Mark Twain expert to lecture on author’s visits to Bermuda
Bermuda’s special links with celebrated author Samuel Clemens — better known as Mark Twain — are to be explored this month, thanks to a collaboration with a prestigious US museum dedicated to Twain’s life and legacy.
Masterworks Museum will bring Mark Twain expert Cindy Lovell to the Island from Hartford, Connecticut’s Mark Twain House and Museum.
Dr Lovell is executive director at the institution where, from 1874 to 1891, Twain resided with his wife Olivia Langdon and their children. National Geographic lists it among the top ten historic homes in the world.
On January 17, she arrives on the Island to speak of the events and people that informed Twain’s writing — including his deep fondness for Bermuda.
“Bermuda was a very special place for him, and as someone who loves Samuel Clemens, as I do, I feel grateful to the Island where the people were so friendly and welcoming to him that he fell in love with it,” she said.
She added: “This guy lived during one of the most exciting times in my nation’s history, and was constantly in the thick of it wherever he went as an observer.”
In his prodigious travels, however, Twain appears to have sound a special brand of peace in Bermuda.
“Bermuda’s more entitled than a lot of other places to lay a claim to him,” Dr Lovell told The Royal Gazette, noting that Twain visited seven times from 1867 to 1910.
“If we were to describe it in today’s terms, Bermuda was the place where he could turn off his cell phone.”
Twain’s home in Hartford, where he penned such landmarks of US literature as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, was recently visited by Governor George Fergusson who “put us in touch with Tom Butterfield at Masterworks”, according to Dr Lovell.
Twain first visited the Island shortly after the Island bustled with blockade runners during the US Civil War.
In time, he would become fast friends with the US Consul to Bermuda during the war: Charles Maxwell Allen.
Mr Allen’s grave in Bermuda was recently decked with a memorial wreath in honour of the 125th anniversary of his death.
The author met Mr Allen through his friend Charlie Langdon, later his brother-in-law, Dr Lovell said.
Twain spent some 187 days in Bermuda sheltering from his celebrity, Dr Lovell added: “He was the world’s first rock star — someone who was famous for being famous.”
Self-educated and making his own living from the age of 12, Twain was respected, even beloved by his public.
As a Twain enthusiast in junior high school, Dr Lovell encountered the writer’s experiences of Bermuda in his essay “Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion”.
“I remember as a kid my dad fell in love with that particular story,” she recalled. “The way Mark Twain described it, we really wanted to go there someday.”
Her visit later this month will be her second visit, in which Dr Lovell will delve into her encyclopedic knowledge of Twain’s life and work to show a local audience “the facts behind the fiction”.
“He wrote about marvels, but everything he used was based in fact,” she said.
The exhibit, “Ever the Twain Shall Meet”, is to open with at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art on January 17, with Dr Lovell lecturing on January 20.
The gallery will also show Twain memorabilia, some of it on loan from the Connecticut museum: items ranging from his pen to the shirt that was part of the author’s iconic white suit ensemble.
That exhibition, which runs until June, also draws on the Bermuda National Trust, explained Masterworks curator Elise Outerbridge.
“There’s a lot of Twain material owned by the Trust which is held in the Bermuda Archives,” Ms Outerbridge explained. “There are also pictures of Twain in various places in Bermuda.
“He seemed to get around quite a bit — this is a nice opportunity to highlight another international figure who really got a lot of inspiration from Bermuda.”
The exhibit will dovetail with the gallery’s January 17 premier of the exhibition on Hamilton and St George’s: “Tale of Two Cities” — two places frequented by Twain.
Ms Outerbridge said the Mark Twain exhibit marked the first of potentially greater collaboration with the Mark Twain House and Museum.
“We’re dipping our feet in to see where it takes us,” she said.
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