Tag Archives: Mark Twain

THE AQUARIUM CLUB

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MARK TWAINI am a great admirer of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens).  After reading his Autobiography I discovered that Mark Twain became increasingly   cynical, depressed and disillusioned by the behavior of the human race.  His revolutionary books, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer were protests against the institution of human slavery in a time when "owning people" for commonplace.  Toward the end of his life, in his 70s, Mark Twain became reclusive and bitter about the pain and suffering he witnessed on his extensive travels around the world during lecture tours.  This was compounded by the agony and personal responsibility he felt for the death of his infant son, the death of his daughters and his beloved wife.  The accumulated tragedy of his his observations and experience as a human being overwhelmed him in the end.  He died defeated by the pain of his own compassion for humanity and from the loss of the people he loved the most-- his family.

Many men who are "dreamers" and "visionaries", like Twain, are highly empathetic.  They FEEL the pain of other beings as a personal, subjective pain.  Some beings find relief from this chronic agony in drugs or alcohol.  Or, they just stop looking and caring.  Mark Twain found a temporary relief from his own pain in tobacco, humor, and a "collection" of young girls....

This article is re-posted from the Blog "Today I Found Out":
Samuel Clemens (aka, Mark Twain) used to “collect” girls between the ages of 10-16 years old.

On February 12, 1908, Clemens said, “I suppose we are all collectors… As for me, I collect pets: young girls — girls from ten to sixteen years old; girls who are pretty and sweet and naive and innocent — dear young creatures to whom life is a perfect joy and to whom it has brought no wounds, no bitterness, and few tears.”

Okay, so it isn’t actually as creepy as it initially sounds and in some ways is kind of sweet, but Samuel Clemens did love to entertain young girls.  Towards the end of Clemens life, he suffered quite a lot of hardship. His daughter Susy died in 1896 and his wife Olivia passed away in 1904, followed by a second daughter, Jean, in 1909. Clemens fell into a depression in the early 1900s and noted that while he had reached the grandfather stage of life, he had no grandchildren to keep him company. He therefore went about befriending young girls who he treated as surrogate granddaughters.ANGELFISH










The girls in question were the daughters of couples who ran in his same social circle. He often met them on boats carting him back and forth to England or Bermuda, as was the case with Helen Allen. Allen was just twelve years old when Clemens stayed with her family in Bermuda. Her father was the American Vice-Council in Bermuda; her grandmother had known Clemens’ wife as a child. Clemens said Allen was “perfect in character, lovely in disposition, and a captivator at sight,” everything that Clemens wanted in his collection of young girls.

The group of girls were called “Angel Fish” or “the Aquarium Club.” The name is derived from the fish that Clemens first saw in Bermuda. He decided on that name because the angelfish “is the most beautiful fish that swims.” Clemens would buy angelfish pins in Bermuda and present them to each of his girls. Out of a dozen or so original pins, at least one is still in existence. It currently resides in the Mark Twain Library in Redding, Connecticut.

So what exactly did a man in his late seventies do with a bunch of teenaged girls? All manner of innocent, grandfatherly things. Clemens invited the girls to concerts, the theatre, and to his own house for card games, billiards, and reading. While in Bermuda, several of his Angel Fish had fun riding in a donkey-pulled cart with him. Clemens initially called his estate “Innocence at Home” in honour of “his girls.” He kept in touch with them by exchanging letters when they couldn’t visit, but always kept a room available and hoped to have an Angel Fish “in it as often as Providence will permit.” Before you get too much of a “Michael Jackson” vibe, it should be noted that the girls were always accompanied by a chaperone; the room for the Angel Fish even had two beds to accommodate a mother or guardian along with a girl.

Besides the room, Clemens’ house also had a billiard room which was refashioned into a sort of shrine to the Angel Fish. Above the door was a sign that said “the Aquarium” and inside the walls were lined with framed photos of each of the Aquarium Club’s members.Mark-Twain1

As innocent as it all was, if some celebrity tried to do that today, the press would have a field day with it, insinuating all manner of disgusting things, whether there was any evidence of such acts or not. In his day, it wasn’t really much of a scandal, though Clemens’ remaining daughter, Clara, didn’t appreciate the behavior, perhaps being a tad jealous. When she returned to her father’s home from a stint in Europe to find that her father had collected a group of young girls to entertain, she made her father change the name of his house to “Stormfield” and stopped the household staff from saving letters from the Angel Fish. (Today the full collection of every surviving letter can be read in Mark Twain’s Aquarium: The Samuel Clemens-Angelfish Correspondence.)

The presence of chaperones probably should have put Clara’s mind at ease, but the letters Clemens wrote to his girls would definitely raise some eyebrows today. Shortly after Dorothy Harvey’s fourteenth birthday, he wrote to tell her “I wish I could have those free-gratis-for-nothing-voyages-&-nothing-to-do-but-look-at-you every day.” To Dorothy Quick, just eleven years old, he wrote after one of her visits, “I went to bed as soon as you departed, there being nothing left to live for after that, & all the sunshine gone. How do you suppose I am going to get along without you?” The letters showed his love and devotion to his girls and the enjoyment he experienced in spending time with them, but today parents would likely have used these letters as evidence in civil lawsuits.

mark-twain-154x210Despite this, only one relationship ever looked to be somewhat improper, and that wasn’t with one of his Angel Fish; further, the inappropriate overtures didn’t come from Clemens. The girl was Gertrude Natkin. He met her when she was fifteen and he was 70 in 1905.  The two exchanged letters and Natkin developed a “school girl crush” on Clemens and went somewhat overboard in expressing her affection for him through her letters. Clemens became concerned about this and distanced himself from her- his letters growing more and more infrequent, because he didn’t want to gain a reputation for impropriety nor encourage her affections, perhaps proving that he saw his Angel Fish as nothing more than granddaughters.  Certainly, at the time, an adult male courting a 15 year old girl wouldn’t have raised eyebrows, particularly if the suitor was well-to-do and not too old.  But at 70, it would have been a scandal even in that time period.

Clemens died on April 21, 1910 of a heart attack, just a few years after establishing the Aquarium Club for his Angel Fish. All in all, there were around a dozen members of the club who visited Clemens regularly until his death, but his enthusiasm for the club waned in the last year of his life; he complained that his girls were growing up too fast, complained about their boyfriends, and cut off one girl when she turned sixteen.  In the end, his fondness for them primarily lying in their innocence, as something of a breath of fresh air in a cynical world, waned as they gradually lost that defining feature of children."

MARK TWAIN: COMMENTS ON THE HUMAN RACE

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Are the comments made about the human race more than 100 years ago by Mark Twain intended to be humorous, sarcastic or serious?

Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)  was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. Among his novels are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called “The Great American Novel“.

“Why was the human race created? Or at least why wasn’t something creditable created in place of it? God had His opportunity; He could have made a reputation. But no, He must commit this grotesque folly–a lark which must have cost him a regret or two when He came to think it over & observe effects.” – Letter to William Dean Howells, 25 January 1900

“As to the human race. There are many pretty and winning things about the human race. It is perhaps the poorest of all the inventions of all the gods but it has never suspected it once. There is nothing prettier than its naive and complacent appreciation of itself. It comes out frankly and proclaims without bashfulness or any sign of a blush that it is the noblest work of God. It has had a billion opportunities to know better, but all signs fail with this ass. I could say harsh things about it but I cannot bring myself to do it–it is like hitting a child.” — Autobiographical dictation, 25 June 1906

“We all belong to the nasty stinking little human race, & of course it is not nice for God’s beloved vermin to scoff at each other… Oh, we are a nasty little lot–& to think there are people who would like to save us & continue us. It won’t happen if I have any influence.” — Letter to William Dean Howells, 2 April 1899

 “Can any plausible excuse be furnished for the crime of creating the human race?” — from The New York Times, “Hartford Museum Purchases Barrels Full of Twain’s Old Books,” July 31, 1997

AMBITIOUS ADVICE

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Mark_Twain_1907

Repost from an article in “Quoteinvestigator.com”:

“The following compelling advice is credited to Mark Twain in self-help books and on websites. It is valuable guidance in my opinion:

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

While searching to learn more about the saying I came across another version which used a different wording. The word “people” was replaced with “those”, and “feel” was replaced with “believe”:

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.”

Did Twain say or write either of these expressions?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI was published in 1938 in the memoir of an extraordinary elocutionist who gave recitals at Chautauquas around the United States. Chautauquas were assemblies that combined entertainment and education by presenting lecturers, preachers, musicians, and other performers to a largely rural audience. Gay Zenola MacLaren wrote in her memoir that she met Mark Twain when she was still a child who aspired to be a great performer. Twain offered her the following counsel:

He opened the door for me himself. As we said good-bye, he put his fingers lightly under my chin and lifted my head up so that my eyes met his.

“Little girl,” he said earnestly, “keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

The date of the meeting was not listed in the book.

In 1901 a review of a performance by MacLaren was published in a Brooklyn, New York newspaper:

She has an almost ventriloquistic power of changing her voice from the light tones of women to the heavier speaking of men, so the recital was thoroughly well balanced and was given with intelligence.

In 1909 the periodical “The Lyceumite and Talent” printed an advertisement for Gay Zenola MacLaren that included a testimonial statement from Mark Twain:

Opinions from Prominent Men

An unusually gifted young lady. Mark Twain.

I do not hesitate to say that I think Miss MacLaren’s work phenomenal. She is a genius. Major James B. Pond.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1938 Time magazine reviewed MacLaren’s memoir and noted that she “got her big chance at the New York Chautauqua”. The magazine presented an eclectic list of participants at Chautauquas:

Thereafter she followed the Chautauqua circuit, along with chalk-talk artists, bell ringers, evangelists, yodlers, zither performers, magicians, bagpipe players, ventriloquists and the strange assortment of educators and entertainers who, in brown tents pitched in small towns all over the U. S., spread culture to apathetic audiences before the War.

zenola04

In 1948 a large compilation of quotations titled “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips” edited by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger was published. The statement was included, and the accompanying citation pointed to MacLaren’s memoir:

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

P. 66—Morally We Roll Along—MacLaren

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READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/03/23/belittle-ambitions/

MARK TWAIN: THOUGHTS ABOUT DEATH

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MARK TWAIN on death

Death is the starlit strip between the companionship of yesterday and the reunion of tomorrow.
– on monument erected to Mark Twain & Ossip Gabrilowitsch

All say, “How hard it is that we have to die”– a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy of the Extraordinary Twins

Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is, knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our race. He brought death into the world.
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy of the Extraordinary Twins

The Impartial Friend: Death, the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose peace and whose refuge are for all–the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved.
– Mark Twain, last written statement; Moments with Mark Twain, Paine

Pity is for the living, envy is for the dead.
Following the Equator

Death, the refuge, the solace, the best and kindliest and most prized friend and benefactor of the erring, the forsaken, the old and weary and broken of heart.
– Adam speech, 1883

Life was not a valuable gift, but death was. Life was a fever-dream made up of joys embittered by sorrows, pleasure poisoned by pain; a dream that was a nightmare-confusion of spasmodic and fleeting delights, ecstasies, exultations, happinesses, interspersed with long-drawn miseries, griefs, perils, horrors, disappointments, defeats,humiliations, and despairs–the heaviest curse devisable by divine ingenuity; but death was sweet, death was gentle, death was kind; death healed the bruised spirit and the broken heart, and gave them rest and forgetfulness; death was man’s best friend; when man could endure life no longer, death came and set him free.
Letters from the Earth

Manifestly, dying is nothing to a really great and brave man.
– Letter to Olivia Clemens, 7/1/1885 (referring to General Grant)

How lovely is death; and how niggardly it is doled out.
– Letter to Olivia Clemens, 8/19/1896

It is a solemn thought: dead, the noblest man’s meat is inferior to pork.
More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

[I am] not sorry for anybody who is granted the privilege of prying behind the curtain to see if there is any contrivance that is half so shabby and poor and foolish as the invention of mortal life.
– Letter to Mary Mason Fairbanks, 1894

I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead–and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead, and they would be honest so much earlier.
Mark Twain in Eruption

To die one’s self is a thing that must be easy, & light of consequence; but to lose a part of one’s self–well, we know how deep that pang goes, we who have suffered that disaster, received that wound which cannot heal.
– Letter to Will Bowen, 11/4/1888

Favored above Kings and Emperors is the stillborn child.
– Notebook, #42 1898

All people have had ill luck, but Jairus’s daughter & Lazarus the worst.
– Notebook #42, 1898

No real estate is permanently valuable but the grave.
– Notebook #42, 1898

Death is so kind, so benignant, to whom he loves; but he goes by us others & will not look our way.
– Letter to W. D. Howells, 12/20/1898

A distinguished man should be as particular about his last words as he is about his last breath. He should write them out on a slip of paper and take the judgment of his friends on them. He should never leave such a thing to the last hour of his life, and trust to an intellectual spurt at the last moment to enable him to say something smart with his latest gasp and launch into eternity with grandeur.
– “The Last Words of Great Men”, 1869

Death….a great Leveler — a king before whose tremendous majesty shades & differences in littleness cannot be discerned — an Alp from whose summit all small things are the same size.
– Letter to Olivia Clemens, 10/15/1871