Clara Langhorne Clemens Samossoud, formerly Clara Langhorne Clemens Gabrilowitsch (June 8, 1874 – November 19, 1962), was the daughter of Samuel Clemens, who wrote as Mark Twain. She was a contralto concert singer and, as her father's only surviving child, managed his estate and guarded his legacy after his death. She was married twice—first to Ossip Gabrilowitsch, then (after Gabrilowitsch's death) to Jacques Samossoud. She wrote biographies of Gabrilowitsch and of her father. In her later life she became a Christian Scientist.
Clara was the second of three daughters born to Samuel Clemens and his wife Olivia Langdon Clemens in Elmira, New York. Her older sister, Susy, died when Clara was 22. Her only brother, Langdon, died as an infant before she was born. Her younger sister was Jean. Clara had a serious accident as a child, while riding a toboggan she ended up being hurled into a great oak tree. This resulted in a severe leg injury that almost led to amputation.
She spent the period from September 1897 to May 1899 living in Vienna with her parents. While there, she cultivated her voice for the purpose of going on the concert stage. Her voice was characterized as unusually sweet and attractive. She also studied piano in 1899 under Teodor Leszetycki. In December 1900, she was invited by the people of Hartford to perform at a grand concert given by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She studied for several years under masters in Europe, before making her professional debut in Florence. Her American debut, assisted by violinist Marie Nichols, as a contralto concert singer was on the evening of September 22, 1906 at the Norfolk Gymnasium. in Norfolk, Connecticut where in 1905 she rented Edgewood, Clemens used the proceeds from the concert to purchase a memorial window for her mother in the Norfolk Church of the Transfiguration, Episcopal. Charles Edmund "Will" Wark (1876-1954), a classical pianist originally from Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, became Clemens piano accompanist from the winter of 1906 to late in 1908. Clemens and Nichols also continued to perform together, including a series of concerts in London and Paris in 1908. On May 30, Clemens debuted in London at a benefit concert, raising money for American girls to attend Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
Accident and marriage
At 10:00am on December 20, 1908 in Danbury, Clemens went for a sleigh ride with Russian concert pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch who was staying with her father at his residence, Innocence at Home, in Redding. While passing through Redding Glen, the horse took fright at a wind-whipped newspaper and bolted with driver Gabrilowitsch losing control. At the top of a hill, next to a 60-foot (18 m) drop, the sleigh overturned, throwing Clemens out. Gabrilowitsch leaped to the ground and caught the horse by the head, stopping it as it was about to plunge over the bank, dragging Clemens with her dress caught in a runner. Having only sprained his right ankle, Gabrilowitsch returned Clemens to home, unharmed except for the shock of the accident. Twain biographer Michael Shelden doubted the truth of this heroic tale and supplied a motive for why the story might have been planted in the press, namely, to quiet rumors that Clara was having an affair with Charles E. Wark, her former accompanist, a married man.
Clemens had been introduced to Gabrilowitsch in 1899 in Vienna by Theodor Leschetizky who was also training Gabrilowitsch. At noon on October 6, 1909, she subsequently married Gabrilowitsch in the drawing room at Stormfield, the Clemens home with Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twitchell presiding. (Twitchell was a great friend of her father.) Her father said that the engagement was not new, having been "made and dissolved twice six years ago." He also said that the marriage was sudden because Gabrilowitsch had just recovered from a surgical operation he had undergone in the summer and they were about to head off to their new house in Berlin where he would begin his European season. Her sister, Jean Clemens, drowned in the bathtub on December 24, 1909 after having an epileptic seizure. On April 21, 1910, her father died and left his entire estate to her in a will dated August 17, 1909 which provided for quarterly payments of interest to keep it "free from any control or interference from any husband she may have." On July 9, she announced that she was giving practically the entire library of her father, comprising nearly 2,500 books, to the Mark Twain Free Library. On August 19, 1910, her only child was born in Connecticut at Stormfield.
- Nina Gabrilowitsch (1910-1966), the last known lineal descendant of Mark Twain, died January 16, 1966 in a Los Angeles hotel. She had been a heavy drinker, and bottles of pills and alcohol were found in her room.
On April 23, 1926, she played the title role in a dramatization of Joan of Arc written by her father at Walter Hampden's theater. This adaptation and her performance were not very well received by critics. It was again produced in 1927, opening on April 12 and for a series of special morning and afternoon performances at the Edyth Totten Theatre.
Gabrilowitsch was conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 1918 until 1935, when he fell ill. He entered the Henry Ford Hospital on March 25, 1935, where he stayed until September 28, 1935, at which point he was released to his home to convalesce. He subsequently died at his home on September 14, 1936, aged 58.
Clara explored eastern religions for a few years, and then eventually became a Christian Scientist, although there is some question as to her seriousness and commitment to it. She authored a book on the subject: Awake to a Perfect Day, published by Citadel Press, NYC, 1956 After originally objecting to the release of her father's Letters from the Earth in 1939, she changed her stance shortly before her death in 1962 and allowed them to be published. She also published biographies of both her father (My Father, Mark Twain in 1931) and of her first husband (My Husband: Gabrilowitsch in 1938).
- "Mrs. Jacques Samossoud Dies; Mark Twain's Last Living Child", The New York Times, San Diego: UPI, p. 30, November 21, 1962, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-23
- "Twain's Daughter Talks about Him", The New York Times, London (published June 14, 1908), p. C3, 1908, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- "Heard About Town", The New York Times, p. 4, December 25, 1900, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- Youngblood, Wayne (2006), Mark Twain Along the Mississippi, Gareth Stevens, p. 60, ISBN 0-8368-6435-2
- Clemens, Clara (1931), "The Father of Three Little Girls", My Father Mark Twain, New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, pp. 5, 14
- "What is Doing in Society", The New York Times, p. 7, December 13, 1898, ISSN 0362-4331
- "Twain's Farewell to Vienna", The New York Times, Vienna (published June 11, 1899), p. 19, May 30, 1899, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-23
- "Some Women", The New York Times, p. 20, February 26, 1899, ISSN 0362-4331
- "Gabrilowitsch, 58, Dead in Detroit", The New York Times, Detroit, p. 29, September 15, 1936, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-22
- "Mark Twain's Daughter to Sing", The New York Times, p. 9, September 19, 1906, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- "Miss Clemens in Concert", The New York Times, Winsted, Conn., p. 9, September 23, 1906, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- "Mark Twain Ill of Gout", The New York Times, Winsted, Conn., p. 7, August 20, 1905, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- "Window to Mrs. Clemens", The New York Times, p. 1, June 22, 1907, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- "Bissell Theatre Party; Mrs. Sanford Bissell Entertains for Her Debutante Daughter, Miss Doris", The New York Times, p. 7, February 7, 1908, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2009-09-20
- "Miss. Clemens Sails to Sing in Europe", The New York Times, p. 9, May 17, 1908, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- "To Help American Girls", The New York Times, London (published May 31, 1908), p. C3, May 30, 1908, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- "Saves Miss. Clara Clemens", The New York Times, Danbury, Conn., p. 1, December 21, 1908, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- Shelden, M.: Mark Twain: Man in White. Random House, 2010
- "Mark Twain's Daughter Here", The New York Times, p. 2, April 17, 1910, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- "Miss. Clemens Weds Mr. Gabrilowitsch", The New York Times, West Redding, Conn., p. 9, October 7, 1909, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-23
- "Miss. Jean Clemens Found Dead in Bath", The New York Times, Redding, Conn., p. 1, December 25, 1909, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-21
- "Mark Twain's Will Filed", The New York Times, Redding, Conn., p. 1, May 4, 1910, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-22
- "Twain Books for Library", The New York Times, Redding, Conn., p. 1, July 10, 1910, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-22
- "Daughter Born to Mrs. Gabrilowitsch", The New York Times, Redding, Conn., p. 7, August 20, 1910, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-22
- Mark Twain Online
- Atkinson, J. Brooks (April 24, 1926), "The Play", The New York Times, p. 21, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-23
- "Clara Clemens in Role", The New York Times, p. 18, April 12, 1926, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-23
- "Theatrical Notes", The New York Times, p. 25, March 25, 1927, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-23
- "Clara Clemens in "Joan of Arc."", The New York Times, p. 26, April 15, 1927, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-23
- "Gabrilowitsch on Mend", The New York Times, Detroit, p. N8, September 29, 1935, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-22
- "Kin of Mark Twain Wed in Hollywood", The New York Times, Hollywood, Calif., p. 17, May 12, 1944, ISSN 0362-4331
- Gottschalk, Stephen (2005), Rolling Away the Stone: Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism, Indiana University Press, p. 86, ISBN 0-253-34673-8
- Gelb, Arthur (August 24, 1962), "Anti-Religious Work by Twain, Long Withheld, to Be Published", The New York Times, p. 23, ISSN 0362-4331, retrieved 2008-04-22
- Ward, Geoffrey C.; Dayton, Duncan; Burns, Ken (2001), Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 0-375-40561-5
- Trombley, Laura Skandera (2010), Mark Twain's Other Women: The Hidden Story of His Final Years This book includes new details regarding a romantic connection between Clara Clemens and her piano accompanist, Charles E. "Will" Wark (a married man), also the impact this illicit romantic relationship had on her father, Samuel Clemens and how it eventually fostered Clara Clemen's relationship with Ossip Gabrilowitz.