Long before Tom Sawyer bargained a turn at fence-painting for a little kitten with one eye, his future creator, Samuel Clemens, grew up in Mississippi loving cats. The man who would grow up to become Mark Twain was surrounded by animals throughout his life. He was a champion for the feline cause in both his life and his writing. Given the opportunity, Twain never failed to praise cats: in letters, in stories for his children, in his classic novels and in his autobiography.
A Childhood With Cats
The young Samuel L. Clemens might not have ever developed this furry affection without the model of his mother’s open heart. He recalls in his autobiography his mother Jane Clemens’ not-so-stern reaction to a stray cat: “By some subtle sign, the homeless, hunted, bedraggled, and disreputable cat recognized her at a glance as the born refuge and champion of his sort — and followed her home. His instinct was right, he was as welcome as the prodigal son.”
The Clemens family admired feline independence. As Twain describes in his autobiography, Jane hated the idea of animals in cages. “My mother would not have allowed a rat to be restrained of its liberty,” and so they chose cats as companions.
By the time Twain was 10 years old, his mother and father were parents to four children and 19 cats. Twain affectionately described their antics: “There wasn’t one in the lot that had any character, not one that had any merit, except the cheap and tawdry merit of being unfortunate. They were a vast burden to us all — including my mother — but they were out of luck, and that was enough; they had to stay.”
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