There have been numerous books and essays written about Mark Twain’s final two unhappy years in Redding, Connecticut, as well as several accounts capturing the lives, also generally tragic, of his surviving daughter and granddaughter.
A fascinating article co-authored by Connecticut judge Henry S. Cohn and attorney Adam J. Tarr entitled A Challenging Inheritance: The Fate of Mark Twain’s Will, retells some of that story, but from a legal perspective probate attorneys should find particularly interesting. The article makes use of source documents from the estates of Mark Twain and his descendants, including original wills, probate papers, trust instruments, and court and business filings.
By the way, another source with direct links to Mark Twain’s will and probate file (with annotated commentary) is an excellent 2010 NYT’s article entitled Twain’s Heavily Lawyered Last Words that’s well worth diving into.
Over a century after his death, Mark Twain still matters. On that note, A Challenging Inheritance: The Fate of Mark Twain’s Will concludes by explaining how the literary “Mark Twain” has succeeded in the twenty-first century, well beyond his death in 1910. Good stuff, highly recommended. Here’s an excerpt:
The last years of Mark Twain’s life were marked with tragedy and emotional hurt. He lost his favorite daughter in 1896, his wife in 1904, and his youngest daughter Jean on Christmas Eve 1909, just four months before his death. Mark Twain’s will, which was written in August 1909 just before his health worsened, captures this emotional state of affairs.
Even though the provisions of Twain’s will and Clara’s subsequent bequests were illustrative of familial grief, Mark Twain’s investments and accumulated assets were a positive factor and only grew over time. While even in death some of his investments were deemed worthless, the trustees under Twain’s will and the Mark Twain Foundation achieved many financial triumphs. Further, thanks to the Papers Project, the Mark Twain literary “brand” has been glowingly successful. Writing in the April 17, 1960 Hartford Courant, Bissell Brooke declared: “Mark Twain again has caught the public’s fancy. Posthumously, he has never been more ‘alive.'”