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A Playful Correspondent

A Rebus-Letter [facsimile of letter to Olivia L. Clemens, 27 November 1881] A Rebus-Letter
[facsimile of letter to Olivia L. Clemens, 27 November 1881]

Clemens, away on copyright business in Montreal in November 1881, wrote home to his wife, Livy, and his three young daughters, Susy, Clara, and Jean, in the form of a "rebus-letter," in which pictographs were substituted for words or syllables. For those who may find his doodles difficult to decode, here is a translation:

Livy dear, a mouse kept me awake last night till 3 or 4 o'clock—so I am lying abed this morning. I would not [a log with a "knot"] give sixpence [the nibs of six pens] to be out yonder in the storm, although it is only snow.

There—that's for the children—was not sure that they could read writing, especially Jean, who is strangely ignorant in some things.

Susy Clemens was nine years old at this time, Clara was seven, and Jean was only 15 months old. The letter's current location is not known; it is reproduced from Albert Bigelow Paine's 1917 edition of Mark Twain's Letters, vol. 1, p. 408.
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