“We have no real morals” Twain wrote in one of his later letters “but only artificial ones, morals created and preserved by the forced suppression of natural and healthy instincts”. That is not true of the man who is master of himself. The morality of the free man is not based upon the suppression of his instincts, it is based upon the discreet employment of them: it is a real and not an artificial morality, therefore, because the whole man subscribes to it. (…) Mark Twain (…) the artist had been submerged in the bourgeois gentleman, the man of business, the respectable Presbyterian citizen.” The jovial, democratic humorist most readers identify as Mark Twain was just a clown mask for the real-life Clemens, who could be insecure, brooding, even reactionary and racist. “Inventing Mark Twain”, a biography of the master of American letters by Andrew Hoffman brings into full view the complex vulnerability of the novelist. Hoffmann claims he had several gay encounters when he was young a bombshell on the world of Mark Twain. It was in the 1860’s in the mining town of Virginia City, Nevada. Twain's close relationship with Clement Rice, a rival reporter with whom he lived in Virginia City and dubbed "the Unreliable", created "barroom conversation" and "sparked the rumour mill", Hoffman reports. Later there was Artemus Ward, a "frankly homosexual" columnist, who also lived under a pseudonym and who penned a letter to Twain beginning with the words "My Dearest Love". And there was Dan DeQuille, a fellow Territorial Enterprise writer. As well as running the paper together, the two were room-mates. "We have the 'sweetest' little parlor and the snuggest little bedroom," DeQuille wrote. "Here we come every night and live - breathe, move and have our being, our bodies." Women were scarce in a frontier man's world. It was common for men to profess ardent love for each other, in what came to be labelled homo-erotic relationships. "Though most western men appear to have visited female prostitutes, they also typically lived in male pairs, sharing resources and beds; this was especially true among prospectors," Hoffman writes. How often they "physically expressed their affection escapes determination,"
But over the time Sam Clemens learned to be Mark Twain, got married with Livy and tried all his life to be a writer, only a good writer. The meeting with Robert Louis Stevenson could be an impressive moment of his life. A moment that the Scottish novelist tried to continue with the letters that he sent during the years asking for a friendship that Twain might not stand for.
Was Robert Louis Stevenson an homosexual too? Stevenson's homosexuality is probed in “Robert Louis Stevenson” by Claire Harman . A contemporary of the writer, Andrew Lang, once wrote that Stevenson "possessed, more than any man I ever met, the power of making other men fall in love with him". Many of Stevenson's closest male friends were homosexual, as the beloved friend Henley, and, as Harman suggests, he "could not have been unaware of the homoerotic forcefield he generated". She draws on some recent queer readings of Stevenson's work, too, such as Elaine Showalter's persuasive account of Jekyll and Hyde as a novella-without-women about "homosexual panic". No more can be told for both, Twain and Stevenson. They met, once or more in New York, something strong happened between them, they tried to continue a correspondence but they followed their destinies separately. Only the memories of this survived all their life.
November 15th the first volume of the Mark Twain autobiography will finally see the light of day.
Twain had left instructions that his autobiography could not be published in full until 100 years after his death. This 760-page first volume, published by University of California Press, has taken about six years to put together. Twain is very frank in the book, venting about people he didn’t like and telling about sexual details of his life. Maybe also about Robert Louis Stevenson?
(28)Alexander E. Jones “Mark Twain and Sexuality” PMLA 71 (Sept. 1956): 596-616
(29)Wyck Brooks-The ordeal of Mark Twain, E.P. Dutton & Co, 1970 p. 219-220
(30)Inventing Mark Twain,the Lives of Samuel Langhorne Clemens,by Andrew Hoffman, New York: William Morrow, 1997
(31)“Myself & the other fellow-A Life of Robert Louis Stevenson, by Claire Herman, Harper Collins publishers, 2005