You are a decoration, you little witch!

Mark Twain wrote this truly lovely letter to 9-year-old Enid Jocelyn Agnew in 1907. Enid, also known as Joy, was the daughter of Punch Magazine‘s Managing Director, Philip Agnew. Philip had recently honoured Twain by throwing a bash at Punch’s offices, a gathering at which Joy had presented Twain with a drawing by Punch cartoonist John Bernard Partridge and a small speech. Twain was smitten and kept in touch with Joy on his return home. The following example was written in reply to a letter she had sent in which Joy had listed her pets.

Tragically, she died aged just 22 after contracting TB.

Transcript follows.


August 1/07


Unto you greetings and salutation and worship, you dear, sweet little rightly-named Joy! I can see you now almost as vividly as I saw you that night when you sat flashing and beaming upon those sombre swallow-tails.

“Fair as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky.”

Oh, you were indeed the only one there wasn’t even the remotest chance of competition with you, dear! Ah, you are a decoration, you little witch!

The idea of your house going to the wanton expense of a flower garden! Aren’t you enough? And what do you want to go and discourage the other flowers for? Is that the right spirit? Is it considerate? Is it kind? How do you suppose they feel when you come around looking the way you look? And you so pink and sweet and dainty and lovely and supernatural? Why, it makes them feel embarrassed and artificial, of course; and in my opinion it is just as pathetic as it can be. Now then you want to reform dear and do right.

Well certainly you are well off, Joy:

“3 bantams;
3 goldfish;
3 doves;
6 canaries;
2 dogs;
1 cat.”

All you need, now, to be permanently beyond the reach of want, is one more dog just one more good, gentle, high principled, affectionate, loyal dog who wouldn’t want any nobler service than the golden privilege of lying at your door, nights, and biting everything that came along and I am that very one, and ready to come at the dropping of a hat.

Do you think you could convey my love and thanks to your “daddy” and Owen Seaman and those other oppressed and down-trodden subjects of yours, you darling small tyrant?

On my knees! These with the kiss of fealty from your other subject.

Mark Twain.

PS: Would you please be good + send me the lovely speech you made to me?