“Queer Secrets” in Men’s Clubs
Upon arriving by stagecoach in Carson City in 1861, Samuel Langhorne Clemens and his older brother Orion took up residence in an overcrowded boarding house, where the enterprising landlady had hung sheets of “cotton domestic” from corner to corner, subdividing single rooms into quartets to accommodate the burgeoning population of silver mining speculators. “This was the rule in Carson,” Twain reported a decade later, having dropped his family name and acquired the moniker that would become so famous, “—any other kind of partition was the rare exception. And if you stood in a dark room and your neighbors in the next had lights, the shadows on your canvas told queer secrets sometimes!” The “queer secrets” pantomimed on the sheets are not the target of Twain’s satire, but the sheets themselves are. “Very often these partitions were made of old flour sacks basted together; … the common herd had unornamented sacks, while the walls of the aristocrat were overpowering with rudimental fresco—i.e., red and blue mill brands” (644). Readers of Twain will recognize his satire of aristocrats, a theme in practically all his work.
KeywordsClub Member Mining Camp Nursery Rhyme Style Love Shared Laughter
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- 2.Recently, Lewis O. Saum published Eugene Field and His Age (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000)Google Scholar
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