On August 17, 1880, Mark Twain placed an order with Tiffany & Co., jewelers of New York City, for “19 badges” intended as gifts for the members of Hartford’s Saturday Morning Club -- a group of unmarried, upper-class, local women, ranging in age from 16 to 20, who met weekly from October through June for an alternating series of lectures and discussions intended “to promote Culture and Social Intercourse.”
In the second installment of "The Trouble Begins at 5:30," The Mark Twain House & Museum's fall series of free Twainian lectures, Dr. Kerry Driscoll of the University of Saint Joseph will tell the tale of this extraordinary group of women. She will explore the history of Clemens’s sustained engagement with the Saturday Morning Club and the insights it provides into his views on gender and female education.
"My Love and Patriarchal Blessing:" Mark Twain and the Saturday Morning Club of Hartford will be presented on Wednesday, October 25, at 5:30 p.m. A 5:00 p.m. reception will precede the event.
The Saturday Morning Club's members affectionately considered Twain their “patron saint.” Between 1876 and 1891, he addressed the group on at least fifteen occasions, speaking on a wide array of topics ranging from “Liberty” and “Banquets” to “The Life of Lord Macaulay.” Some of his lectures, such as “On the Decay of the Art of Lying,” later appeared in print; others appear to have been expressly written for the occasion.
According to Helen Smith Ellsworth, one of the club’s original members, during the winter of 1878 the writer regaled the women with portions of The Prince and the Pauper, then a work in progress.
On March 28, 1878, just two weeks before Twain and his family departed for a 16-month stay in Europe, he sent the “dear young ladies” an effusive note of thanks: “For Mrs. Clemens & myself, I hasten to thank you cordially for this exquisite remembrancer, these lovely flowers. If you will let me say it, it is like coming to us yourselves, in a body, these gracious creatures do so worthily & so truly represent your own fresh bloom & grace & beauty. Although I am doubtless to be absent a long time, I am too proud of my patriarchal position in the Club to be willing to either resign it or allow another to occupy it in the interregnum.”
The event is free, but pre-registration is strongly suggested. To register, click here.
Dr. Kerry Driscoll is an internationally renowned Mark Twain scholar and President of the Mark Twain Circle of America. Her much-awaited book, Mark Twain Among the Indians, the definitive work on the thorny subject of Twain and Native Americans, is forthcoming in Spring 2018 from the University of California Press. For two decades she has been a loyal friend of -- and a frequent lecturer, exhibition consultant, and teacher workshop organizer at -- The Mark Twain House & Museum, and she was recently appointed to the museum's Board of Trustees. She is a featured contributor to journals and publications on Twain, including Cosmopolitan Twain, a 2008 anthology in which she gives the best recent portrait of Twain in his Hartford context.