- Mark Twain in Berlin:A Recovered Report
Samuel Clemens and his family lived in Berlin between mid-October 1891 and March 1892, one of their first long stops after closing the Hartford mansion the previous June and traveling to Europe to save money. Soon after his arrival in Berlin, he was the subject of a news story dated 4 November 1891 in the Tägliches Cincinnatier Volksblatt, a German-language daily newspaper in Ohio. This report has been lost to scholarship until now1 and is here published for the first time in English translation:
Mark Twain is in Berlin for the first time and arrived with a large company. He travels with his wife, his three adult children, his wife's sister, another lady, a courier, and servants.2 It appears that his stay in Berlin will last for an extended period of time because he has rented a home of his own in a private street in the western part of the city.3 Although he has been here for three weeks, he has deliberately refrained from letting his presence become public, because he is ailing and is only just beginning to recover enough to be allowed to leave the house and seek stimulating company.4 He is plagued by such a strong and painful rheumatism that the doctor has forbidden him to use his right arm and this, he complains to me, prevents him from writing notes in his notebook. I asked him how long he intends to stay here. "Until your taxes drive me away,"5 he answered, laughing, and then added more seriously: "With such a large company, it is difficult to set a definitive itinerary; it could be a year, perhaps more," but in any case he intends to stay in Berlin for three or four months. This latter statement is of course the most interesting, and needs to be emphasized above everything else he talked about, because it opens, as is obvious and as he did not deny, the prospect of a new book about Berlin.6 Well, then, if his impressions are to be determined by the friendliness with which he is met, then we need not fear too much his cane blows and his slapstick. For Mark Twain is held in high esteem in Germany, [End Page 52] more than anywhere else, and especially in Berlin, where his works, from the simplest sketches to the most voluminous books, have been made accessible to everybody in good translations.
1. "Aus der Hauptstadt des deutschen Reiches," Tägliches Cincinnatier Volksblatt, 21 November 1891, 4.
2. The party included Olivia, Susy, Clara, and Jean Clemens; Susan Crane, Livy's sister; and courier Joseph Verey. The "other lady" and the other servants have not been identified.
3. Olivia Clemens had rented a five-room apartment on the second floor of a tenement building on Körnerstrasse near the Tiergarten. The family moved on 31 December 1891 to an eight-room suite in the upscale Hotel Royal on Unter den Linden.
4. The evening of October 31 Mark Twain had been a guest of William Walter Phelps, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, at a dinner attended by a number of high-ranking German politicians and Edward Malet, the English ambassador to the German Empire. The occasion was apparently a combined farewell celebration for Poultney Bigelow and a welcome celebration for Mark Twain ("Buntes," Der Deutsche Correspondent [Baltimore, Md.], 28 November 1891, 6; Der Fortschritt [New Ulm, Minn.], 26 November 1891, 2).
5. Germany had recently adopted a tax code that charged resident foreigners five percent of their income per year.
6. While residing in Berlin, Clemens wrote the travel essay "The German Chicago," distributed by the New YorkSunsyndicate and published in several papers across the U.S. on 3 April 1892.