Thursday, December 30, 2010

Samuel L. Clemens on Farming

These next paragraphs are an excerpt from the less than flattering NYT Garrison Keillor review of "AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN Volume 1" which speaks of Mark Twain's family farming history of failure. Make that epic fail.

Their father, Judge Clemens, before Sam was born, bought 75,000 acres of land in Tennessee. It contained coal, copper, iron, timber, oil, and produced wild grapes — “There’s millions in it!” said a cousin, James Lampton — and “it influenced our life,” Sam writes, it “cheered us up, and said ‘Do not be afraid — trust in me — wait.’ It kept us hoping and hoping, during 40 years, and forsook us at last.

It put our energies to sleep and made visionaries of us — dreamers, and indolent. We were always going to be rich next year.” When their father died, “we began to manage it ourselves, . . . managed it all away except 10,000 acres,” which Orion traded for a house and a lot worth $250.

The only one to turn a profit was Mark Twain, who turned Mr. Lampton (“the happy light in his eye, the abounding hope in his heart, the persuasive tongue, the miracle-­breeding imagination”) into Colonel Sel­lers in “The Gilded Age.”