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.
Through thorough analyses of four major works, Cummings offers a unique perspective on the ways in which Twain looked to science for such meanings as it could give in answering social, moral, and cosmological questions. Near the end of his life Clemens became the friend and correspondent of twelve schoolgirls whom he called his of the collected here, with introductory material by editor Cooley. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)