Mark Twain’s relationship with his secretary Isabel Lyon had its share of scandal and intrigue. In her book Dangerous Intimacy, author Karen Lystra explores their troubled relationship during Twain’s final years, including allegations that Lyon and Twain’s assistant Ralph Ashcroft conspired to gain control of Twain’s estate.
But editors from the Mark Twain Papers refuted the claim, picked up in several articles this week about Twain’s forthcoming Autobiography, that Lyon once gave him a vibrating “sex toy”. In a listserv post, the editors clarified that “[t]he Autobiography of Mark Twain does not contain any references to sex toys or vibrators of any kind”. Putting the claim in historical context, they told the story behind the rumor.