the claim is a credible one. mark twain had immense social asserts -- assurance. a social use that was remarkable. he could get along very well, amiably.ably -- hannibal trip that to in late midlife and reconnected with his boyhood chums. himself to the barons of the gilded age. he got along famously with a literary lions and on his travels with english lords and princes. most of us, we are trying to endear ourselves to important people using flattery. mark twain did not do that.
he did no such thing. he approached people with a true a small democrat. he could speak everyone directly and as a friend. for people who use flattery, this was a disarming -- they found it immensely charming and respected him for it. i think that is fascinating to .ave that kind of ease socially it is something i have found among those who are genuine members of the virginia aristocracy. second, mark twain spoke his mind. this used to be a defining characteristic of virginia gentleman, if you go back to the days of thomas jefferson. some of these figures. i'm not so sure it is any more, but there is a sense when one's
social position -- it became a civic duty to be forthright, speak your mind. willing toe -- to be cause some division if you thought the cause was right. mark twain was like this. most of his works, the ones that love ared we still very enviable books, where he is the blood of his own jokes. of his own jokes. a realmpossible to find coherent political follow us fee -- philosophy behind them, but he could be very outspoken. this suggests a tremendous 'ssurance about mark twain
station in society. this takes generations to develop, this sense of security in one's position in society. twain exhibited that. it supports the idea that he had some kind of aristocratic ancestry. third, this might be my favorite. mark twain liked money. the true virginia aristocratic types that i have known, they see no advantage in for going the pleasures of life. and itke to live well takes money to live well. mark twain lived very well. champagne, he went to
the finest restaurants, stayed in world-class hotels and build a preposterously large mansion in hartford, connecticut. mark twain also thought that he was a terrific businessman. wasgood a businessman he coming will have to read how not to get rich. make that assessment for yourself. think, in a sense, his claims to be part of the virginia aristocracy, passed down from his daughter and paternal father -- i guess all fathers are paternal. it is a tentative yes. with this caveat, a lot of these characteristics exist throughout
virginia. why not question mark so many of us are kids in -- cousins anyway , however many times removed. there is one major exception to mark twain's extravagance. he loved cigars. he smoked day and night. without allowing intervals. he said in a cigar that cost more than five cents was obviously foreign derivation and un-smokable. he liked to say that he smoked in moderation. i only smoke one cigar at a time. i enjoy questions from the crowd. one lastffer you
little anecdote and then open up to questions. i hope we can have a lively discussion. toone of his visits richmond, virginia, he came down with a terrible headache. a local resident that was with the foodit cannot be in richmond, the food in richmond is terrific. he said there is no healthier city in richmond, virginia. our death rate is down to one person a day. twain was unimpressed. he said by the dutch of newspaper office and find out if today's victim has died yet. [laughter] alan: you have been great. i would love to take questions. [applause]
alan: he had mixed feelings about the telephone. for all of his terrible investments come he had a chance to make a lot of money. he was offered unlimited amounts of stock in l telephone company. he said no thank you, i do not need it. he had one of the first privatees installed in home, he said in the world, maybe america. it is one of those claims that is hard to prove or disprove. localnected to the newspaper office, but also found it was nice to connect with your doctor. at the same time, he said it was a terrible nuisance and it allowed people to annoy each other.
like a lot of things, mark twain said so much stuff that it is possible to get a very nuanced reading there. he used the telephone, but he did not have the good sense to invest in the telephone. >> what led you to choose mark twain? what brought you to him? that the stories that mark twain tells about everybody'se childhood. certainly, everybody's boyhood. i was totally wrapped up in mark twain books as a child. i lived on a small farm, where we had a pond. i was determined to build a raft. i would float down the
mississippi. gather random pieces of ander from around the barn mail them altogether construct them together and take them down to the pond and try to make them float. , my father one time looked at the window and saw me at the pond with one of my rafts. throwingook, alan is another load of lumber into the pond. i have loved mark twain my entire life. one of the sad things about finishing how not to get rich, i missed his companionship. he is the world's greatest company. was pickingars, i up a copy of the first edition
of the autobiography in 1927. i was blown away once again by his companionship. this man is fascinating. i began to read the standard biographies of mark twain. funnier thans is the other aspects of his life and the things that he wrote, es pecially when he is deflecting on his experiences with a certain detachment. outlandish stories of investments and inventions that he tried to bankroll. his comicve reflections on the experience and what it meant and how he responded to it.
everd nobody is really done anything with this material. it's an untold story and you can't believe sony else hasn't done this already. -- read aboutbe mark twain and tell the story that have not been told. >> is a true than mark twain .edeemed himself after bankruptcy together didn't -- his family together and went on a multiyear worldwide not only being able to repay all of his debts but to raise his stature among the business community as someone who was willing to work an older aged at
to repay his debt? >> yes and no. that is a good summation of what happened but i want to add to it. inn he was 59, he invested two major projects. one was a major publishing company that he ran and started. he installed his nephew as the business manager. the first book they published was the world's greatest publishing success to date. that was the memoirs of general grant. i think general grant's widow twiain00,000 off it and made $200,000. ublished a bunch of
disasters. i think he lost about $4 million in today's money. acond was he invested in machine for setting newspaper type. --knew how many standard newspapers were published in new york, how many pages were published and how fast it would be to set the type using this -- because it doesn't join a union and it doesn't get drunk. it took so long to bring this thing to market that another competitor became the industry standard and twain lost another $4 million on that. when he is about 59 years old he is facing bankruptcy. heing poverty is the way
would describe it, but i don't think that is the way most people in his time would have described it. his idea of poverty was traveling throughout europe and living in nice hotels, where it would be celebrated, where he would be known throughout europe and the english-speaking part of the world. he had tremendous financial reversals. money and it was donor of this yacht that he was introduced to. he did these lectures on the hawaiian islands years ago. oil atwas at standard the time and agreed and volunteered to help twain sort
out his messy finances. rogers took charge of the investments, paying the debt and encouraged twain to go on the lecture tour. he was not in great health at the time. he went on a two-year lecture tour throughout the english-speaking world and he made tremendous amounts of money as a lecturer, he hated doing it , he felt like he was making a fool of himself. his wife would send the money back to rogers who invested it. -- two or three years, he was solvent again and rogers had invested some of the money.
the family had been ok after that. daughter died in the 1960's in california. i think she was worth about $6 million because the books sell and sell. one way that rogers arranged the was to of twain's debts have the publishing company declare bankruptcy, but before he did that, he transferred twain's assets in the books to his wife, which some have said is fraudulent, i'm not a lawyer, i don't know. at one point he said he finally got into the swing, talking about his wife's books. if he was in a meeting he would
say, i'm not sure where mrs. clemens has decided to publish her next book, she is still negotiating that. he did crawl back to a comfortable life and he lived well to the end of his life. he still couldn't stop investing. he got very excited about something called plasman. health foodut a new supplement that he said was product ofm some feed to hogs. he invested over $1 million in this. companyican plasma installed himself as president
and ceo and it went bankrupt. idea andother great rogers wrote him a note and said do be careful. he said it is easier to stay out of trouble then to get into it than to get out of it as you know from past experience. 62,id say that when he was he said if none of this works , ob be 64 and i will just have to start over. been a [inaudible] -- >> [inaudible] >> he was enlisted in the marion rangers, that was a volunteer militia group which was
basically his boyhood friends. he wrote about that experience .n a short piece what they did was camped out whenever the enemy came near and they were even sure where the enemy was. was there to defend the county and defend the town but wasn't sure which side they were on. when the civil war broke out, he did what a lot of smart people did, he went out west.
was, after hened became a riverboat pilot, the on thee and the trade mississippi stopped and he went with his brother to nevada and his brother had been made secretary to the governor of the territories or something. totwain used that time prospect for silver and gold and .nded up by accident in thehis attitudes military, it is better to look at these attitudes toward the war. when he moved to connecticut, he married the daughter of a colbert and, he became the least
southern -- the daughter of a coal barron. he became the least southern southerner. he met general grant the second time and his friend that was heng to introduce them said wasn't sure that grant would remember him, and he said he will remember me because the last time i was the only person in line who did not ask him for a job. later in life, twain wrote the war pryayer which is an anti-war document. i think he always respected adldiers and officers but h mixed feelings about the business of war. >> why did he choose the pen name mark twain? >> scholars will be arguing
about that forever. ofarently it is a term measuring the depth on the passage of a riverboat. but it has turned out in recent years that there was someone ,lse in new orleans, louisiana who wrote short items about the riverboat trade who used the name mark twain. he did not invent that. he purloined it is a fair way to put it. he borrowed it. i think it was a tribute to his days on the river which he always held with great respect. sawyer the first novel written on a typewriter, or is that apocryphal? the other question is, what was his daily writing ritual? >> he claimed that huck finn was
the first written on a typewriter. adon't believe that there is manuscript copy. if that is true, i don't think there is a manuscript copy that exists. i'm not a scholar. i scholar has to know everything. i have given a lot of talks about thomas jefferson, and i always know that two or three people, even if there are 10 in the vast hordes who show up to hear me, there will be two who taught jefferson for 40 years and will assassinate me. i don't think that there is a manuscript. i think twain did own an early typewriter and played around with it, but it is probably apocryphal that he wrote an entire novel. he tried dictating at one point and did not like that.
the other question -- i don't understand this at all, his daily writing routine, he was enormously prolific, and he had tremendous amounts of energy. he thought he could write huckleberry finn in three months. years, not six because he wasn't writing regularly, but because he was so involved in some of these business projects. he would tell the publishing company, stop worrying about huckleberry finn. him six years to write that. it is very difficult to figure out how he did what he did. he wrote immense amounts of stuff.
he was socializing every night. forould play billiards hours on ends with his friends. plasman.was eating [laughter] i wish that i knew. findlincoln said of grant, out what his tracking and send it to my other generals. -- drinking and send it to my other generals. if i knew how twain did what he did, i would do it. call golf a good walk spoiled? alan: i think that is what most endeared him to me. the question was why did he say that golf was a good walk spoiled. twain was a tremendous walker. if you read the book a tramp ab
road, he would walk miles and miles with a friend and just talk. go from city to city in germany where they traveled, he and joe twichel, one of his closest friends. he was director of the congregational church in hartford. they became close friends and traveled in europe together. they are walking somewhere and some college students pick them up. the college students give them arrive to the next town and they are thrilled to meet mark twain. as much as he enjoyed walking, muchnk golf took too concentration and he couldn't carry on a monologue the way he usually enjoyed.
>> is there any evidence that at some point in his life that he suffered from severe depression? in researching jefferson, there were lots of claims that jefferson had asperger's syndrome, and i think there is little evidence for that. i think there is little evidence that twain had depression. he was so productive and so social. like trying to diagnose the president. [laughter] it is hard to know what goes on and somebody's own mind. if he had depression,
there would have been periods where he was not particularly productive. he has periods of immense euphoria. these things seem to be within hours. he has been very excited about some prospect and then discovered we lost $5 million. his wife talks to him, he paces, he smokes cigars, he has a friend over, and the next day he is excited about the next thing. there is a resilience in his personality that does not suggest depression to me but there are certainly mood swings. the man is always suffering from mood swings. phew who he put in charge of the publishing company who said he's a devil to do business with but you can't help loving him. that is the kind of personality
he was. he could be very difficult. i can't remember how he learned it but he wrote to howells and said i have just learned that my daughters are scared of me. it tormented him. he was such an affectionate family man and adored his daughters. the idea that they were intimidated by his outbursts wounded him deeply. man. a very complicated if i understood why he did what he did, i would write a book about that and retire. >> are there any twain descendents currently and where to the royalties go today? alan: i wish you would have asked that. i don't think there are direct descendents. he had the daughter who died in the 1960's in california. she had no children.
as far as where the royalties go today, i don't know. i will find out and get back to you. [laughter] they go somewhere because there is a lot of money there. twain's father i believe died when twain was 11 years old. the family fortunes collapsed. his mother took in boarders. he went on the road as a printer -- and later on the mississippi. what i have read is when he received a degree in oxford late in life they commented on the learner, he was a self that he became a writer through the force of his own intellect. could you comment on his development as a writer and
intellectual? >> i think that his education ended early, hks formal education, but for a person -- he is not a systematic thinker. it's just a bag of ideas and things that he doesn't pursue. he was not an intellectual in any sense. i think of thomas jefferson is a great francophile. he lived in france and never learned french. 20 lived in germany and taught himself german. he was a tremendous intellect. his mother was a lively woman. twain was always a reader. he said when he worked in a
bookstore in missouri as a young boy, he said that the customers were always getting in his way and never allowing them to read in peace. he also worked in the drugstore and said his prescriptions were not good and they ended up selling more stomach pumps than soda water. he read widely and not systematically which is part of the charm. >> [inaudible] there was a question about whether or not he had gentility and his background.
for such a rough character out of the mining camps in the west, he adjusted well to high society. settled -- they tended to be very well educated and were socially progressive people, harriet beecher stowe was a neighbor. he seems to have got on fine with these people and there were not even a lot of incidences with his wife -- of her schooling him and how to behave, which fork to use and all of that. evidence thaty there was much of that. he had a quality about him to byorb all of that and get and to be accepted at all levels of society. he seems to have got along fine with. beecher stowe, the author of
uncle tom's cabin. in later years that she became very eccentric and would enter other people's houses. she would let out a yell behind them and scare them. [laughter] it was a community where for its time people seemed to have had a level of neighborly and informality that is weird for its time. he got along fine there. without being a sociopath he could blend into any circumstance. >> last question? alan.you very much, [applause]
>> this is american history tv, 48 hours, all weekend and every weekend. >> this weekend american history tv is joining our cable partners to showcase the history of lynchburg, virginia. to learn more, visit c-span.org/citiestour. we continue now with a look at the history of lynchburg. >> this district is one of the most beautiful in the united states. it includes
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