"Wheresoever She Was, There Was Eden"

Posted on August 22nd, 2016

Living History Tour Highlight; Fourth of Four

The last tour I was lucky enough to experience was led by the great romance of Sam Clemens’s life: his wife and editor, Olivia “Livy” Langdon Clemens. Beautifully costumed in ornate, period-appropriate dress, the character brings to life the loving, intelligent persona who captured the heart of the eccentric author. Livy leads her tour with the authority of a hostess and shares with her audience the most personal stories not only of Sam Clemens and his family, but of the house they made their home as well.

Olivia Langdon Clemens

(Olivia Langdon Clemens, 1895 in Melbourne, Austria. The Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford, CT.)

A true treat of this tour is the knowledge Livy is able to share regarding the decorations, design, and architecture of the home and the intention behind all of it- she did, after all, have a big hand in making many of these decisions. Because of her demanding and commanding role in the household, Livy knows more about its ins and outs than perhaps anyone else. She comments not only on things like the choices behind design elements, but also on the ways certain spaces were used and why, such as the beautiful indoor garden on the first floor, known as the Conservatory. As she explains, it is reminiscent of one she had in her own childhood home, and was included in the house per her request. She paints a beautiful picture of this part of the home as the stage for the girls’ games of charades, going on to comment that, in fact, all of the house sometimes feels like a stage, with Sam the chief entertainer. Through her words you can practically see Clemens sitting in one of the Library chairs, giving his girls a theatrical reading of the manuscript he had worked on during the day.

Lisa as Livy

(Lisa Steier as Olivia "Livy" Clemens, loving wife of Samuel Clemens. Photo by John Groo.)

To hear of such intimate family moments from the gentle mother and wife who looked lovingly on it all is a pleasure that shouldn’t be missed. Like Katy and Lizzie, Livy brings a new life to the home with the sureness of her step through its halls, the familiarity of her descriptions of its memories, and the fondness with which she speaks of its design. Each tour intentionally brings something different; some are funnier, others more touching, all are entertaining, well-researched, and completely worthwhile. No guides will give the same experience, and the program is ever-growing, with more characters soon to be returning to the halls of their home and workplace to share it with visitors. If you have the time, or if you can make the time, the Living History tours at The Mark Twain House & Museum should not be missed. Go see one; go see three! You will not regret it.

Sabrina Rostkowski is an undergraduate at Yale University studying the humanities. Thanks to the generosity of the Yale Club of Hartford, she has had the wonderful opportunity to intern at The Mark Twain House & Museum during the summer of 2016, primarily (though not exclusively) in the Development Department. MTHM is honored to have had Sabrina share her talents and enthusiasm with us this summer.

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