As English majors, we spend the majority of our time learning about writers by reading their works and studying their words. Yet, two of our seniors used some of their break to learn more about Mark Twain by visiting his home in Connecticut. Though they learned a bit about the architecture of the house and Twain’s past, the two left the tour with a deeper understanding of who Twain was.
This past winter break, fellow English major Emma Arace and I had the pleasure of visiting the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT. While I was familiar with some of the history of Twain’s life (in addition to his fantastic stories), I didn’t have many expectations for what the touring experience would be like. Now I can say with confidence that visiting the Mark Twain house was a wonderfully unforgettable experience, and I truly wish that every English major, literary scholar or just the daily reader, could undergo the same experience.
Twain’s house was as fantastic as his legendary stories: from the intricate etching in almost all of the woodwork to the detailed gold and yellow honey bees on the guest room wall paper, there was not an inch in the late nineteenth-century Victorian that did not have a touch of Twain.
Our tour guide explained to us that the lavishness of the house could be accredited to Twain’s wife, Olivia Langdon, who came from an established yet progressive family.
While the extravagance and the quirkiness of the Twain house did help tell the story of the family’s time there, I think it’s very important to note the reason Twain ended up in Hartford in the first place. Since boyhood, all Twain wanted to do was grow up to be a pilot of a steamboat.
Eventually, he became one, however not for very long due to the Civil War. When the Civil War began, the Mississippi River was closed to all steamboat traffic, leaving Mark Twain without a job. It seems that if Mark Twain had his way, he could have been a steamboat pilot for the rest of his life. However it appears that this great writer had a gift too important not to share, and it was fate that allowed him to share it.As an English major, hearing this story and seeing the way Twain and his family lived was inspiring and refreshing. On the one hand, I learned that some writers are born to write regardless of the path they choose to take. On the other hand, my visit to Twain’s house taught me that the legendary and important stories that he had written were an absolute reflection of who he was and how he lived life.
– Kate Gustafson ’17