Tuesday, February 8, 2011


For Samuel Clemens, the years he lived in Hartford were the happiest of his life.  His time here was not always an idyll, but he built a breathtaking home that symbolized his success and filled it with a loving wife and three cherished daughters.  The years he was in residence saw the creation of his greatest works.  Tragedy, of course, visited him from time to time with the death of his son Langdon and his failed business investments, but overall his time in Hartford was fairly Edenic. 

In 1891, due to mounting debts, the Clemens Family left the house. The family departed for Europe to begin a lecture tour that was to last one year.  As their European sojourn stretched to four years, the family returned for a respite in Elmira.  In 1895, commencing a round-the-world lecture tour that would ultimate culminate in the book Following the Equator, Sam, his wife Livy and their middle daughter Clara set sail for Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and India. Daughters Susy and Jean stayed with family in upstate New York with the intention of rejoining their family in England at the conclusion of the tour.  As is well known, on a visit to Hartford, Susy contracted bacterial meningitis and died in the house in 1896, just as Livy and Clara were crossing across the Atlantic to be by her side.  The loss of Susy was a crushing blow and the family never again lived in the Hartford home.  In a sense, they were cast from their Eden.

In 1893, during the family’s itinerant wanderings, Twain undertook writing a light burlesque of the Book of Genesis’s creation story.  Extracts from Adam’s Diary is a non-religious take on the first man’s time in and out of the Garden of Eden.  A humorous and cranky look at how Adam adjusts to life with Eve, the short tome is comprised of diary entries that detail their quotidian existence.  From the outset, Adam is not pleased with his mate:

“Monday – This new creature with the long hair is a good deal in the way.  It is always hanging around and following me about.  I don’t like this; I am not used to company.”

Over the ensuing days and weeks, Eve troubles him greatly by naming the animals, moving into his hut, and putting fish in his bed.  One would think he would not be excited about her interactions with a certain serpent, but Adam actually finds relief in her new friend:

“She has taken up with a snake now.  The other animals are glad, for she was always experimenting with them and bothering them; and I am glad, because the snake talks, and this enables me to get a rest.”

Of course, after the famous apple-eating incident, all hell breaks loose and they are expelled from the Garden.  Worse, Eve starts having babies which mystify and befuddle poor Adam. 

Twain submitted Extracts from Adam’s Diary for publication in the Niagara Book, a souvenir promoting the 1893 Buffalo World’s Fair.  He tweaked his copy to include Buffalo-area references, thereby locating the Niagara Falls in Eden.  The book would later be published as an illustrated, stand-alone piece in 1904.

After the publication of Extracts from Adam’s Diary, Sam lost his beloved daughter Susy and his wife Livy’s health began to deteriorate.  In 1902, the family moved to Florence, Italy in an effort to rejuvenate Livy in a warmer climate.  She struggled through the ensuing two years and died in 1904.  Predictably, the loss of his wife was a desolation for Sam.  In 1905, he channeled his grief into a surprising sequel to Adam’s diary.

Eve’s Diary was created as a companion piece to the earlier Extracts from Adam’s Diary, but it is a much more mature, heartfelt piece of writing.  Whereas Adam’s scribblings evidence greater humor, Eve’s reflections on life in Eden are much more emotional.  Where Adam is grouchy and wants to be left alone, Eve is wide-eyed with wonder, brimming with love and curiosity.  Adam is content with things being as they are, peppered with the occasional adventure (like hunting and fishing trips or a ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel).  Eve needs to understand things, name them, conduct experiments and engage in conversation, especially with the man that shuns her at almost every turn.

In time, begrudgingly at first, Adam grows in affection for Eve.  He even seems to forgive her the lapse in judgment that precipitates their exile from Eden.  In fact, the Fall itself (Eve’s temptation and subsequent passing of the apple to Adam) doesn’t even merit a mention in Eve’s Diary.   It  is as if Twain couldn’t bear to lay that at Eve’s feet.  She writes:

“When I look back, the Garden is a dream to me.  It was beautiful, surpassingly beautiful, enchantingly beautiful; and now it is lost, and I shall not see it anymore.”

But, she does not mourn the loss of the Garden because she has found love:

“The Garden is lost, but I have found him, and am content.  He loves me as well as he can; I love him with all the strength of my passionate nature, and this, I think, is proper to my youth and sex.  If I ask myself why I love him, I find I do not know, and do not really much care to know…”

It is clear that Twain sees Eve as the superior being – her love is unconditional; Adam’s love is qualified.  Ultimately, after forty years living together, Eve hopes for them to die together.  Her wish goes unfulfilled and the final entry of Eve’s Diary is written by her bereft husband at her grave.  One cannot help but feel that the loss of the Clemens’ home in Hartford wasn’t really the expulsion from the Garden; the greatest loss is losing the ones you love and that the true Garden lies within the border of our hearts.  To quote Adam’s eulogy for Eve:

“Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.”

The two diaries have been integrated into one text and will be performed on Saturday, February 12th at 8 p.m. by acclaimed actors Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker.  Tickets for this special Valentine’s Weekend event are $50 ($40 for Museum Members) and can be ordered by calling (860) 280-3130.  Admission includes a romantic champagne and chocolate reception and book signing with Eikenberry and Tucker.

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