Mark Twain was not only one of America’s greatest humorists, he was also one of its greatest animal advocates. His affection for all creatures large and small — with paws or claws, wings or whiskers, scales or tails — was just as much a part of his life as his literary career.
These critters flew overhead, slithered below, hopped happily, and galloped furiously their way into Twain’s stories, essays, novels, and travel tales. According to an American Association of Retired Persons [AARP], his written word “fleshed out as characters and served as vehicles through which Twain commented on society — and, in typical [Twain] fashion, the joke was on us, humans!”
Starting with his family . . .
His beloved cats, family dog, horses, donkeys, and calf won the affection of his three daughters at their Hartford home.
“Twain and his family had a real and deep passion for animals,” says Tracy Brindle, Beatrice Fox Auerbach Chief Curator at The Mark Twain House & Museum, located in Hartford, CT. “We are thrilled to present yet another captivating and relatable facet of his life through this exhibition.”
On March 22, 2018, to mark this rich dimension of Twain’s personal life, The Mark Twain House & Museum opened a new exhibition, Tails of Twain: How Animals Shaped the Man & His Work. The museum is located on 351 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT and this special exhibit is sponsored by United Technologies Corporation. It will be on view at The Mark Twain House & Museum through January 21, 2019.
Reigning cats and dogs . . .
The king of the beasts in Twain’s world was the cat, “the only creature in heaven or earth or anywhere that don’t have to obey somebody or other, including the angels.”
He was known to be the proud pet parent of 19 felines during his childhood. As an adult, the Clemens home always had a cat. All came part and parcel with creative monikers, such as Pestilence and Famine, Sin and Satan, Appollinaris, Sackcloth and Billiards. Even on vacation, the Clemens family rented cats from locals to keep them company.
While dogs were considered second-class pets, Twain did cherish mutts as well. Weeks before he died, he wrote that when approaching heaven’s gate, “Leave your dog outside. Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” One of Twain’s rare attempts at poetry was an ode to his deceased dog Burns: “She lived a quiet harmless life in Hartford far from madding strife.”
Humans were another story . . .
In true Twainism, humans however were not as cherished as the 'Higher Animals.' Even the most low-down-trodden beasts held an elevated position over the species known as homo sapiens. To underscore that point, at one time, he waxed sardonically . . . “man is the only animal that blushes . . . or needs to!”
Primary Source: AARP