So you can read my books

Monday, November 11, 2013

THE ANGEL-FISH CLUB OF MARK TWAIN_For Mr. Fowler's 8th grade class_

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain.  

He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "the Great American Novel."

Twain passed through a period of deep depression that began in 1896 when his daughter Susy died of meningitis

Twain formed a club in 1906 for girls he viewed as surrogate granddaughters, the Angel Fish and Aquarium Club.

The dozen or so members ranged in age from 10 to 16. Twain exchanged letters with his "Angel Fish" girls and invited them to concerts and the theatre and to play games.

Twain wrote in 1908 that the club was his "life's chief delight."

 In 1907 Twain met Dorothy Quick (then aged 11) on a transatlantic crossing, beginning "a friendship that was to last until the very day of his death".


Why, hello, Missy.  What are you doing lurking in the shadows of this haunted French Quarter club?

What?  Some bully forced you in here to get chewed up?  Alice, my dear, would you go out and see if that bully has any taste at all ... only a finger or two.  Now, don't pout, Alice.  You have to watch that figure.

Come, Missy, sit at my table.  I won't bite.  That's Alice's quaint behavior. 

I hate sitting at a table alone.  What is a table without a child to brighten it?  That's better.  Here, let me stick this angel fish pin on your pretty blouse.

Could you ask me a question or two for your report?  Why, surely, you can.

What is this pin for?

Well, I suppose we are all collectors...

As for me, I collect pets: young girls -- don't giggle there, Missy --

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.

Their parents were always near so they were safe from nasty gosssip.

Is that all, you ask.

I lost my dear daughter, Susy, in 1896.  It near ended me.  After my wife's death on June 5, 1904, I experienced a terrible storm of unrest and loneliness.

Clara and Jean. my remaining daughters, were busy with their studies and their labors    

and I was washing about on a forlorn sea of banquets and speechmaking in high and holy causes...

I had reached the grandpapa stage of life; and what I lacked and what I needed was grandchildren.

Why, yes, Missy, I guess you are my newest grandchild.  Now, that laugh was deserved.  I'll call you my latest angel-fish.

What is an angel-fish you ask?

 The Bermudian angel-fish, with its splendid blue decorations, is easily the most beautiful fish that swims ...

I call my collection of young grandgirls The Aquarium.  The club's badge is the angel-fish's splendors reproduced in enamels and mounted for service as a lapel-pin --

 at least that is where the girls wear it. I get these little pins in Bermuda; they are made in Norway.

Have I ever been to Norway?

Why, Missy, the closest I got was the Black Forest in Germany.

Did I ever meet a ghost before I became one?

Missy, I have ransacked the Sandwich Islands until I could not walk for the saddle sores.  I have surf-bathed til I nearly drowned.  I have ridden by moonlight through a ghostly plain of sand strewn with human bones and contested with the shades of slain warriors there. 


What are the Sandwich Islands?

Why, you folks call them Hawaii now I reckon. 

For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore,

its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud-rack; I can feel the spirit of its woody solitudes, I hear the plashing of the brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished 160 years ago.

Did my stories have wit or humor?

Why, isn't that an insightful little question with big implications. 

Wit and Humor—if any difference it is in duration—lightning and electric light. Same material, apparently; but one is vivid, brief, and can do damage—the other fools along and enjoys elaboration.

Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a sneeze of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom.

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing, after all. The minute it crops up all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.

Who is that handsome young man approaching us?

Why, that is Victor Standish, Alice's boyfriend.  Ah, he just winked at you.  Uh, oh, Alice is storming our way.

Scoot!  I will not have a granddaughter eaten at my table.

 Why, that gal really knows how to run.  Aw, she left her notes.

I wonder who Michael Jackson is?

(Member of Angel-Fish Club)
circa 1896 - May 19, 1969

Gerken and Clemens in Bermuda
This photo of Irene Gerken and Clemens appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES, April 19, 1908.
Gerken was not identified in the
TIMES photo.


  1. Angel fish club. I've never heard of this at all. What an insight into handling loss.

    What a dear old Mark is!

    Is Milo aware of this series for his class?

  2. D.G.:
    They made a TV movie of the Angel-Fish Club years ago with Jason Robards as Mark Twain.

    I've emailed him about it, and he said he would point out the posts to his students. Several have chosen Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Dickinson to write about.

    I hope the students find the posts enlightening and entertaining. :-)

    I'm very happy you have.

    I'm having fun writing Mark Twain in my DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE. Imagine Mark Twain in Egyptian on a mysterious archaeological dig!

  3. Ooh. I like stories with a bit of Egyptian in them. My curiosity about the huge monuments in Egypt will always intrigue me. If you're having fun writing Death in the House of Life, I'm sure we (your readers) will love it.

    PS - in The Greater Journey, a book I mentioned in my last post, there was mention of Margaret Fuller being in Paris in the mid 1800s, I believe. I knew about her because of your posts! So thanks for improving my knowledge!

  4. D.G,:
    It is fun to discover extraordinary people who lived an epic life, yet history knows little of them.

    I just discovered Lady Lucie Duff Gordon, a woman whose tuberculosis drove her to live in Luxor, Egypt. In England, she entertained Tennyson, Dickens, and other literary giants. She was witty and fought for the underdog in Egypt.

    I hope some of Milo's students like these posts, for no one else is visiting them. Oh, well, they were fun to write.

    DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE is fun also, though slow going what with all the research. Nikola Tesla and Oscar Wilde are also in it. I am going to have to look into THE GREATER JOURNEY. :-)

  5. Mr. Fowler's class thanks you, Roland! Nicely done, as always.