Susy Clemens

Olivia Susan Clemens (1872-1896), oldest daughter of Sam Clemens, was the undisputed favorite daughter of the author. From the time when she and her sisters were very young, they had always listened to their father's works in progress, giving him instant feedback as he went along, but as they got older it was Suzy's opinion which took precidence - "Just as Olivia had won the role of Clemens's intitial muse, Susy evolved into the second"(Trombley 162) and "it was clear Clemens regarded Susy as his intellectual and social equal(Trombley 163). Like her mother, she wanted her father to be taken seriously as a writer and not just as a humorist. In a correspondence to Grace King, Susy expressed a loathing of her father's title of humorist - "How I hate that name!...My father should not be satisfied with it!...He should show himself and the great writer that he is, not merely a funny man. Funny! That's all the people see in him - a maker of funny speeches"(Trombley 156). With this goal in mind, she became an even more crucial participant in the editing and planning of her father's works. Clemens found, in her, another "straitman" to help steer his work in a more serious direction.

Despite her criticism of him as a humorist, she was still extremely fond of him. She began writing a biography of him at the age of thirteen which eventually inspired Twain to write his own autobiograhy(Trombley173). One of her most significant roles, however, ended up being a fertile source of inspiration. "Clemens openly admitted: "Suzy at 17, Joan of Arc at 17. Secretly, I drew Joan's physical portrait from Suzy at that age, when I came to write that book. Apart from that, I had no formally appointed model for Joan but her own historical self. Yet there were several points of resemblence between the girls; such as vivacity, enthusiasm, precocious wisdom, wit, elegance, penetration, nobility of character"(Trombley 158). When she died from meningitis at the age of 24, Clemens was devastated. He lost much of his inspiration. Critics seem to agree that Susy's death marks the end of his most sucessfull period of work - "DeVoto attributes the difficulties Clemens had in his fiction, beginning in 1890, to a "series of catastrophes," with Susy's demise taking prominence"(Trombley165).

Although the character Joan of Arc will obviously have the most similarities to Susy, her influence can be seen in all these characters, particularly the reform based ones:

Aunt Polly

Widow Douglas

Miss Watson

Aunt Sally



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