Jean Clemens

Jane Lampton "Jean" Clemens (July 26, 1880 December 24, 1909) was the youngest of three daughters born to Samuel Langhorne Clemens (better known by his pen name Mark Twain) and his wife Olivia Langdon Clemens. She drowned in a bathtub at her father's home on Christmas Eve 1909 after an apparent seizure.

Jean Clemens
Jane Lampton Clemens

(1880-07-26)July 26, 1880
DiedDecember 24, 1909(1909-12-24) (aged 29)
Cause of deathDrowning
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery
Parent(s)Mark Twain
Olivia Langdon Clemens
RelativesLangdon Clemens (brother)
Clara Clemens (sister)
Susy Clemens (sister)

Character and early life

Jean Clemens was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the youngest of four children born to author and humorist Mark Twain and his wife Olivia Langdon Clemens.[1] The couple's first child was son Langdon who died of diphtheria at 19 months. Her older sisters were Susy and Clara. According to Mark Twain's Autobiography, Jean was kind-hearted and particularly fond of animals, like her mother. She founded or worked with a number of societies for the protection of animals in the various locations where she lived.[2]


Jean had epilepsy from age 15 which her father attributed to a head injury that she had suffered at age 8 or 9.[3] The family spent years seeking cures in the United States and Europe. Twain also attributed her mood swings and sometimes erratic behavior to her uncontrolled epilepsy.[4]

Jean's mother tried to include her in family life despite her illness, but Olivia died in 1904 and it was left to Twain and Clara to manage her and the difficulties which her illness caused. Twain's secretary Isabel Lyon claimed that Jean physically attacked family maid Katy Leary on two occasions in 1906, saying that she wanted to kill her.[5] In her 2004 biography Dangerous Intimacy: The Untold Story of Mark Twain's Final Years, historian Karen Lystra questions the accuracy of Lyon's account of Jean's violent behavior and suggests that Lyon manipulated a separation between father and daughter because Lyon hoped to marry Twain.[6] Jean was sent to an epilepsy colony in Katonah, New York in the fall of 1906 and her father denied her requests to come home, fearing that he could not care for her.[7] Twain fired Lyon and her new husband in 1909, claiming that they were both guilty of embezzlement, and he permitted Jean to return home in April 1909. Jean and her father seemed to get along well together, though she found him stubborn and temperamental.[8]


Jean was staying at her father's home Stormfield in Redding, Connecticut in December 1909, and she had decorated the home for the upcoming Christmas holiday. She was found dead in the bathtub on the morning of December 24.[9] She had apparently suffered a seizure and drowned.[10][11] Clemens was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira.[9] Twain died four months later on April 21, 1910.


  1. Youngblood, Wayne (2006). Mark Twain Along the Mississippi. Gareth Stevens. p. 60. ISBN 0-8368-6435-2.
  2. Twain, Mark (1910). "The Death of Jean". Mark Twain's Autobiography. Retrieved January 24, 2008.
  3. Trombley, Laura Skandera. "She Wanted to Kill: Jean Clemens and Postictal Psychosis". She Wanted to Kill: Jean Clemens and Postictal Psychosis. Archived from the original on September 2, 2006. Retrieved January 24, 2008.
  4. Ward, Duncan, and Burns (2001), p. 221
  5. Ward, Duncan, and Burns (2001), pp. 227-230
  6. Lystra (2004)
  7. Ward, Duncan and Burns (2001), p. 230
  8. Ward, Duncan, and Burns (2001), p. 248
  9. LeMaster, J.R.; Wilson, James D., eds. (2013). The Routledge Encyclopedia of Mark Twain. Routledge. p. 153. ISBN 1-135-88128-6.
  10. "Miss. Jean Clemens Found Dead in Bath". The New York Times. Redding, Conn. (published December 25, 1909). December 24, 1909. p. 1. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 21, 2008.
  11. Ward, Duncan and Burns (2001), pp. 250-251


  • Lystra, Karen (2004). Dangerous Intimacy: The Untold Story of Mark Twain's Final Years. University of California Press Ltd. ISBN 0-520-23323-9.
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Duncan, Dayton, Burns, Ken (2001). Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40561-5
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