The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut (at left), is the second major literary landmark in recent months to face serious financial troubles, which the New York Times reported on earlier this week. The Mount, Edith Wharton’s estate in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, is also in a precarious situation, although enough funds have been raised to allow it to open for the 2008 season (which runs through October 31st).
“We could not enter it unmoved,” Mark Twain said of the 19-room Victorian mansion in Hartford where he put down roots for 17 years. He commissioned its construction, in part from proceeds earned from his first full-length book, the travel narrative The Innocents Abroad. The house is an architectural marvel — a combination of whimsical and gothic.
What I enjoyed most about my visit to the house (pre-Novel Destinations and just for fun) was seeing the grandiose souvenirs Twain brought back from his travels, like the mantelpiece above the library fireplace from Ayton Castle in Scotland and an elaborately carved wooden bed bought in Venice. Twain and his wife, Olivia, slept at the foot of the bed so they could admire the angels that decorate the headboard.
Consider making a literary trip or two this summer — perhaps even to The Mount or the Mark Twain House — and help keep our literary landmarks surviving and thriving. –Shannon McKenna Schmidt
Picture courtesy of the Mark Twain House.