Tag Archives: Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe on Mark Twain

In the NYT:

Twain outdid them all with a Victorian palace whose many turrets were over the top, even for the Gilded Age. Outside, a coachman and a footman stood at the ready. The palace’s interior, with its posh toff’s furnishings and six retainers, was even more extravagant. Twain bought a hellishly expensive bed from a Venetian palace, featuring a headboard carved into a bas-relief of cupids, nymphs and seraphs, the six-wing angels who guard God’s throne. He claimed he found it so sublime he had put the pillows down at the foot of the bed and slept backward so that this heavenly vision of worldly success would be the first thing he saw every day when he awoke.

Life among the Nook Farmers was a ceaseless round of dinners and entertainment for one another — and for every celebrity who came to town, from William Dean Howells to Henry Morton Stanley of “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” fame. The money, not to mention the time, his palace cost him, eventually drove Twain into bankruptcy in 1891, just as another folly, Abbotsford House, had sunk Sir Walter Scott in the early part of the century.

But just think of it — 20 years! For 20 years, Mark Twain had actually lived, in the flesh, as that heroic figure every American writer, except one (no use igniting angry letters to the editor), dreams of being: Big Spender from the East.

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