Scholar speaks on The Saturday Morning Club, founded by Mark Twain


HARTFORD — On Aug. 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 group of women. She will explore the history of Samuel Clemens’ (Mark Twain’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 at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 25. A 5 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 15 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, 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.

The event is free, but registration is strongly suggested.