31 March 2017

Mark Twain's "writing hut"

At his most productive, Twain practically chain-smoked cigars, and his craving for a quick burn was conspicuous at 250-acre Quarry Farm, a nest of solitude away from the social hurly-burly of Hartford.
Mindful of her health, perhaps, sister-in-law Susan Crane had a windowed study built specially for Twain in 1874 not far from her Victorian farmhouse. Equipped with a writing table, wicker chair, cot, fireplace and cat door, it was designed to resemble the pilot house of a Mississippi steamboat.

After a steak breakfast, Twain would saunter 300 feet across a lawn flecked with buttercups and black-eyed susans and climb the stone steps to a promontory where the octagonal cabin was perched. Amid the chirp and crackle of nature, overlooking a panorama he called a "foretaste of heaven," Twain often churned out as many as 2,600 words a day...

To thwart vandals and accommodate tourists, the cabin was moved down to the Elmira College campus in 1952.  
The top photo shows the study at its current location on the campus.  The original location offered way more spectacular views.
“It is the loveliest study you ever saw…octagonal with a peaked roof, each face filled with a spacious window…perched in complete isolation on the top of an elevation that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hills. It is a cozy nest and just room in it for a sofa, table, and three or four chairs, and when the storms sweep down the remote valley and the lightning flashes behind the hills beyond and the rain beats upon the roof over my head—imagine the luxury of it.”—Mark Twain, Letter to William Dean Howells, 1874
I would love to have a similiar tiny "hut" in the north woods of Minnesota to use as a retreat.

Top photo credit Alamy, via The Guardian.   Black-and-white photo via Twainquotes.

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