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Passionate readers both, Olivia Langdon and Mark Twain courted through books, spelling out their expectations through literary references as they corresponded during their frequent separations. Surprisingly, in the process Olivia Langdon reveals herself not as a hypochondriacal hysteric, as many twentieth-century critics have portrayed her, but as a thoughtful intellectual, widely read in literature, history and modern science. Not so surprisingly, Samuel Clemens reveals himself as a critic and a sceptic, lampooning Langdon's physics lessons and her literary heroines. He also shows himself as an astute strategist, carefully manipulating Langdon and her parents. At the same time, Clemens's letters exhibit his own conservatism about women's nature and women's roles, while Langdon's show her carefully choosing from her culture's array of possible role models.
Cambridge University Press
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