The Five of Hearts Essay - Critical Essays

Patricia O’Toole

The Five of Hearts

THE FIVE OF HEARTS is the intimate story of five friends who by birth and persuasion were elitists. Henry Adams was part of a family line that included two presidents. Adams socialized with political figures but did not join in the fray himself. Instead, he became a historian and world traveler. The remaining members of the Five of Hearts included Henry’s wife, Clover Adams, John Hay and his wife Clara, and the bachelor of the group, Clarence King. These oddly mismatched friends started their exclusive club in 1880. They even went so far as to order engraved stationery and tea trays that were unique to their circle.

The friends found mutual support in their association. At the same time, there were underlying tensions in the group. John Hay was active in politics, serving as Secretary of State to William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Not a strong man, he suffered from depression and a number of phobias. His wife was a calm and undemanding woman who fit in with the anti-feminist temper of her husband. Clarence King was a geologist and adventurer who throughout his life felt threatened by women who were educated and independent. Clover Adams was a wondrously talented and intelligent woman who was literally stifled by the aristocratic nature of the group. She had great wit and even impressed Henry James with her barbs. She was also a very unhappy individual and never was able to come to terms with herself as someone who had worth. Adams did not...

(The entire section is 454 words.)