For much of the 20th century, literary scholars have viewed Olivia Langdon Clemens, the wife of Samuel Clemens--or Mark Twain, as he is better known--as a neurotic, dull, and excessively proper woman. In The Courtship of Olivia Langdon and Mark Twain, author Susan K. Harris presents a radically different view of a woman often ignored by history. Harris bases this study of Langdon on her subject's own diaries and letters, as well as letters by Twain. What she discovers is not the dull Victorian housewife whom modern biographers of Twain have often portrayed. Instead, Harris reveals a vibrant, intellectually acute woman who was well read in history, science, and, of course, literature. Also exposed here are Twain's own conservative views about women and his need to be superior to Langdon, even as he admires her.
Harris's book covers several important areas of both Olivia Langdon's life alone and her life with Samuel Clemens, including Langdon's education and reading preferences, her interest in science, and her intellectual differences with Clemens. By examining the letters these two wrote to each other and their lives and intellectual development apart, Harris casts a new and fascinating light on the vastly underrated Mrs. "Mark Twain."