Review by Choice Review
John Cooley has given Twain scholars significant primary materials about the last five years of Clemens/Twain's life: the 300 known letters (many more may have been destroyed by Clara Clemens) that the author wrote to and received from the 12 young girls ranging in age from 11 to 16 with whom he surrounded himself during that period. The letters are, by and large, formulaic, expressing Twain's love for the girls, his interest in their activities, and his desire that they should write him and visit him. Undistinguished as they often are, the letters, nevertheless, tell us much about Twain's loneliness and need for "butter" during this tragic period in his life. Dorothy Quick, one of the angel fish, wrote of her experience with Twain in Enchantment: A Little Girl's Friendship with Mark Twain (1961), and Hamlin Hill in Mark Twain God's Fool (CH, Dec'73) pointed out their significance in Twain's declining years. Cooley's careful editing with appropriate introductions places the letters into a larger context of Twain's last five years and will help scholars see Twain's problematic relationship to the young women more clearly. Highly recommended for all college libraries. -E. Suderman, Gustavus Adolphus College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
In his later years, Mark Twain devised a hobby that he called the Aquarium Club and described it as follows: "I collect pets: young girls--girls from ten to sixteen years old, girls who are pretty and sweet and naive and innocent . . . gems of the first water." Twain reveled in receiving and sending letters to his young female friends. He granted each young girl the title of "angelfish." Throughout this collection of Twain's extensive correspondence with his "surrogate granddaughters" (Cooley's term) and the girls' responses (written between 1905 and 1910), the tone remains smarmy and too cute for words (also, too dull for perverse insinuations). A more satisfying look at Twain the correspondent can be found in Mark Twain's Letters [BKL Ap 15 90]. ~--Denise Perry Donavin
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review
Having lost his wife to death and his daughters Jean to epilepsy and Clara to a music career, Twain recruited 12 girls between ages ten and 16 to act as surrogate granddaughters in his lonely, depression-ridden last years. Bright and, above all, innocent, these ``angelfish''--members of the Aquarium Club--were welcome guests at Twain's New York apartment and later at Stormfield, the club's headquarters, always properly chaperoned. The aging writer may seem pathetic, but the wealth of letters collected here are dotted with charm and wit and represent a genuine contribution to Twain scholarship.-- Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.