Clara Langdon Clemens (1874 - 1962)

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Place of Burial: Detroit Ward 2, Wayne, Michigan
Birthplace: Elmira, Chemung, New York, USA
Death: Died in Sharp Memorial Hospital, San Diego, CA, USA
Managed by: Eric Yao
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About Clara Langdon Clemens

Clara Langhorne Clemens Samossoud, formerly Clara Langhorne Clemens Gabrilowitsch (June 8, 1874 – November 19, 1962), was the daughter of Samuel Clemens, who wrote as Mark Twain. She was a contralto concert singer and, as her father's only surviving daughter, managed his estate and guarded his legacy after his death.

She was married twice. First to Ossip Gabrilowitsch, and then after his death, she remarried to Jacques Samossoud. She wrote biographies of Gabrilowitsch and of her father. In her later life she became a Christian Scientist.

Clara was the second of three daughters born to Samuel Clemens and his wife Olivia Langdon Clemens. She was born and grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. Her older sister was Susy, who died when Clara was only 22. Her only brother, Langdon, died as an infant before she was born. Her younger sister was Jean. Clara had a serious accident as a child. She was riding a toboggan which ended up being hurled into a great oak tree. She was the only one hurt, although her leg injury was severe. The next day it was thought she might have to have her leg amputated, although this was avoided.

She spent the period from September 1897 to May 1899 living in Vienna with her parents. While there, notice was taken of her cultivating her voice for the purpose of going on the concert stage. Her voice was characterized as unusually sweet and attractive. She also studied piano in 1899 under Teodor Leszetycki. In December 1900, she was invited by the people of Hartford, her home town, to perform in February 1901 at a grand concert to be given by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the hopes that she would begin her singing career where she grew up. On May 10, 1905 she underwent a successful operation for appendicitis by Dr. Hartley in New York City. She studied for several years under masters in Europe, before making her professional debut in Florence. She made her American debut as a contralto concert singer on the evening of September 22, 1906 at the Norfolk Gymnasium in Norfolk, Connecticut where in 1905 she rented Edgewood, a summer cottage. She was assisted in Norfolk by young Boston violinist Marie Nichols. She used the proceeds from the concert to purchase a memorial window for her mother in the Norfolk Church of the Transfiguration, Episcopal. Clemen's piano accompanist was Charles Edmund "Will" Wark, a classical pianist originally from Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. Wark was Clara Clemen's accompanist from the winter of 1906 to late in 1908. Clemens and Nichols continued to perform together including a series of concerts in London and Paris in 1908. On May 30, Clemens debuted in London at a benefit concert for to aid American girls to attend Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

At 10:00am on December 20, 1908 in Danbury, Clemens went for a sleigh ride with Russian concert pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch who was staying with her father at his residence, Innocence at Home, in Redding. While passing through Redding Glen, the horse took fright at a wind-whipped newspaper and bolted with driver Gabrilowitsch losing control. At the top of a hill, next to a 60-foot (18 m) drop, the sleigh overturned, throwing Clemens out. Gabrilowitsch leaped to the ground and caught the horse by the head, stopping it as it was about to plunge over the bank, dragging Clemens with her dress caught in a runner. Having only sprained his right ankle, Gabrilowitsch returned Clemens to home, unharmed except for the shock of the accident.

Clemens had been introduced to Gabrilowitsch in 1899 in Vienna by Leszetycki who was also training Gabrilowitsch. At noon on October 6, 1909, she subsequently married Gabrilowitsch in the drawing room at Stormfield, the Clemens home with Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twitchell presiding. (Twitchell was a great friend of her father.) Her father said that the engagement was not new, having been "made and dissolved twice six years ago." He also said that the marriage was sudden because Gabrilowitsch had just recovered from a surgical operation he had undergone in the summer and they were about to head off to their new house in Berlin where he would begin his European season. Her sister, Jean Clemens, drowned in the bathtub on December 24, 1909 after having an epileptic seizure. On April 21, 1910, her father died and left his entire estate to her in a will dated August 17, 1909 which provided for quarterly payments of interest to keep it "free from any control or interference from any husband she may have." On July 9, she announced that she was giving practically the entire library of her father, comprising nearly 2,500 books, to the Mark Twain Free Library. On August 19, her only child, Nina, was born in Connecticut at Stormfield. Nina, the last known lineal descendant of Mark Twain, died January 19, 1966 in a Los Angeles hotel. She had been a heavy drinker, and bottles of pills and alcohol were found in her room.

On April 23, 1926, she played the title role in a dramatization of Joan of Arc written by her father at Walter Hampden's theater. This adaptation and her performance were not very well received by critics. It was again produced in 1927, opening on April 12 and for a series of special morning and afternoon performances at the Edyth Totten Theatre.

Gabrilowitsch was conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 1918 until 1935, when he fell ill. He entered the Henry Ford Hospital on March 25 where he stayed until September 28, at which point he was released to his home to convalesce. He subsequently died at his home on September 14, 1936, aged 58.

On May 11, 1944, Clara and Jacques Samossoud, a Russian born symphony conductor, were married in her Hollywood home. She died at age eighty-eight in San Diego, California.

Clara explored eastern religions for a few years, and then eventually became a Christian Scientist, although there is some question as to her seriousness and commitment to it. She authored a book on the subject: Awake to a Perfect Day, published by Citadel Press, NYC, 1956 After originally objecting to the release of her father's Letters from the Earth in 1939, she changed her stance shortly before her death in 1962 and allowed them to be published. She also published biographies of both her father (My Father, Mark Twain in 1931) and of her first husband (My Husband: Gabrilowitsch in 1938).

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Clara Clemens's Timeline

1874
June 8, 1874
Elmira, Chemung, New York, USA
1880
1880
Age 5
Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, United States
1880
Age 5
Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, United States
1880
Age 5
Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, United States
1880
Age 5
Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, United States
1900
1900
Age 25
Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut
1900
Age 25
Hartford City, Hartford, Connecticut
1900
Age 25
Hartford City, Hartford, Connecticut
1909
October 6, 1909
Age 35
Redding, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA
October 6, 1909
Age 35
Redding, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA