Mark Twain’s Mother: What We Have in Common–They Followed Us Home

 

Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential;
but the Clemens tribe are not of these.

~ quoted in “UC’s Bancroft Library celebrating Mark Twain,” San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 2, 2008

*

That sort of interference in behalf of abused animals was a common thing with her [Twain’s mother] all her life; and her manner must have been without offense and her good intent transparent, for she always carried her point and also won the courtesy and often the friendly applause of the adversary. All the race of dumb animals had a friend in her. By some subtle sign the homeless, hunted, bedraggled and disreputable cat recognized her at a glance as the born refuge and champion of his sort–and followed her home. His instinct was right, he was as welcome as the prodigal son. We had nineteen cats at one time, in 1845. And there wasn’t one in the lot that had any character, not one that had any merit, except the cheap and tawdry merit of being unfortunate. They were a vast burden to us all–including my mother–but they were out of luck and that was enough; they had to stay. However, better these than no pets at all; children must have pets and we were not allowed to have caged ones. An imprisoned creature was out of the question–my mother would not have a rat to be restrained of its liberty.

~ Mark Twain, The Autobiography of Mark Twain

***

I’ve posted some of these quotations before. For the record, I like dogs, too. But at the moment, I’m sitting under a sleeping cat–and holding the laptop at a most uncomfortable angle–so cats are on my mind. So is Mark Twain. And I might as well get them out of my system.

*

A home without a cat — and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat –may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?

 ~ Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson

*

He would call (the cats) to “come up” on the chair, and they would all jump up on the seat. He would tell them to “go to sleep,” and instantly the group were all fast asleep, remaining so until he called “Wide awake!” when in a twinkling up would go their ears and wide open their eyes.

~ Anonymous article titled “The Funniest Writer on Earth. Some Anecdotes about Mark Twain,” The Rambler, Dec. 24, 1898.

*

A cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime.

~ Notebook, 1895

*

Sour Mash never cared for these things. She had many noble and engaging qualities, but at bottom she was not refined, and cared little or nothing for theology and the arts.

~ from the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2

*

“Other Christians is always worrying about other people’s opinions, but Sour Mash don’t give a damn.”

~ Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2 (2013), p. 216. Dictated 3 September 1906.

*

That cat will write her autograph all over your leg if you let her.”

from memoirs of Clemens’ secretary Mary Howden which were published in New York Herald, December 13, 1925

*

I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one. They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.

~ quoted in Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field, Fisher

*

Twain owned up to 19 cats at one time, writes Livius Drusus for Mental Floss, “all of whom he loved and respected far beyond whatever he may have felt about people. His cats all bore fantastical titles, among them: Apollinaris, Beelzebub, Blatherskite, Buffalo Bill, Satan, Sin, Sour Mash, Tammany, Zoroaster, Soapy Sal and Pestilence, writes Drusus.

Throughout his life, when Twain travelled he would rent cats to take the place of his left-behind companions. “The most famous cat-renting episode occurred in Dublin, New Hampshire, in 1906,” writes Mack Hitch for New England Today. “Twain biographer Albert Bigelow Paine was there when the author rented three kittens for the summer. One he named Sackcloth. The other two were identical and went under the joint name of Ashes.” Why rent, you ask? He couldn’t travel with the cats, so he’d rent them and then leave behind money to help cover their care during all nine of their lives.

~ “Mark Twain Liked Cats Better Than People: Who Wouldn’t?” Kat Escher, Smithsonian.com

*

When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.

~ “An Incident,” Who Is Mark Twain?”

*

The Great Cat: Cats in History, Art and Literature

https://www.thegreatcat.org/cats-19th-century-part-13-mark-twains-cats/

 

Mark Twain and His Cats–10 Pictures

https://twentytwowords.com/mark-twain-and-his-cats-10-pictures/

Mark Twain’s Mother

Her interest in people and other animals was warm, personal, and friendly. She always found something to excuse, and as a rule to love, in the toughest of them–even if she had to put it there herself. She was the natural ally and friend of the friendless. It was believed that, Presbyterian as she was, she could be beguiled into saying a soft word for the devil himself, and so the experiment was tried. The abuse of Satan began; one conspirator after another added his bitter word, his malign reproach, his pitiless censure, till at last, sure enough, the unsuspecting subject of the trick walked into the trap. She admitted that the indictment was sound, that Satan was utterly wicked and abandoned, just as these people had said; but would any claim that he had been treated fairly? A sinner was but a sinner; Satan was just that, like the rest. What saves the rest?–their own efforts alone? No–or none might ever be saved. To their feeble efforts is added the mighty help of pathetic, appealing, imploring prayers that go up daily out of all the churches in Christendom and out of myriads upon myriads of pitying hearts. But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most, our one fellow and brother who most needed a friend yet had not a single one, the one sinner among us all who had the highest and clearest right to every Christian’s daily and nightly prayers, for th pelain and unassailable reason that his was the first and greatest need, he being among sinners the supremest?

This friend of Satan was a most gentle spirit and an unstudied and unconscious pathos was her native speech. When her pity or her indignation was stirred by hurt or shame inflicted upon some defenseless person or creature, she was the most eloquent person I have heard speak. It was seldom eloquence of a fiery or violent sort, but gentle, pitying, persuasive, appealing; and so genuine and so nobly and simply worded and so touchingly uttered, that many times I have seen it win the reluctant and splendid applause of tears.

*

The Autobiography of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider. New York: HarperPerennial, 2013.

The cover displayed above is from the Deluxe Modern Classic (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) Kindle edition, published in 2011.