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Mark Twain…a hopeful romantic?

The author Mark Twain is best remembered for his satire and his scathing observations on human nature.  But there was another side to the man, Samuel Clemens…a romantic one.

At age 32, Sam returned from a successful trip abroad with a new friend, Charles Langdon, who invited Sam to an outing with his family. It was late December 1867 when Sam joined the Langdons at Steinway Hall in New York City to hear Charles Dickens read from David Copperfield. The reading didn’t impress Sam, but the young woman he met certainly did.

“It made the fortune of my life–not in dollar, I am not thinking in dollars; it made the real fortune of my life in that it made the happiness of my life.”

samuel clemens
Photos courtesy of the Mark Twain House & Museum

At first, happiness wasn’t certain. With typical spontaneity, Sam popped the question soon after the first date. Livy turned him down. Crushed, though not defeated, he penned a respectful, yet ardent, letter, the first of many in their two-year courtship. Here’s an excerpt from that letter, in which he claims to accept her refusal and addresses her as “honored sister.”

For once, at least, in the idle years that have drifted over me, I have seen the world all beautiful, & known what it was to hope. For once I have known what it was to feel my sluggish pulses stir with a living ambition. The world that was so beautiful, is dark again; the hope that shone as the sun, is gone; the brave ambition is dead. Yet I say again, it is better for me that I have loved & do love you; that with more than Eastern devotion I worship you; that I lay down all of my life that is worth the living, upon this hopeless altar where no fires of love shall descend to consume it. If you could but—

from Samuel Clemens early Letter to Olivia Langdon

He goes on to profess friendship, but he more or less begs her to open her heart and give him a chance. She does, and after two years and many more letters, finally admits to loving him, but adds that she hopes it will pass! Sam, undaunted, redoubles his efforts until his determination pays off. Triumphant, he writes to share the news in a letter to his friend.

Refused three times—warned to quit, once—accepted at last!—& beloved!— … Oh, no—there isn’t any persistence about me—certainly not. But I am so happy I want to scalp somebody.

from Samuel Clemens letter to Joseph Twichell

By all accounts, Livy adored her husband until the day of her death in 1904. This poignant recollection from Twain’s autobiography gives some insight into one of the reasons Sam loved his Livy so faithfully and passionately.

She poured out her prodigal affection in kisses and caresses, and in a vocabulary of endearments whose profusion was always an astonishment to me.

Mark Twain Autobiography

Romance & Mark Twain

Recently, I was featured on a virtual spotlight program at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT. Museum Director of Interpretation Rebecca Floyd spoke with me about my fascination with Mark Twain and his iconic characters, and the inspiration behind two historical novels that explore what might have happened to Tom and Huck after they grew up.

You can access a link to watch the interview here

Tom Sawyer Returns also recently advanced as a Finalist in the Chanticleer International Book Awards (CIBAs).

Next month, I’ll be sharing fun historical facts behind my new release, Lawless Hearts, the final and most exciting installment in the Steam! Romance & Rails series.

E.E. Burke

*Photos and letters courtesy of the Mark Twain House & Museum. Special thanks to Rebecca Floyd, Director of Interpretation, for her assistance with these articles.

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E.E. Burke: On The Journey

The New Adventures novels feature original paintings by Missouri artist Gary R. Lucy (you can find his work at https://garylucy.com)

From an early age, I’ve been afflicted with a fondness for two precocious Missouri-bred boys introduced to me by Mark Twain. As I read (and reread) Tom and Huck’s adventures, I hated to bid them farewell at a point where their stories were just taking off. I wanted to know what happened to them when they grew up. Did they find new adventures? Did they embark on the greatest adventure of all—falling in love? No one (not even the author of their stories) provided sufficient answers to my questions.

In fact, Mark Twain wrote at the end of Tom Sawyer:  Some day it may seem worthwhile to take up the story of the younger ones again and see what sort of men and women they turned out to be… The great author never did revisit his characters as adults. But I could not be satisfied until I had explored what might have been.

Mark Twain in front of the house where he grew up in Hannibal, MO

Tom Sawyer Returns picks up more than a decade after we left him as a carefree lad in a sleepy town on the Mississippi River. It made sense that Tom would eventually leave to seek adventures. History provided a desperate event that would bring him home, determined to be a hero.

This story is set in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, which was the setting in Twain’s original story (a thinly veiled fictional rendering of Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain spent much of his boyhood).

Numerous incidents in this book are based on historic reports, one of which alludes to a shadowy conspiracy by Confederate sympathizers to seize control of Mississippi River. Put Tom in the middle of a deadly scheme, having to solve a mystery without crucial memories, and you have an exciting plot. But a love story requires more.

Becky ignites Tom’s jealousy with Alfred Temple

In Twain’s book, the character of Becky Thatcher fits the traditional stereotype of the Victorian female: beautiful, helpless,  idealized–quite frankly, boring. I wondered what a girl like that might do when faced with adversity if she were made of more than fluff? The Becky Thatcher who sprang to life on these pages surprised me with her cleverness, compassion, courage and sense of adventure. She’d shown something of her spunk in choosing Tom in the first place. Seeing her develop into a multi-faceted, independent woman, was pure delight.

You’ll meet other characters featured in Twain’s original story, such as Tom’s obsessively rule-bound half-brother Sid, Becky’s elusive cousin Jeff, a beleaguered Judge Thatcher, Tom’s secretive former girlfriend Amy Lawrence, and Alfred Temple, who has risen to great heights and is still competing with Tom for Becky’s affections. They all had bit parts in Twain’s original tale. I thoroughly enjoyed expanding on these secondary characters, delving into backstories, and exploring their relationships with Tom and Becky.

Here is a book trailer I put together as a teaser. I wonder if you can guess who the shadowy character at the end represents?

After you finish Tom Sawyer Returns, be sure to pick up Taming Huck Finn.

Where Tom’s story is an action-adventure, Huck’s story is a journey. Throw in one young orphan who idolizes his famous uncle and a spinster who is determined to civilize them, and you have a recipe for Huck’s greatest challenge.

I humbly offer these historical tales with profound gratitude to the man who inspired it. Perhaps more than any other author, Mark Twain influenced my love of the written word and my belief in the power of a well-told story.

Enjoy my New Adventures!
E.E. Burke

Of the two–Tom and Huck–do you have a favorite? Which one and why? Leave a comment and enter my raffle for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

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