Clubbing

Mark Twain had a very active social life. He entertained everyone at his home, was a favorite guest everywhere, and attended everything. He was the star attraction at luncheons and banquets, spoke at the most important dinners, and joined the most prestigious organizations.

He had a fondness for social clubs, where members could “talk, drink, smoke, read, eat, and play billiards and cards,” and for literary groups dedicated to intellectual exchanges. At home in Connecticut he was a member of The Hartford Club, The Twilight Club, and The Monday Evening Club. He established a Saturday Morning Club for the advancement of young women in his neighborhood, with himself as an honorary member, and read poetry at his Browning Club with his wife’s friends. In England he was an honored guest of the Savage Club and the Whitefriars and made a member of The Athenaeum. In New York he lodged at the Players Club and was an early member of The Lotos Club.

The Lotos Club, founded on March 15, 1870, is one of the oldest literary clubs in the United States. Its name comes from the Tennyson poem, “The Lotos Eaters,” and is meant to convey "an idea of rest and harmony."

Clemens joined the club in 1873 and was made a life member in 1895. Several dinners were given in his honor by the club, and he spoke often at their events to honor other Lotos members. Mark Twain called it “The Ace of Clubs.”

Lotos Club. Dinner to Samuel L. Clemens. New York: January 11, 1908. Large souvenir menu printed on single sheet.
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The menu for this Lotos Club dinner, which featured a picture of Mark Twain in his Oxford gown, was rolled like a diploma. Guests dined on Innocent Oysters Abroad, Roughing It Soup, Fish Huckleberry Finn, Joan of Arc Filet of Beef, Punch Brothers Punch, Hadleyburg Salad, Pudd’nhead Cheese, and White Elephant Coffee. Clemens reportedly left the dinner to take a nap as the Jumping Frog Terrapin was being served, but returned to the banquet in time for his cognac and the speeches. The Lotos Club had honored Clemens at two previous dinners, fourteen and seven years before, and Club president Frank R. Lawrence remarked on this occasion that they hoped to continue to honor him every seven years in the future.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Lotos Club. Dinner to Samuel L. Clemens. New York: November 11, 1893. Souvenir menu signed by Mark Twain.
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This tribute to Mark Twain was the first dinner given by the Lotos Club in its new home at 558 Fifth Avenue. Speakers honoring him that night included Seth Low, Richard Watson Gilder, Charles Dudley Warner, Edmund Clarence Stedman, Charles A. Dana, William Dean Howells, Gen. Horace Porter, John Brisben Walker, and Edward Eggleston.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. Autograph letter to J. B. Pond. Kaltenleutgeben, Austria, June 17, [1898].
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Clemens writes to James Pond, the American impresario who had managed several of his lecture tours, reflecting on the Spanish-American War in Cuba. Clemens’s initial enthusiasm turned to disapproval and he later denounced the war for the American imperialism it represented. In a postscript he asks Pond to “remember me affectionately to the Lotoses.” Both he and Pond were members of the literary club.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Pierre Brissaud. Illustration of Mark Twain at the Lotos Club. From an advertisement in Country Life, February 1937.
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Pierre Brissaud was a French Art Deco illustrator, painter and engraver. His illustrations of the well-to-do appeared in French and American magazines and books. This scene of Mark Twain at the Lotos Club was used in an ad for Old Taylor Kentucky Whiskey.

Cornell University Library

Lotos Leaves: Original Stories, Essays, and Poems. Edited by William Fearing Gill. New York: R. Worthington, 1882.
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Members of the Lotos Club of New York compiled this volume, which includes contributions from Mark Twain, Wilkie Collins, Whitelaw Reid, and others. Mark Twain’s entry is titled “An Encounter with an Interviewer” and turns to a favorite topic—the worthlessness of interviews.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

After Dinner Speeches at the Lotos Club. Arranged by John Elderkin, Chester S. Lord, and Horatio A. Fraser. New York, 1901.
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This collection includes a speech given by Clemens at a dinner held by the Lotos Club on November 10, 1905 and a photograph of the group attending the event.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

View an image of this exhibition case: 1

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