It was on this day 105 years ago that the man who is often quoted as saying “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated” did, in fact, really die. What Samuel ‘Mark Twain’ Clemens actually said to the journalist who came to his door in 1897 to investigate his presumed fatality was “The report of my death is an exaggeration,” but the various misquotes about Clemens’ denial of death have taken on lives of their own.
In 1909, 73-year-old Clemens proclaimed: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'”
He was eerily accurate in his prescience. He died of a heart attack that next year, on this day exactly one century and 5 years ago – April 21, 1910 – at the age of 74, precisely one day after Halley’s Comet’s closest approach to Earth. He was buried next to his wife in Upstate New York. His only surviving child placed next to his grave a monument that was 12 feet long, or two fathoms deep – the depth at which it’s safe for an average steamboat to pass, a riverboat expression known as “Mark Twain,” from which Samuel Clemens chose his pen name.
Thanks to The Writer’s Almanac for some of the above.