Classic Footage of Famous Writers – Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy

Did you know Mark Twain and Count Leo Tolstoy were captured on film? Although they’re associated with the nineteenth century, both writers lived until 1910 and would be filmed in their final years when the technology was still in its infancy. (Mark Twain, who had been born two weeks after Halley’s Comet appeared in 1835, died the day after it next made its return in 1910 – something he had predicted would happen.)

As a Friday treat, we thought we’d share these two videos of footage of these classic nineteenth-century novelists.

First, Mark Twain, in 1909, filmed by none other than Thomas Edison. The footage was filmed at Stormfield, Mark Twain’s estate in Connecticut.

Second, Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, in 1908 when he was an old man of 80.

Disclaimer: We share these videos here on a share-alike basis, since they have been made freely available by others on Youtube.


  1. Pingback: Five Fascinating Facts about Mark Twain | Interesting Literature

  2. Great stuff – though i did giggle at the first Twain vid, where he is simultaneously doing a doble act for Einstein and making sure he has completed his daily 10,000 steps!

    There’s an interesting novel by the American author Ken Kalfus about Tolstoy’s death, the media circus, the making of that newsreel footage, and propagandist art. Title escapes me, I’m afraid, but he has only written 3 or 4 books, and it isn’t his most recent one, Equilateral!

  3. Reblogged this on theminstrelscitadel and commented:
    Wow. Talk about vintage footage! Many thanks to for posting!

  4. What a special treat to see these two esteemed gentlemen in film! Thank you!

  5. Reblogged this on Jtuaim's Blog and commented:
    Some think these videos disturbing. I find a closed mind disturbing.

  6. Wonderful. Reminds us that before writers were ‘great’ and had entries in the reference books they were living breathing people.

  7. I’ve seen the Mark Twain clip somewhere else, yet having recently spent a week studying him and his works brings and seeing this clip again reminds me what a character Twain was. Oh, to have heard him speak one of his notable quips!

  8. Wow. I feel privileged to have seen this. Born-at-the-wrong-time feeling after watching these vids.

  9. Wow! I felt inexplicably thrilled while watching this. Thank you very much for posting!

  10. These are too cool. Thanks for sharing!

  11. What an amazing glimpse. Thanks!

  12. Pingback: Classic Footage of Famous Writers – Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy | sublime days

  13. Reblogged this on sublime days and commented:
    This week I began to read a book of Russian short stories. Of course Tolstoy is in the collection. I was so intrigued, then, to see this post at Interesting Literature (a blog I follow) that includes film footage of Tolstoy! It’s remarkable footage of the two sides of his life – his aristocratic life and his interaction with the peasants. If you have time beyond the five minutes it will take to watch the footage posted by Interesting Literature, here’s a ten minute silent film about Tolstoy.

  14. Two men I admire the most. I feel quite thrilled to see these. Thank you for finding and sharing.

  15. Absolutely incredible! Wonderful footage of both men. I have just this week started to read a book of Russian short stories. It’s been years since I’ve read any Russian works and I just had a hankerin’ for really good writing! The timing of your post couldn’t be better for me. Will be reblogging at Thanks.

  16. Awesome for so many reasons :D

  17. The Tolstoy video was very revealing, thank you for sharing. He looked like quite a formidable character. I am yet to read any of his works, but will be reading Anna Karenina before the year is out. He certainly had a big turnout at his funeral.

  18. no – I did not know this – thanks for the info – and thx for such a cool blog!!!

  19. I actually geeked out for a few moments. I’m into literature and history, having been a history teacher, so this just jumped on me and danced. :)

  20. That film of Mark Twain is amazing. I remember as a kid reading his autobiography, and how he loved his daughters and how they (all but one) died before he did. Oddly poignant to see them messing about with that hat.