Write to the Point!

A Neighborhood Studios Program at the Mark Twain House

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Daughters Died of Illnesses That Can Be Treated Today

By Lina Allam

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

     Like any father, Samuel Clemens adored his children and worked hard to provide them with the life that he never had.

But during the 1800’s medicine wasn’t as advanced as it is today, and Clemens lost three of his four children at a young age to medical troubles that might have been prevented today.


Susy Clemens

Clemens, famous for the writing he did under the pen name Mark Twain, lost h is first and only son, Langdon, to diphtheria around the age of 19 months.

Clemens and his wife Olivia also had three girls: Suzy, Clara, and Jane, who lived in the family’s Hartford home until their teenage years.

But when their father lost all his money from investing in the failed invention, the Paige Compositor, he traveled the world doing public speaking to pay off his debts.

When the time came for his family to return home, his oldest daughter, Suzy, then 24 years old, died of meningitis.

Meningitis is a bacterial or viral infection that attacks the brain or spinal cord. The viral strain is untreatable, but eventually the patient’s organs are able to defend the body against the virus, though it could take a week or two.

Bacterial meningitis can be treated through antibiotics, however if it is not treated, it can be fatal. This deadly type of meningitis – called meningococcal disease – causes an overwhelming infection in the body’s internal organs.

If antibiotics are given early during the infestation, the antibiotics could save a life, said Dr. Leonard Banco, a pediatrician and the chief medical officer of Bristol Hospital.

At the time Suzy died, there weren’t antibiotics available to treat the disease, according to Dr. K. Patrick Ober, an endocrinologist at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina who has a keen interest in historical medicine.

Jean, the youngest daughter, was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 15 and suffered seizures.

Banco said epilepsy is a seizure disorder that occurs in an organism mainly because of incorrect wiring in the brain. In a person with epilepsy, this causes seizures to sometimes occur in order for the body to regain its normal state. They can include the clenching of teeth and intense shaking, Banco said, and sometimes loss of consciousness.

An epileptic episode occurs because of a large discharge of energy released by the brain, Banco said.


Jean Clemens

But unlike meningitis, epilepsy cannot be cured and is often something that one is born with.

Without antibiotics and other medicine, Ober said, medical treatment during the time of Mark Twain was limited. Some medicines doctors used, including Lepomane, which is a drug like heroin and often leads to addiction, could be harmful.

Without other options, doctors also often tried to bleed the patient out in order to remove any of the “bad” or “sick” blood, Ober said.

Doctors had no way to treat meningitis in Jean’s day. Ober said there was no medicine for epilepsy. Many medical professionals at the time thought that the epileptic seizures were the cause of intense amount of stress.

Though her family tried to keep Jean calm, she died of a heart-attack brought on by a seizure in 1909. She was 29.

Today, epilepsy is most treated with anti-seizure medicine, though sometimes other treatments are used, according to information provided by the Mayo Clinic.

Writer Rae Martin, A Young Man of Many Words

Profile interview, Rae and Cecilia

Writing Apprentices Rae Martin, left, and Cecilia Gigliotti, in a peer profile interview.

By Cecilia Gigliotti

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Rae Martin isn’t your average 15-year-old.

I was shocked from the start to learn his age. The description that crossed my mind as I sat down with him is “mature beyond his years.”

He is precocious, well-read, and a realist. In telling me about his school – the Metropolitan Learning Center, a magnet school in Bloomfield – he termed his classmates “not my kind of people.”

But then, it seems, it’s tough to find people who are.

Martin is a writer – a serious writer, banging out one short story and several poems a week. While his subjects have thus far been based in reality, his newfound fascination with George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire has inspired him to write with a slightly fantastical slant.

He has never really been a fan of the obvious – the Harry Potter series – but he believes today’s consumers might find fantasy more attractive and “entertaining.”

His familial relationships contribute largely to his work. His parents are no longer together, and while his ties are closer to his maternal relatives than to his paternal, they have both played a pivotal role in his development.

Rae Martin 2013

Rae Martin

They taught him common sense, he says. Through their lessons and his own convictions, Martin has come to believe that “while [people] have sympathy for fellow man, what they do … is self-serving.”

He is not religious, but quite philosophical: he often marvels at the way some people float through life without pondering the “deeper things.”

Then again, he acknowledges, in a world of squalor and injustice, some people can’t afford the room in their day to sit and “marinate on the world” for even a few minutes.

Who has spurred him to do some marinating of his own? What literary figures drive this aspiring novelist forward?

“I take a lot of inspiration from Charles Bukowski,” said Martin. In the style of Bukowski – whose 1982 novel Ham on Rye is one of Martin’s favorites – Martin endeavors in his own writing to “keep it real, keep it raw.”

Martin has a creative attitude toward his craft.

“If a poem is a feeling, then a short story should be a scene,” he said. “And a novel should be a whole movie.”

Whatever activities Martin pursues, he always returns to writing.

“I tried very hard to be good at [sports],” he admitted, but those odds always seemed to be against him. Besides, the school is only a decade old: many of its teams are fledglings, and there is no newspaper or literary magazine. I asked him if he has considered starting one.

“Maybe for senior project,” he said.

Martin doesn’t mind all this – he plans to build a life for himself just writing books. He hopes to get a jump start on this path in a couple of years by attending a small liberal arts school – out-of-state would be ideal – but he won’t be surprised if financial conditions keep him in Connecticut.

In any case, wherever he winds up, I am convinced of his imminent success.

The world might just have another Charles Bukowski on its hands in the very near future.

A Dream or a Nightmare: The Painful Reality of the Bad Boy

By Meaghan Szilagyi

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Bad boys. They are the stereotypes that plague our dreams. But what defines a bad boy?

It seems that each individual has his or her own impression of what a bad boy is.

The most common characteristics of a “bad boy” are exactly what you would think. He lives off adrenaline and risk, he wears a leather jacket, he drives a motorcycle without a helmet, he wears dark shades, he sleeps around, he smokes, and he has tattoos.

Let’s give this bad boy a name. Seth. Perfect.

What about this bad boy image makes girls and guys so blind and infatuated? In my opinion, it depends on the person.

There’s the people pleaser. Let’s name this person Jordan. Jordan will do whatever it takes to gets into a person’s good graces. She gets so involved in what people need her to be that she spends almost no time taking care of herself.

People pleasers don’t have their own personalities. Their own opinions are stuffed and buried deep inside them because of their need to be what people need them to be. They get lost in a sea of perspectives that aren’t their own.

Stick up for yourself Jordan. Sing your own song, not the song everybody else wants you to sing.

Next there’s the rebel, Riley. Riley lives for risk. Hot guy on a motorcycle? Of course he’s going to want to be with him. All the drugs and drinking and other reckless behaviors are what attracted Riley to Seth in the first place.

Riley believes that he can handle anything, no matter what the cost and Seth wants to see just how far he’s willing to go.

Taylor is a scapegoat and always feels guilty about doing or not doing something. If she ends up with Seth, she’ll never leave him because if she did, she would feel like a terrible person. So when Seth asks Taylor for something like sex, she isn’t going to say no.

Does she want to try some LSD with him? Why not? Taylor thinks that saying no would ruin their relationship. Long story short, her life will be spent circling the drain because she just can’t say no.

Last but not least, there’s the enabler, Leslie. Leslie is a fixer. He sees Seth and thinks, He just needs a little bit of lovin’!

But in reality, the bad boy doesn’t want to be fixed. He just wants a new toy to flaunt. Leslie never hesitates to make excuses for Seth whether it be to his family, friends or even his boss.

What driving force has infected the human race to idolize bad boys like Seth? It could be about the chase, the bad-ass reputation, the need to put someone back together, or maybe there’s just something in the water.

Writing Apprentices Sign on With the Mark Twain Gang

Jahyra White of Hartford and Indira Senderovic of wethersfield show their support for the Mark Twain House & Museum.

Twain Studios Writing Apprentices Jahyra White and Indira Senderovic show their allegiance to The Mark Twain House & Museum.

Twain Studios is full of promising young people who clearly know where their loyalties lie: with the Mark Twain House & Museum in the ongoing, friendly summertime battle with Theater Works for the streets, hearts and minds of Hartford.

June Tran, Lina Allam

June Tran of South Windsor and Lina Allam of Glastonbury are most definitely on the side of The Mark Twain House & Museum.

Meaghan Szilagyi and Ambriel Johnson

Meaghan Szilagyi of Wethersfield and Ambriel Johnson of Hartford are key players in the Twain Gang.

Molly Miller, Cecilia Gigliotti

Molly Miller of Hartford and Cecilia Gigliotti of New Britain are on board with Mark Twain.

Rae Martin, Grant Henry

Twain Studios and the Twain Gang wouldn’t be the same without Rae Martin of Windsor and Grant Henry of Glastonbury.

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