01/31/06 - sam clemens' niece

In today's excerpt - six-year old Annie Clemens, niece to twenty-two year old Samuel Clemens, is teased by her uncle - in the years well before he adopts the nom de plume Mark Twain and his literary career begins:

"[Sam] must have enjoyed teasing her: she remembered how she tried to explain the biblical story of Moses to him during one of his visits, but finally fled to her father in frustration:  'Papa Orion has good sense and Mama has good sense, but I don't think Uncle Sam has good sense.  I told him the story of Moses and the bullrushes and he said he knew Moses very well, that he kept a secondhand store on Market Street.  I tried very hard to explain that it wasn't the Moses I meant, but he just couldn't understand.'

"His rough-and-ready lingo shocked the polite little girl during a family chat in the parlor one evening, and she rushed from the room to formulate a response.  Stalking back a few minutes later, she delivered a brief women's-rights manifesto:  'Uncle Sam says to dry up. My Mama doesn't want me to dry up. My Papa doesn't want me to dry up. My doll doesn't want me to dry up. Uncle Sam says to dry up. I won't dry up.' "


Ron Powers


Mark Twain: A Life


Free Press


Copyright 2005 by Ron Powers


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