A Visit with Mark Twain in 1909: A Report Translated from the Italian
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A Visit with Mark Twain in 1909:
A Report Translated from the Italian

Despite his many trips to Europe, Mark Twain granted few interviews to the Italian press. One of the exceptions was the chronicle of a two-day visit to Stormfield in June 1909 by the Italian journalist Felice Ferrero that appeared in Corriere della Sera, the most popular newspaper in Italy, on 5 October 1909. Ferrero had moved to the United States in 1899 and published his first book in English, The Valley of Aosta: Descriptive and Historical Sketches, in 1907. He later moved to Connecticut and, in 1917, he became a U. S. citizen. The account of his visit to Stormfield is remarkable in part because it occurred only two months after Twain's break with Isabel Lyon and Ralph Ashcroft. Ferrero opens the article with a description of the house and its environs, then outlines the daily routine at Stormfield, and concludes with details about the alleged treachery of Lyon, Twain's private secretary for seven years, and Ashcroft, his former financial adviser.

"A Visit with Mark Twain"1

Mark Twain is considered with good reason the greatest American humorist. But among European readers he does not enjoy the same reputation. Despite his fame, he is an American humorist and, as he himself remarked in an essay comparing American and European humor,2 the former is very different from the latter. It is not easy to define the difference, but it exists and if you are familiar with the second it often happens that you don't appreciate the first. If you consider Mark Twain's work from this perspective, it is wrong to define him as primarily a humorist and his work [End Page 79] as funny: it is wrong and even unfair because his literary worth is not comic. I consider Mark Twain a serious writer, even if the form of his work is facile and brilliant. Still, European readers will find it remarkable: his humor colors all the topics he treats and is so natural it is irresistible and never provokes that feeling of irritation caused by any failed attempt at subtlety. His short sketches and stories offer wonderful lessons on difficult subjects, such as the satire of the pious, provincial New England hypocrites in "The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg" and his attack on anti-Semitism in "Concerning the Jews," perhaps the most frank analysis of the subject ever written by a gentile. He attributes the antipathy of almost all Christians to Jews to the fact that people are so jealous of them they blamed the Jews for the crucifixion of Christ. One of Mark Twain's latest books, if not the very latest, is an essay about Christian Science and its founder and priestess, Miss Eddy. It is both generous and impartial in its overview of the movement while at the the same time it mounts an attack against what the author calls "eddyism."

Mark Twain has lived in the Connecticut countryside for over than a year. Under the direction of his family and friends his house was built and completely furnished during his absence. According to the architect's design it was to be only a summer residence, but when Twain visited for the first time he found it so attractive and comfortable that he decided to remain there all winter long. For the past year and a half the old humorist has resided in his country nest and he cannot be lured from it.

Nor is there reason to try. A man wishing for rest and leisure could not imagine a better retreat. To get there from New York requires an hour and a half by train and another hour by carriage. There is a village nearby but it is one of those American villages where houses are scattered like a flock of birds in a pasture. The nearest neighbor is ten minutes away by carriage. The neighborhood has the loveliness of the less populated parts of New England: hills cross each other, green and forested in the summertime, white with snow in the wintertime, in a picturesque setting: small rivers flow down the valleys, crossing small...