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The New York Times, December 15, 1935

Iowan Discloses Destruction of Humorist's Missives to His Mother.
Four Trunks of Papers Were Destroyed by an Estate Administrator at Keokuk.

COLUMBIA, S.C., Dec. 14 (AP) - A treasure trove of unique value went up in smoke one day in Keokuk, Iowa, when Mark Twain's letters to his mother, almost four trunks of them, were destroyed as requested by the humorist himself.

The details of that fire were told today for the first time by Dr. G. Walter Barr, author and Keokuk resident, now visiting in South Carolina, incidentally to the recent centennial of Twain's birth. Dr. Barr, a Twain student for many years, was a friend of the man whose duty it was to burn the letters.

Dr. Barr heard the story from John R. Carpenter, once Mayor of Keokuk. Mrs. Carpenter was a cousin of the brothers Sam and Orion Clemens, and the former corresponded with her all his life after leaving Keokuk.

Twain spent several years in Keokuk, working as a printer in Brother Orion's shop, and it was to a Keokuk newspaper that he contributed the first articles for which he received pay - $5 each. The humorist's mother lived in Keokuk for some years after her famous son moved East. She died there in 1890.

"When Mrs. Clemens died," Dr. Barr recalled, "her personal and family treasures went into the possession of her son Orion. When Orion died, his wife had the succession and kept it inviolate until her own death in 1904.

"John R. Carpenter was administrator of Orion's wife estate and the archives of Mother Clemens were delivered to him. One item was a collection of letters from Mark Twain to his mother, running through many decades from youth to world-wide fame.

"But with those three or four trunks of letters was an admonition. Mark Twain had enjoined his mother that she always burn his letters to her. She had not done so, but had passed on the injunction to Orion and to the wife of the latter, and Carpenter was familiar with it.

"Mark Twain had written these letters to his mother in perfect candor - and about the whole sum of his candid writing was in them - intending and believing that nobody else would ever see them, and had ordered them burned.

"And so Carpenter burned every one. It took him several long evenings to complete the job thoroughly."

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