The Five of Hearts
An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends, 1880-1918
Reading Group Guide
Questions and Topics For Discussion
1.How would you describe each of the personalities of the five figures - Henry Adams, Clover Adams, John Hay, Clara Hay, and Clarence King—who made up the Five of Hearts? What elements account for their unusual cohesiveness as a group?
2. Mark Twain remarked of John Hay: “The presence of such a man in politics is like a vase of . . . roses in a glue-factory—it can’t extinguish the stink, but it modifies it.”How does Twain’s remark stand up in the context of Hay’s political career under Presidents Lincoln, McKinley, and Roosevelt?
3.How might Clover Adams’s frustrations as an intellectual in an era that did not offer women equal opportunities have contributed to her untimely demise? What role (if any) do you think her husband, Henry Adams, played in her depression?
4. In her preface,Patricia O’Toole writes: “A biography of a circle of friends is doubly rewarding . . . since it allows us to touch their hands and to see how they held out their hands to each other.” What do the ways the members of the Five of Hearts reached out to one another in times of need suggest about their connection?
5. What roles do secrets play in the lives of the Five of Hearts? Consider the anonymous authorship of Democracy and The Bread-Winners, Clover’s mysterious nervous breakdo see more