Mark Twain's tribute to daughter sells for $242,500

Fri Jun 18, 2010 12:12am EDT
 
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A tribute written by American novelist and satirist Mark Twain to his daughter, who died of spinal meningitis at the age of 24, sold at auction on Thursday for $242,500, almost doubling pre-sale estimates.

The unpublished "A Family Sketch" was a 64-page, handwritten manuscript that Twain wrote around 1896 or 1897 for Olivia "Susy" Clemens, who inspired some of his stories and even wrote her own biography of her father.

The document also reminisced about his own childhood and was described as the missing chapter of his autobiography.

"What initially began as a tribute to his late -- and undisputed favorite -- daughter Susy thus devolved into a narrative that encompasses the whole of this family and friends as well as glimpses of incidents of his own childhood," auctioneer Sotheby's said in a statement.

It had been estimated that the document would sell at Sotheby's for between $120,000 to $160,000, but the price soared as four bidders competed for the manuscript. The sale price, a record for an autographed manuscript by Twain at auction, includes the buyer's premium. Sotheby's said it sold to an unidentified New York trade buyer.

The document was among 200 Twain letters, manuscripts and photographs sold by the estate of media executive James S. Copley. Sotheby's said the collection "shed light on the wit, pathos, and tragedy of the acclaimed author of 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,' Samuel Langhorne Clemens."

Mark Twain was the pen-name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens who died in 1910 at the age of 74.

The University of California at Berkeley is set to release the first of three volumes of Mark Twain's autobiography later this year to coincide with the centennial year of his death.

Twain spent the last four years of his life recording his life for prosperity but included strict instructions that many of the pieces appear no sooner than 100 years after his death.

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Dean Goodman)