RIVERDALE—A YALE DEGREE
The Clemens household did not return to 14 West Tenth Street. They spent a week in Elmira at the end of September, and after a brief stop in New York took up their residence on the northern metropolitan boundary, at Riverdale-on-the-Hudson, in the old Appleton home. They had permanently concluded not to return to Hartford. They had put the property there into an agent’s hands for sale. Mrs. Clemens never felt that she had the strength to enter the house again.
They had selected the Riverdale place with due consideration. They decided that they must have easy access to the New York center, but they wished also to have the advantage of space and spreading lawn and trees, large rooms, and light. The Appleton homestead provided these things. It was a house built in the first third of the last century by one of the Morris family, so long prominent in New York history. On passing into the Appleton ownership it had been enlarged and beautified and named “Holbrook Hall.” It overlooked the Hudson and the Palisades. It had associations: the Roosevelt family had once lived there, Huxley, Darwin, Tyndall, and others of their intellectual rank had been entertained there during its occupation by the first Appleton, the founder of the publishing firm. The great hall of the added wing was its chief feature. Clemens once remembered:
“We drifted from room to room on our tour of inspection, always with a growing doubt as to whether we wanted that house or not; but at last, when we arrived in a dining-room that was 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and had two great fireplaces in it, that settled it.”
There were pleasant neighbors at Riverdale, and had it not been for the illnesses that seemed always ready to seize upon that household the home there might have been ideal. They loved the place presently, so much so that they contemplated buying it, but decided that it was too costly. They began to prospect for other places along the Hudson shore. They were anxious to have a home again—one that they could call their own.
Among the many pleasant neighbors at Riverdale were the Dodges, the Quincy Adamses, and the Rev. Mr. Carstensen, a liberal-minded minister with whom Clemens easily affiliated. Clemens and Carstensen visited back and forth and exchanged views. Once Mr. Carstensen told him that he was going to town to dine with a party which included the Reverend Gottheil, a Catholic bishop, an Indian Buddhist, and a Chinese scholar of the Confucian faith, after which they were all going to a Yiddish theater. Clemens said:
“Well, there’s only one more thing you need to make the party complete —that is, either Satan or me.”
Howells often came to Riverdale. He was living in a New York apartment, and it was handy and made an easy and pleasant outing for him. He says: