Mark Twain did not come to Hartford to live until he was nearly forty years old and he lived here only about twenty years, spending a good deal of those years abroad; and yet we of Hartford think of him always as a Hartford man, though in fact he was a man of all the world. No other citizen of the United States, not General Grant nor Theodore Roosevelt, was more universally known and no other American author was ever so generally read. We of Hartford base our claim to him on the fact that he identified himself with this community as he did with no other, and on the other and still more welcome fact that here he spent the happiest and the most useful of his nearly four score years. Although he made his home for some time in New York and later settled down in Redding, the feeling has never died out here that he belonged to Hartford, and this has been intensified by the fact that wherever any Hartford traveler went the first question asked of him was whether he knew Mark Twain.
The man was original in everything, not least in insisting on being referred to as Mark Twain and not as Mr. Clemens. The essence of wit is said by those who undertake to analyze it to be the unexpected, and it was the unexpected that Mark Twain was always doing, even to building a house with its kitchen to the street and the bricks laid at angles, and his humor was inborn and inevitable; it was of the man himself. Like others of literary fame, he was slow in being discovered, but, once found out, he among all our distinctive humorists lasted through. His vein was never worked out. From the publication of the "Jumping Frog" he was a man of note, and as we have said already, for many years he was the most universally read of the authors of his day or any other day.
He enjoyed this as any author would, and he enjoyed it so much that it stood in the way very probably of better work from his wonderful brain and heart. If we are not mistaken, the readers of this paragraph will generally agree that his finest book was the "Prince and Pauper," but it sold the least, and he has been quoted as giving that fact as his reason for not following that line any further. If it sold the least, it was presumably desired by the fewest number of people. It would be difficult to determine his most popular work, but a first guess would name the "Innocents Abroad," though you can go on from this to a dozen others and smile as each title comes to mind. How entertaining they were, and how keen he was in his knowledge of human nature!
But with all that he wrote it was true of him, as it was of his old-time associate here, Mr. Warner, that in private conversation at the dinner table, about the billiard table, at club meetings and every-day accidental meetings, his delightful, spontaneous outpourings were more delicious than anything he wrote; they were said and forgotten for lack of a Boswell. Mark Twain enjoyed his success from all points of view. The money that he made was mighty welcome to a man who had known poverty down to the hunger line, but much of the pleasure of his wealth was in the opportunity it gave him for helping others; his charity was broad and abundant. He was singularly companionable and his friends were among those whose friendship was a treasure. In his hospitable home he entertained for years almost everybody of literary prominence in the country, native or passing traveler. But, with all his fame, he was democratic through and through. He would receive a friend's call in the morning as he lay in bed smoking, for he usually smoked several cigars before getting up, and he would go down town without a hat and in his slippers and dressing gown. He was a world celebrity and yet as approachable and easy as the least known among those he passed on the street.
Here he came and went day by day, and we all felt that he belonged to us; here his family grew up, here his best work was done, here many of his choicest friendships were formed, and after he left here his troubles began. The first thought in writing of Mark Twain is to quote one after another of his whimsical and philosophical sayings and anecdotes. But there is something about his last days that forbids all that. The lights went out for him before life did. His wife died abroad; two of his daughters died tragic deaths. He himself fell sick in far Bermuda, and came back to an empty home to die. It is all so far from the spirit of his earlier years -- from the time of his twinkling eye and contagious smile and hearty laugh -- that one can only say "The pity of it, the pity of it!" He is gone now. He brightened life in that earlier, happier time, for a lot of us; he will continue to brighten life as long as people know how to read.