The Courtship of Olivia Langdon and Mark Twain
Passionate readers both,
Olivia Langdon and Mark Twain courted through books, spelling out their expectations through literary references as they corresponded
during their frequent separations. Surprisingly, in the process Olivia Langdon reveals herself not as a hypochondriacal hysteric,
as many twentieth-century critics have portrayed her, but as a thoughtful intellectual, widely read in literature, history
and modern science. Not so surprisingly, Samuel Clemens reveals himself as a critic and a sceptic, lampooning Langdon's physics
lessons and her literary heroines. He also shows himself as an astute strategist, carefully manipulating Langdon and her parents.
At the same time, Clemens's letters exhibit his own conservatism about women's nature and women's roles, while Langdon's show
her carefully choosing from her culture's array of possible role models.
1. A commonplace book; 2. Philosophy and chemistry:
science study in 1860s' Elmira; 3. Negotiating difference: love letters and love texts; 4. Conning books: Olivia Langdon and
Samuel Clemens's joint reading; 5. Marriage.
This biography places the correspondence and diaries of Langdon and Twain
within the larger context of Victorian American culture.