Here's Who Inherited Mark Twain's Money After He Died

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known better by his pen name Mark Twain, was 74 years old when he died on April 21, 1910. The famous novelist, humorist and lecturer was buried in Elmira, New York. The man who had given the world so much laughter had been predeceased by his wife of more than 30 years, as well as three of his four children — a son and two daughters — according to History. Only one daughter, Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch, an opera singer, survived him. She inherited the entire Mark Twain estate. The sizeable estate consisted of manuscripts, stocks, real estate, copyrights, and book deals, according to 83 Degrees.

Before his death, Twain had left a simple eight-page will (posted at Living Trust Network) naming his daughter as his beneficiary, with the estate to be managed by three of his trusted friends. Furthermore, the author stated clearly that the money, doled out in quarterly payments throughout her lifetime, would be "free from any control or interference from any husband she may have."

'Free from any control or interference'

At the time of her father's death, Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch had recently married Russian pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch, according to The Recorder, and the two were living in Europe. Their daughter, Nina, Mark Twain's first and only granddaughter, was born in 1910 after the novelist died. Clara Gabrilowitsch managed to keep her inheritance "free from any control or interference from" her husband, who according to memoirist Thomas Larson, made a comfortable salary of his own.

The family settled in Detroit, where Ossip Gabrilowitsch worked as conductor for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Clara continued to sing opera. They gave Nina an upbringing similar to the one Clara herself experienced as the daughter of a world-famous writer, complete with private tutors and extensive travel. As the only child of Mark Twain's only surviving daughter, Nina was set to inherit the estate upon her mother's death. She attended prestigious Barnard College and had aspirations to be an actress.

A change in fortune

As the sole heir of Mark Twain, Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch felt a responsibility to protect his public image, according to memoirist Thomas Larson in his essay, "I Am Your Loving Daughter, Clara Clemens." To this end, she clashed with the appointed trustees of her father's estate who wanted to make his letters available to the public. Both Charles Lark and Jervis Langdon resigned as trustees of the estate as a result of the feud.

With trustees out of the picture, there was no one to make sure that Clara's financial inheritance remained "free from any control or interference from any husband she may have." Meanwhile, Ossip Gabrilowitsch died of cancer in 1936. Eight years later, Clara remarried, to a man 20 years her junior. Her new husband, Jacques Samossoud, was a compulsive gambler and began borrowing from his wife's assets.

By 1951, Jacques Samossoud's gambling debts were so large, he convinced Clara to auction off their home and priceless Mark Twain papers. The one collection Clara did not part with was her 24-volume of the complete works of Mark Twain with every volume inscribed and signed, with personalized quotes such as, "Be good and you will be lonesome — like me."

The Mark Twain inheritance leaves the family

Jacques Samossoud had borrowed so much money from his wife's inherited estate, that next he tried to get her to write her daughter, Nina Gabrilowitsch, out of her will, according to memoirist Thomas Larson. The rationale behind this was if Jacques became the sole inheritor of Mark Twain's estate, then he would owe the money to himself.

Nina had developed an alcohol addiction, so her mother was persuaded to cut her off financially, under the pretense it was for her own good. "Too much money increases your difficulties caused by alcohol," she wrote Nina in a letter explaining her decision. Jacques Samossoud was named sole beneficiary of Clara Clemens' will, with his friend Dr. William Seiler named as sole beneficiary after his death. Neither man was related to Mark Twain. Clara Clemens published three books, one a remembrance of her father, before she died in 1962 at the age of 88.

'When I die, I want artificial flowers'

Nina Gabrilowitsch sued her stepfather, Jacques Samossoud, for having undue influence over her mother, Clara Clemens, and the courts awarded Nina 35% of the family estate. Samossaud retained 65% of the estate. Gabrilowitsch went by Miss Clemens in memory of her famous grandfather, according to her 1966 obituary (via Mark Twain Studies). She lived on the monthly income of about $1,500 after taxes, drawn from the Mark Twain estate, estimated to be $2 million total at the time.

According to her obituary, Miss Clemens was found dead in a San Francisco hotel room at the age of 55 surrounded by pill bottles and alcohol, of an apparent overdose. She had reportedly told a Los Angeles bartender a few nights before, "When I die, I want artificial flowers, jitterbug music and a bottle of vodka at my grave." The remaining Mark Twain estate went to Jacques Samossaud and his friend Dr. William Seiler, according to memoirist Thomas Larson. After Seiler died, the money went to the Mark Twain Foundation, which supports literary, scientific, religious, educational, and charitable causes.

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