Back Mark Twain, “Eve’s Diary”

Mark Twain (1835–1910)
From Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays 1891–1910

Three of the 55 illustrations created by American artist Lester Ralph (1876–1927) for the book publication of Eve’s Diary.

Shortly after he turned 32, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain) met Olivia Langdon, whom most people called Livy. A little over two years later, they were married and, by all accounts, theirs was a close relationship; she read and edited virtually everything he wrote, often moderating his excesses, and together they traveled the world. Her later years were plagued by ill health and, while in Florence in June 1904, she died.

Clemens was devastated. “An hour ago the best heart that ever beat for me and mine went silent out of this house, and I am as one who wanders and has lost his way,” he wrote to friends. “She had been chatting cheerfully a moment before, and in an instant she was gone from us and we did not know it.” A few days later, he sent a letter to William Dean Howells: “Shall we ever laugh again? If I could only see a dog that I knew in the old times! and could put my arms around his neck and tell him all, everything, and ease my heart.” And later yet: “It is 18 days. I am bewildered and must remain so for a time longer. It was so sudden, so unexpected. Imagine a man worth a hundred millions who finds himself suddenly penniless and fifty million in debt in his old age.”

For the next year Clemens, who was suffering from gout, dyspepsia, and chronic bronchitis, churned out “an intolerable pile of manuscript,” most of it unpublished and unpublishable. Only a few short pieces from this pile (most notably, “King Leopold’s Soliloquy”) would appear during his lifetime. He took a “holiday” the following summer and wrote “Eve’s Diary,” a comical yet touching tale imagining the Creation story from Eve’s perspective, just as he had imagined it from Adam’s point of view in a story more than a decade earlier. The new piece was, in truth, an homage to Livy.

We present “Eve’s Diary” as our Story of the Week selection, with an introduction discussing Mark Twain’s literary obsession with biblical stories from the Book of Genesis.

Read “Eve’s Diary” by Mark Twain

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