This collection contains forty pieces of correspondence from American author Samuel Langhorne Clemens (also known as Mark
Twain) to teenager Frances Nunnally Wizner (1891-1981), dating from 1907 to 1910.
In June 1907, American author Samuel Clemens travelled to England to receive an honorary degree from Oxford University. One
of his shipmates for the Atlantic crossing was
Frances Nunnally (later Wizner) (1891-1981), the daughter of J. H. Nunnally, an Atlanta candy manufacturer. The teenaged school
girl and the 71-year-old writer became acquainted and,
discovering they were
staying in the same London hotel, Clemens escorted the young girl, whom he called Francesca, on visits and social calls. Back
in the United States, their friendship continued, and Nunnally became
part of Clemens's group of young women, nicknamed the "Angelfish," whom Clemens treated as honorary grandchildren.
Two years after the friendship began, Frances asked Clemens to speak at her graduation. He agreed and, in June 1909, left
his Redding, Connecticut, home and journeyed to
Catonsville, Maryland, to be the commencement speaker at St. Timothy's school for young women. His address included this advice
(much quoted in the contemporary press)
to the young ladies: "Don't smoke, drink, or marry -- that is, to excess." While in Maryland, Clemens for the first time suffered
the chest pains of the heart ailment
that would result in his death less than a year later on April 21, 1910, at the age of 74. The affectionate correspondence
between Clemens and his young friend continued until shortly before his death.
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