Mark Twain's Speeches
Part 3 out of 5
rescued, if I may use that term, that marvellous girl, that wonderful
Southern girl, that girl who was stone deaf, blind, and dumb from
scarlet-fever when she was a baby eighteen months old; and who now is as
well and thoroughly educated as any woman on this planet at twenty-nine
years of age. She is the most marvellous person of her sex that has
existed on this earth since Joan of Arc.
That is not all Mr. Rogers has done; but you never see that side of his
character, because it is never protruding; but he lends a helping hand
daily out of that generous heart of his. You never hear of it. He is
supposed to be a moon which has one side dark and the other bright.
But the other side, though you don't see it, is not dark; it is bright,
and its rays penetrate, and others do see it who are not God.
I would take this opportunity to tell something that I have never been
allowed to tell by Mr. Rogers, either by my mouth or in print, and if I
don't look at him I can tell it now.
In 1893, when the publishing company of Charles L. Webster, of which I
was financial agent, failed, it left me heavily in debt. If you will
remember what commerce was at that time you will recall that you could
not sell anything, and could not buy anything, and I was on my back; my
books were not worth anything at all, and I could not give away my
copyrights. Mr. Rogers had long enough vision ahead to say, "Your books
have supported you before, and after the panic is over they will support
you again," and that was a correct proposition. He saved my copyrights,
and saved me from financial ruin. He it was who arranged with my
creditors to allow me to roam the face of the earth for four years and
persecute the nations thereof with lectures, promising that at the end of
four years I would pay dollar for dollar. That arrangement was made;
otherwise I would now be living out-of-doors under an umbrella, and a
borrowed one at that.
You see his white mustache and his head trying to get white (he is always
trying to look like me--I don't blame him for that). These are only
emblematic of his character, and that is all. I say, without exception,
hair and all, he is the whitest man I have ever known.
THE OLD-FASHIONED PRINTER
ADDRESS AT THE TYPOTHETAE DINNER GIVEN AT DELMONICO'S,
JANUARY 18, 1886, COMMEMORATING THE BIRTHDAY OF
Mr. Clemens responded to the toast "The Compositor."
The chairman's historical reminiscences of Gutenberg have caused me to
fall into reminiscences, for I myself am something of an antiquity.
All things change in the procession of years, and it may be that I am
among strangers. It may be that the printer of to-day is not the printer
of thirty-five years ago. I was no stranger to him. I knew him well.
I built his fire for him in the winter mornings; I brought his water from
the village pump; I swept out his office; I picked up his type from under
his stand; and, if he were there to see, I put the good type in his case
and the broken ones among the "hell matter"; and if he wasn't there to
see, I dumped it all with the "pi" on the imposing-stone--for that was
the furtive fashion of the cub, and I was a cub. I wetted down the paper
Saturdays, I turned it Sundays--for this was a country weekly; I rolled,
I washed the rollers, I washed the forms, I folded the papers, I carried
them around at dawn Thursday mornings. The carrier was then an object of
interest to all the dogs in town. If I had saved up all the bites I ever
received, I could keep M. Pasteur busy for a year. I enveloped the
papers that were for the mail--we had a hundred town subscribers and
three hundred and fifty country ones; the town subscribers paid in
groceries and the country ones in cabbages and cord-wood--when they paid
at all, which was merely sometimes, and then we always stated the fact in
the paper, and gave them a puff; and if we forgot it they stopped the
paper. Every man on the town list helped edit the thing--that is,
he gave orders as to how it was to be edited; dictated its opinions,
marked out its course for it, and every time the boss failed to connect
he stopped his paper. We were just infested with critics, and we tried
to satisfy them all over. We had one subscriber who paid cash, and he
was more trouble than all the rest. He bought us once a year, body and
soul, for two dollars. He used to modify our politics every which way,
and he made us change our religion four times in five years. If we ever
tried to reason with him, he would threaten to stop his paper, and, of
course, that meant bankruptcy and destruction. That man used to write
articles a column and a half long, leaded long primer, and sign them
"Junius," or "Veritas," or "Vox Populi," or some other high-sounding rot;
and then, after it was set up, he would come in and say he had changed
his mind-which was a gilded figure of speech, because he hadn't any--and
order it to be left out. We couldn't afford "bogus" in that office, so
we always took the leads out, altered the signature, credited the article
to the rival paper in the next village, and put it in. Well, we did have
one or two kinds of "bogus." Whenever there was a barbecue, or a circus,
or a baptizing, we knocked off for half a day, and then to make up for
short matter we would "turn over ads"--turn over the whole page and
duplicate it. The other "bogus" was deep philosophical stuff, which we
judged nobody ever read; so we kept a galley of it standing, and kept on
slapping the same old batches of it in, every now and then, till it got
dangerous. Also, in the early days of the telegraph we used to economize
on the news. We picked out the items that were pointless and barren of
information and stood them on a galley, and changed the dates and
localities, and used them over and over again till the public interest in
them was worn to the bone. We marked the ads, but we seldom paid any
attention to the marks afterward; so the life of a "td" ad and a "tf" ad
was equally eternal. I have seen a "td" notice of a sheriff's sale still
booming serenely along two years after the sale was over, the sheriff
dead, and the whole circumstance become ancient history. Most of the
yearly ads were patent-medicine stereotypes, and we used to fence with
I can see that printing-office of prehistoric times yet, with its horse
bills on, the walls, its "d" boxes clogged with tallow, because we always
stood the candle in the "k" box nights, its towel, which was not
considered soiled until it could stand alone, and other signs and symbols
that marked the establishment of that kind in the Mississippi Valley;
and I can see, also, the tramping "jour," who flitted by in the summer
and tarried a day, with his wallet stuffed with one shirt and a hatful of
handbills; for if he couldn't get any type to set he would do a
temperance lecture. His way of life was simple, his needs not complex;
all he wanted was plate and bed and money enough to get drunk on, and he
was satisfied. But it may be, as I have said, that I am among strangers,
and sing the glories of a forgotten age to unfamiliar ears, so I will
"make even" and stop.
SOCIETY OF AMERICAN AUTHORS
On November 15, 1900, the society gave a reception to Mr.
Clemens, who came with his wife and daughter. So many members
surrounded the guests that Mr. Clemens asked: "Is this genuine
popularity or is it all a part of a prearranged programme?"
MR. CHAIRMAN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--It seems a most difficult thing for
any man to say anything about me that is not complimentary. I don't know
what the charm is about me which makes it impossible for a person to say
a harsh thing about me and say it heartily, as if he was glad to say it.
If this thing keeps on it will make me believe that I am what these kind
chairmen say of me. In introducing me, Judge Ransom spoke of my modesty
as if he was envious of me. I would like to have one man come out flat-
footed and say something harsh and disparaging of me, even if it were
true. I thought at one time, as the learned judge was speaking, that I
had found that man; but he wound up, like all the others, by saying
I am constructed like everybody else, and enjoy a compliment as well as
any other fool, but I do like to have the other side presented. And
there is another side. I have a wicked side. Estimable friends who know
all about it would tell you and take a certain delight in telling you
things that I have done, and things further that I have not repented.
The real life that I live, and the real life that I suppose all of you
live, is a life of interior sin. That is what makes life valuable and
pleasant. To lead a life of undiscovered sin! That is true joy.
Judge Ransom seems to have all the virtues that he ascribes to me. But,
oh my! if you could throw an X-ray through him. We are a pair. I have
made a life-study of trying to appear to be what he seems to think I am.
Everybody believes that I am a monument of all the virtues, but it is
nothing of the sort. I am living two lives, and it keeps me pretty busy.
Some day there will be a chairman who will forget some of these merits of
mine, and then he will make a speech.
I have more personal vanity than modesty, and twice as much veracity as
the two put together.
When that fearless and forgetful chairman is found there will be another
story told. At the Press Club recently I thought that I had found
him. He started in in the way that I knew I should be painted with all
sincerity, and was leading to things that would not be to my credit; but
when he said that he never read a book of mine I knew at once that he was
a liar, because he never could have had all the wit and intelligence with
which he was blessed unless he had read my works as a basis.
I like compliments. I like to go home and tell them all over again to
the members of my family. They don't believe them, but I like to tell
them in the home circle, all the same. I like to dream of them if I can.
I thank everybody for their compliments, but I don't think that I am
praised any more than I am entitled to be.
On October 13, 1900, Mr. Clemens made his last address
preceding his departure for America at Kensal Rise, London.
I formally declare this reading-room open, and I think that the
legislature should not compel a community to provide itself with
intelligent food, but give it the privilege of providing it if the
community so desires.
If the community is anxious to have a reading-room it would put its hand
in its pocket and bring out the penny tax. I think it a proof of the
healthy, moral, financial, and mental condition of the community if it
taxes itself for its mental food.
A reading-room is the proper introduction to a library, leading up
through the newspapers and magazines to other literature. What would we
do without newspapers?
Look at the rapid manner in which the news of the Galveston disaster was
made known to the entire world. This reminds me of an episode which
occurred fifteen years ago when I was at church in Hartford, Connecticut.
The clergyman decided to make a collection for the survivors, if any.
He did not include me among the leading citizens who took the plates
around for collection. I complained to the governor of his lack of
financial trust in me, and he replied: "I would trust you myself--if you
had a bell-punch."
You have paid me many compliments, and I like to listen to compliments.
I indorse all your chairman has said to you about the union of England
and America. He also alluded to my name, of which I am rather fond.
A little girl wrote me from New Zealand in a letter I received yesterday,
stating that her father said my proper name was not Mark Twain but Samuel
Clemens, but that she knew better, because Clemens was the name of the
man who sold the patent medicine, and his name was not Mark. She was
sure it was Mark Twain, because Mark is in the Bible and Twain is in the
I was very glad to get that expression of confidence in my origin, and as
I now know my name to be a scriptural one, I am not without hopes of
making it worthy.
ADDRESS AT THE ROYAL LITERARY FUND BANQUET, LONDON, MAY 4, 1900
Anthony Hope introduced Mr. Clemens to make the response to the
MR. HOPE has been able to deal adequately with this toast without
assistance from me. Still, I was born generous. If he had advanced any
theories that needed refutation or correction I would have attended to
them, and if he had made any statements stronger than those which he is
in the habit of making I would have dealt with them.
In fact, I was surprised at the mildness of his statements. I could not
have made such statements if I had preferred to, because to exaggerate is
the only way I can approximate to the truth. You cannot have a theory
without principles. Principles is another name for prejudices. I have
no prejudices in politics, religion, literature, or anything else.
I am now on my way to my own country to run for the presidency because
there are not yet enough candidates in the field, and those who have
entered are too much hampered by their own principles, which are
I propose to go there to purify the political atmosphere. I am in favor
of everything everybody is in favor of. What you should do is to satisfy
the whole nation, not half of it, for then you would only be half a
There could not be a broader platform than mine. I am in favor of
anything and everything--of temperance and intemperance, morality and
qualified immorality, gold standard and free silver.
I have tried all sorts of things, and that is why I want to by the great
position of ruler of a country. I have been in turn reporter, editor,
publisher, author, lawyer, burglar. I have worked my way up, and wish to
continue to do so.
I read to-day in a magazine article that Christendom issued last year
fifty-five thousand new books. Consider what that means! Fifty-five
thousand new books meant fifty-four thousand new authors. We are going
to have them all on our hands to take care of sooner or later.
Therefore, double your, subscriptions to the literary fund!
DISAPPEARANCE OF LITERATURE
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY CLUB, AT
SHERRY'S, NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 20, 1900
Mr. Clemens spoke to the toast "The Disappearance of
Literature." Doctor Gould presided, and in introducing
Mr. Clemens said that he (the speaker), when in Germany, had to
do a lot of apologizing for a certain literary man who was
taking what the Germans thought undue liberties with their
It wasn't necessary for your chairman to apologize for me in Germany.
It wasn't necessary at all. Instead of that he ought to have impressed
upon those poor benighted Teutons the service I rendered them. Their
language had needed untangling for a good many years. Nobody else seemed
to want to take the job, and so I took it, and I flatter myself that I
made a pretty good job of it. The Germans have an inhuman way of cutting
up their verbs. Now a verb has a hard time enough of it in this world
when it's all together. It's downright inhuman to split it up. But
that's just what those Germans do. They take part of a verb and put it
down here, like a stake, and they take the other part of it and put it
away over yonder like another stake, and between these two limits they
just shovel in German. I maintain that there is no necessity for
apologizing for a man who helped in a small way to stop such mutilation.
We have heard a discussion to-night on the disappearance of literature.
That's no new thing. That's what certain kinds of literature have been
doing for several years. The fact is, my friends, that the fashion in
literature changes, and the literary tailors have to change their cuts or
go out of business. Professor Winchester here, if I remember fairly
correctly what he said, remarked that few, if any, of the novels produced
to-day would live as long as the novels of Walter Scott. That may be his
notion. Maybe he is right; but so far as I am concerned, I don't care if
Professor Winchester also said something about there being no modern
epics like Paradise Lost. I guess he's right. He talked as if he was
pretty familiar with that piece of literary work, and nobody would
suppose that he never had read it. I don't believe any of you have ever
read Paradise Lost, and you don't want to. That's something that you
just want to take on trust. It's a classic, just as Professor Winchester
says, and it meets his definition of a classic--something that everybody
wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
Professor Trent also had a good deal to say about the disappearance of
literature. He said that Scott would outlive all his critics. I guess
that's true. The fact of the business is, you've got to be one of two
ages to appreciate Scott. When you're eighteen you can read Ivanhoe, and
you want to wait until you are ninety to read some of the rest. It takes
a pretty well-regulated, abstemious critic to live ninety years.
But as much as these two gentlemen have talked about the disappearance of
literature, they didn't say anything about my books. Maybe they think
they've disappeared. If they do, that just shows their ignorance on the
general subject of literature. I am not as young as I was several years
ago, and maybe I'm not so fashionable, but I'd be willing to take my
chances with Mr. Scott to-morrow morning in selling a piece of literature
to the Century Publishing Company. And I haven't got much of a pull
here, either. I often think that the highest compliment ever paid to my
poor efforts was paid by Darwin through President Eliot, of Harvard
College. At least, Eliot said it was a compliment, and I always take the
opinion of great men like college presidents on all such subjects as
I went out to Cambridge one day a few years ago and called on President
Eliot. In the course of the conversation he said that he had just
returned from England, and that he was very much touched by what he
considered the high compliment Darwin was paying to my books, and he went
on to tell me something like this:
"Do you know that there is one room in Darwin's house, his bedroom, where
the housemaid is never allowed to touch two things? One is a plant he is
growing and studying while it grows" (it was one of those insect-
devouring plants which consumed bugs and beetles and things for the
particular delectation of Mr. Darwin) "and the other some books that lie
on the night table at the head of his bed. They are your books, Mr.
Clemens, and Mr. Darwin reads them every night to lull him to sleep."
My friends, I thoroughly appreciated that compliment, and considered it
the highest one that was ever paid to me. To be the means of soothing to
sleep a brain teeming with bugs and squirming things like Darwin's was
something that I had never hoped for, and now that he is dead I never
hope to be able to do it again.
THE NEW YORK PRESS CLUB DINNER
AT THE ANNUAL DINNER, NOVEMBER 13, 1900
Col. William L. Brown, the former editor of the Daily News, as
president of the club, introduced Mr. Clemens as the principal
ornament of American literature.
I must say that I have already begun to regret that I left my gun at
home. I've said so many times when a chairman has distressed me with
just such compliments that the next time such a thing occurs I will
certainly use a gun on that chairman. It is my privilege to compliment
him in return. You behold before you a very, very old man. A cursory
glance at him would deceive the most penetrating. His features seem to
reveal a person dead to all honorable instincts--they seem to bear the
traces of all the known crimes, instead of the marks of a life spent for
the most part, and now altogether, in the Sunday-school of a life that
may well stand as an example to all generations that have risen or will
riz--I mean to say, will rise. His private character is altogether
suggestive of virtues which to all appearances he has got. If you
examine his past history you will find it as deceptive as his features,
because it is marked all over with waywardness and misdemeanor--mere
effects of a great spirit upon a weak body--mere accidents of a great
career. In his heart he cherishes every virtue on the list of virtues,
and he practises them all--secretly--always secretly. You all know him
so well that there is no need for him to be introduced here. Gentlemen,
THE ALPHABET AND SIMPLIFIED SPELLING
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER GIVEN TO MR. CARNEGIE AT THE DEDICATION
OF THE NEW YORK ENGINEERS' CLUB, DECEMBER 9, 1907
Mr. Clemens was introduced by the president of the club, who,
quoting from the Mark Twain autobiography, recalled the day
when the distinguished writer came to New York with $3 in small
change in his pockets and a $10 bill sewed in his clothes.
It seems to me that I was around here in the neighborhood of the Public
Library about fifty or sixty years ago. I don't deny the circumstance,
although I don't see how you got it out of my autobiography, which was
not to be printed until I am dead, unless I'm dead now. I had that $3 in
change, and I remember well the $10 which was sewed in my coat. I have
prospered since. Now I have plenty of money and a disposition to
squander it, but I can't. One of those trust companies is taking care of
Now, as this is probably the last time that I shall be out after
nightfall this winter, I must say that I have come here with a mission,
and I would make my errand of value.
Many compliments have been paid to Mr. Carnegie to-night. I was
expecting them. They are very gratifying to me.
I have been a guest of honor myself, and I know what Mr. Carnegie is
experiencing now. It is embarrassing to get compliments and compliments
and only compliments, particularly when he knows as well as the rest of
us that on the other side of him there are all sorts of things worthy of
Just look at Mr. Carnegie's face. It is fairly scintillating with
fictitious innocence. You would think, looking at him, that he had never
committed a crime in his life. But no--look at his pestiferious
simplified spelling. You can't any of you imagine what a crime that has
been. Torquemada was nothing to Mr. Carnegie. That old fellow shed some
blood in the Inquisition, but Mr. Carnegie has brought destruction to the
entire race. I know he didn't mean it to be a crime, but it was, just
the same. He's got us all so we can't spell anything.
The trouble with him is that he attacked orthography at the wrong end.
He meant well, but he, attacked the symptoms and not the cause of the
disease. He ought to have gone to work on the alphabet. There's not a
vowel in it with a definite value, and not a consonant that you can hitch
anything to. Look at the "h's" distributed all around. There's
"gherkin." What are you going to do with the "h" in that? What the
devil's the use of "h" in gherkin, I'd like to know. It's one thing I
admire the English for: they just don't mind anything about them at all.
But look at the "pneumatics" and the "pneumonias" and the rest of them.
A real reform would settle them once and for all, and wind up by giving
us an alphabet that we wouldn't have to spell with at all, instead of
this present silly alphabet, which I fancy was invented by a drunken
thief. Why, there isn't a man who doesn't have to throw out about
fifteen hundred words a day when he writes his letters because he can't
spell them! It's like trying to do a St. Vitus's dance with wooden legs.
Now I'll bet there isn't a man here who can spell "pterodactyl," not even
the prisoner at the bar. I'd like to hear him try once--but not in
public, for it's too near Sunday, when all extravagant histrionic
entertainments are barred. I'd like to hear him try in private, and when
he got through trying to spell "pterodactyl" you wouldn't know whether it
was a fish or a beast or a bird, and whether it flew on its legs or
walked with its wings. The chances are that he would give it tusks and
make it lay eggs.
Let's get Mr. Carnegie to reform the alphabet, and we'll pray for him--
if he'll take the risk. If we had adequate, competent vowels, with a
system of accents, giving to each vowel its own soul and value, so every
shade of that vowel would be shown in its accent, there is not a word in
any tongue that we could not spell accurately. That would be competent,
adequate, simplified spelling, in contrast to the clipping, the hair
punching, the carbuncles, and the cancers which go by the name of
simplified spelling. If I ask you what b-o-w spells you can't tell me
unless you know which b-o-w I mean, and it is the same with r-o-w, b-o-r-
e, and the whole family of words which were born out of lawful wedlock
and don't know their own origin.
Now, if we had an alphabet that was adequate and competent, instead of
inadequate and incompetent, things would be different. Spelling reform
has only made it bald-headed and unsightly. There is the whole tribe of
them, "row" and "read" and "lead"--a whole family who don't know who they
are. I ask you to pronounce s-o-w, and you ask me what kind of a one.
If we had a sane, determinate alphabet, instead of a hospital of
comminuted eunuchs, you would know whether one referred to the act of a
man casting the seed over the ploughed land or whether one wished to
recall the lady hog and the future ham.
It's a rotten alphabet. I appoint Mr. Carnegie to get after it, and
leave simplified spelling alone.
Simplified spelling brought about sun-spots, the San Francisco
earthquake, and the recent business depression, which we would never have
had if spelling had been left all alone.
Now, I hope I have soothed Mr. Carnegie and made him more comfortable
than he would have been had he received only compliment after compliment,
and I wish to say to him that simplified spelling is all right, but, like
chastity, you can carry it too far.
SPELLING AND PICTURES
ADDRESS AT THE ANNUAL DINNER OF THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, AT THE
WALDORF-ASTORIA, SEPTEMBER 18, 1906
I am here to make an appeal to the nations in behalf of the simplified
spelling. I have come here because they cannot all be reached except
through you. There are only two forces that can carry light to all the
corners of the globe--only two--the sun in the heavens and the Associated
Press down here. I may seem to be flattering the sun, but I do not mean
it so; I am meaning only to be just and fair all around. You speak with
a million voices; no one can reach so many races, so many hearts and
intellects, as you--except Rudyard Kipling, and he cannot do it without
your help. If the Associated Press will adopt and use our simplified
forms, and thus spread them to the ends of the earth, covering the whole
spacious planet with them as with a garden of flowers, our difficulties
are at an end.
Every day of the three hundred and sixty-five the only pages of the
world's countless newspapers that are read by all the human beings and
angels and devils that can read, are these pages that are built out of
Associated Press despatches. And so I beg you, I beseech you--oh, I
implore you to spell them in our simplified forms. Do this daily,
constantly, persistently, for three months--only three months--it is all
I ask. The infallible result?--victory, victory all down the line. For
by that time all eyes here and above and below will have become adjusted
to the change and in love with it, and the present clumsy and ragged
forms will be grotesque to the eye and revolting to the soul. And we
shall be rid of phthisis and phthisic and pneumonia and pneumatics, and
diphtheria and pterodactyl, and all those other insane words which no man
addicted to the simple Christian life can try to spell and not lose some
of the bloom of his piety in the demoralizing attempt. Do not doubt it.
We are chameleons, and our partialities and prejudices change places with
an easy and blessed facility, and we are soon wonted to the change and
happy in it. We do not regret our old, yellow fangs and snags and tushes
after we have worn nice, fresh, uniform store teeth a while.
Do I seem to be seeking the good of the world? That is the idea. It is
my public attitude; privately I am merely seeking my own profit. We all
do it, but it is sound and it is virtuous, for no public interest is
anything other or nobler than a massed accumulation of private interests.
In 1883, when the simplified-spelling movement first tried to make a
noise, I was indifferent to it; more--I even irreverently scoffed at it.
What I needed was an object-lesson, you see. It is the only way to teach
some people. Very well, I got it. At that time I was scrambling along,
earning the family's bread on magazine work at seven cents a word,
compound words at single rates, just as it is in the dark present.
I was the property of a magazine, a seven-cent slave under a boiler-iron
contract. One day there came a note from the editor requiring me to
write ten pages--on this revolting text: "Considerations concerning the
alleged subterranean holophotal extemporaneousness of the conchyliaceous
superimbrication of the Ornithorhyncus, as foreshadowed by the
unintelligibility of its plesiosaurian anisodactylous aspects."
Ten pages of that. Each and every word a seventeen-jointed vestibuled
railroad train. Seven cents a word. I saw starvation staring the family
in the face. I went to the editor, and I took a stenographer along so as
to have the interview down in black and white, for no magazine editor can
ever remember any part of a business talk except the part that's got
graft in it for him and the magazine. I said, "Read that text, Jackson,
and let it go on the record; read it out loud." He read it:
"Considerations concerning the alleged subterranean holophotal
extemporaneousness of the conchyliaceous superimbrication of the
Ornithorhyncus, as foreshadowed by the unintelligibility of its
plesiosaurian anisodactylous aspects."
I said, "You want ten pages of those rumbling, great, long, summer
thunderpeals, and you expect to get them at seven cents a peal?"
He said, "A word's a word, and seven cents is the contract; what are you
going to do about it?"
I said, "Jackson, this is cold-blooded oppression. What's an average
He said, "Six letters."
I said, "Nothing of the kind; that's French, and includes the spaces
between the words; an average English word is four letters and a half.
By hard, honest labor I've dug all the large words out of my vocabulary
and shaved it down till the average is three letters and a half. I can
put one thousand and two hundred words on your page, and there's not
another man alive that can come within two hundred of it. My page is
worth eighty-four dollars to me. It takes exactly as long to fill your
magazine page with long words as it does with short ones-four hours.
Now, then, look at the criminal injustice of this requirement of yours.
I am careful, I am economical of my time and labor. For the family's
sake I've got to be so. So I never write 'metropolis' for seven cents,
because I can get the same money for 'city.' I never write 'policeman,'
because I can get the same price for 'cop.' And so on and so on. I never
write 'valetudinarian' at all, for not even hunger and wretchedness can
humble me to the point where I will do a word like that for seven cents;
I wouldn't do it for fifteen. Examine your obscene text, please; count
He counted and said it was twenty-four. I asked him to count the
letters. He made it two hundred and three.
I said, "Now, I hope you see the whole size of your crime. With my
vocabulary I would make sixty words out of those two hundred and five
letters, and get four dollars and twenty cents for it; whereas for your
inhuman twenty-four I would get only one dollar and sixty-eight cents.
Ten pages of these sky-scrapers of yours would pay me only about three
hundred dollars; in my simplified vocabulary the same space and the same
labor would pay me eight hundred and forty dollars. I do not wish to
work upon this scandalous job by the piece. I want to be hired by the
year." He coldly refused. I said:
"Then for the sake of the family, if you have no feeling for me, you
ought at least to allow me overtime on that word extemporaneousness."
Again he coldly refused. I seldom say a harsh word to any one, but I was
not master of myself then, and I spoke right out and called him an
anisodactylous plesiosaurian conchyliaceous Ornithorhyncus, and rotten to
the heart with holoaophotal subterranean extemporaneousness. God forgive
me for that wanton crime; he lived only two hours.
From that day to this I have been a devoted and hard-working member of
the heaven-born institution, the International Association for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Authors, and now I am laboring with Carnegie's
Simplified Committee, and with my heart in the work . . . .
Now then, let us look at this mighty question reasonably, rationally,
sanely--yes, and calmly, not excitedly. What is the real function, the
essential function, the supreme function, of language? Isn't it merely
to convey ideas and emotions? Certainly. Then if we can do it with
words of fonetic brevity and compactness, why keep the present cumbersome
forms? But can we? Yes. I hold in my hand the proof of it. Here is a
letter written by a woman, right out of her heart of hearts. I think she
never saw a spelling-book in her life. The spelling is her own. There
isn't a waste letter in it anywhere. It reduces the fonetics to the last
gasp--it squeezes the surplusage out of every word--there's no spelling
that can begin with it on this planet outside of the White House. And as
for the punctuation, there isn't any. It is all one sentence, eagerly
and breathlessly uttered, without break or pause in it anywhere. The
letter is absolutely genuine--I have the proofs of that in my possession.
I can't stop to spell the words for you, but you can take the letter
presently and comfort your eyes with it. I will read the letter:
"Miss dear freind I took some Close into the armerry and give them to you
to Send too the suffrers out to California and i Hate to treble you but i
got to have one of them Back it was a black oll wolle Shevyott With a
jacket to Mach trimed Kind of Fancy no 38 Burst measure and palsy
menterry acrost the front And the color i woodent Trubble you but it
belonged to my brothers wife and she is Mad about it i thoght she was
willin but she want she says she want done with it and she was going to
Wear it a Spell longer she ant so free harted as what i am and she Has
got more to do with Than i have having a Husband to Work and slave For
her i gels you remember Me I am shot and stout and light complected i
torked with you quite a spell about the suffrars and said it was orful
about that erth quake I shoodent wondar if they had another one rite off
seeine general Condision of the country is Kind of Explossive i hate to
take that Black dress away from the suffrars but i will hunt round And
see if i can get another One if i can i will call to the armerry for it
if you will jest lay it asside so no more at present from your True
"i liked your
appearance very Much"
Now you see what simplified spelling can do.
It can convey any fact you need to convey; and it can pour out emotions
like a sewer. I beg you, I beseech you, to adopt our spelling, and print
all your despatches in it.
Now I wish to say just one entirely serious word:
I have reached a time of life, seventy years and a half, where none of
the concerns of this world have much interest for me personally. I think
I can speak dispassionately upon this matter, because in the little while
that I have got to remain here I can get along very well with these old-
fashioned forms, and I don't propose to make any trouble about it at all.
I shall soon be where they won't care how I spell so long as I keep the
There are eighty-two millions of us people that use this orthography, and
it ought to be simplified in our behalf, but it is kept in its present
condition to satisfy one million people who like to have their literature
in the old form. That looks to me to be rather selfish, and we keep the
forms as they are while we have got one million people coming in here
from foreign countries every year and they have got to struggle with this
orthography of ours, and it keeps them back and damages their citizenship
for years until they learn to spell the language, if they ever do learn.
This is merely sentimental argument.
People say it is the spelling of Chaucer and Spencer and Shakespeare and
a lot of other people who do not know how to spell anyway, and it has
been transmitted to us and we preserved it and wish to preserve it
because of its ancient and hallowed associations.
Now, I don't see that there is any real argument about that. If that
argument is good, then it would be a good argument not to banish the
flies and the cockroaches from hospitals because they have been there so
long that the patients have got used to them and they feel a tenderness
for them on account of the associations. Why, it is like preserving a
cancer in a family because it is a family cancer, and we are bound to it
by the test of affection and reverence and old, mouldy antiquity.
I think that this declaration to improve this orthography of ours is our
family cancer, and I wish we could reconcile ourselves to have it cut out
and let the family cancer go.
Now, you see before you the wreck and ruin of what was once a young
person like yourselves. I am exhausted by the heat of the day. I must
take what is left of this wreck and run out of your presence and carry it
away to my home and spread it out there and sleep the sleep of the
righteous. There is nothing much left of me but my age and my
righteousness, but I leave with you my love and my blessing, and may you
always keep your youth.
BOOKS AND BURGLARS
ADDRESS TO THE REDDING (CONN.) LIBRARY ASSOCIATION,
OCTOBER 28, 1908
Suppose this library had been in operation a few weeks ago, and the
burglars who happened along and broke into my house--taking a lot of
things they didn't need, and for that matter which I didn't need--had
first made entry into this institution.
Picture them seated here on the floor, poring by the light of their dark-
lanterns over some of the books they found, and thus absorbing moral
truths and getting a moral uplift. The whole course of their lives would
have been changed. As it was, they kept straight on in their immoral way
and were sent to jail.
For all we know, they may next be sent to Congress.
And, speaking of burglars, let us not speak of them too harshly. Now, I
have known so many burglars--not exactly known, but so many of them have
come near me in my various dwelling-places, that I am disposed to allow
them credit for whatever good qualities they possess.
Chief among these, and, indeed, the only one I just now think of, is
their great care while doing business to avoid disturbing people's sleep.
Noiseless as they may be while at work, however, the effect of their
visitation is to murder sleep later on.
Now we are prepared for these visitors. All sorts of alarm devices have
been put in the house, and the ground for half a mile around it has been
electrified. The burglar who steps within this danger zone will set
loose a bedlam of sounds, and spring into readiness for action our
elaborate system of defences. As for the fate of the trespasser, do not
seek to know that. He will never be heard of more.
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER GIVEN IN HONOR OF MR. CLEMENS, LONDON,
Mr. Clemens was introduced by Sir Walter Besant.
It does not embarrass me to hear my books praised so much. It only
pleases and delights me. I have not gone beyond the age when
embarrassment is possible, but I have reached the age when I know how to
conceal it. It is such a satisfaction to me to hear Sir Walter Besant,
who is much more capable than I to judge of my work, deliver a judgment
which is such a contentment to my spirit.
Well, I have thought well of the books myself, but I think more of them
now. It charms me also to hear Sir Spencer Walpole deliver a similar
judgment, and I shall treasure his remarks also. I shall not discount
the praises in any possible way. When I report them to my family they
shall lose nothing. There are, however, certain heredities which come
down to us which our writings of the present day may be traced to.
I, for instance, read the Walpole Letters when I was a boy. I absorbed
them, gathered in their grace, wit, and humor, and put them away to be
used by-and-by. One does that so unconsciously with things one really
likes. I am reminded now of what use those letters have been to me.
They must not claim credit in America for what was really written in
another form so long ago. They must only claim that I trimmed this,
that, and the other, and so changed their appearance as to make them seem
to be original. You now see what modesty I have in stock. But it has
taken long practice to get it there.
But I must not stand here talking. I merely meant to get up and give my
thanks for the pleasant things that preceding speakers have said of me.
I wish also to extend my thanks to the Authors' Club for constituting me
a member, at a reasonable price per year, and for giving me the benefit
of your legal adviser.
I believe you keep a lawyer. I have always kept a lawyer, too, though I
have never made anything out of him. It is service to an author to have
a lawyer. There is something so disagreeable in having a personal
contact with a publisher. So it is better to work through a lawyer--and
lose your case. I understand that the publishers have been meeting
together also like us. I don't know what for, but possibly they are
devising new and mysterious ways for remunerating authors. I only wish
now to thank you for electing me a member of this club--I believe I have
paid my dues--and to thank you again for the pleasant things you have
said of me.
Last February, when Rudyard Kipling was ill in America, the sympathy
which was poured out to him was genuine and sincere, and I believe that
which cost Kipling so much will bring England and America closer
together. I have been proud and pleased to see this growing affection
and respect between the two countries. I hope it will continue to grow,
and, please God, it will continue to grow. I trust we authors will leave
to posterity, if we have nothing else to leave, a friendship between
England and America that will count for much. I will now confess that
I have been engaged for the past eight days in compiling a publication.
I have brought it here to lay at your feet. I do not ask your indulgence
in presenting it, but for your applause.
Here it is: "Since England and America may be joined together in
Kipling, may they not be severed in 'Twain.'"
Address at banquet on Wednesday evening, May 20, 1908, of the
American Booksellers' Association, which included most of the
leading booksellers of America, held at the rooms of the Aldine
Association, New York.
This annual gathering of booksellers from all over America comes together
ostensibly to eat and drink, but really to discuss, business; therefore
I am required to, talk shop. I am required to furnish a statement of the
indebtedness under which I lie to you gentlemen for your help in enabling
me to earn my living. For something over forty years I have acquired my
bread by print, beginning with The Innocents Abroad, followed at
intervals of a year or so by Roughing It, Tom Sawyer, Gilded Age, and so
on. For thirty-six years my books were sold by subscription. You are
not interested in those years, but only in the four which have since
followed. The books passed into the hands of my present publishers at
the beginning of 1900, and you then became the providers of my diet.
I think I may say, without flattering you, that you have done exceedingly
well by me. Exceedingly well is not too strong a phrase, since the
official statistics show that in four years you have sold twice as many
volumes of my venerable books as my contract with my publishers bound you
and them to sell in five years. To your sorrow you are aware that
frequently, much too frequently, when a book gets to be five or ten years
old its annual sale shrinks to two or three hundred copies, and after an
added ten or twenty years ceases to sell. But you sell thousands of my
moss-backed old books every year--the youngest of them being books that
range from fifteen to twenty-seven years old, and the oldest reaching
back to thirty-five and forty.
By the terms of my contract my publishers had to account to me for,
50,000 volumes per year for five years, and pay me for them whether they
sold them or not. It is at this point that you gentlemen come in, for it
was your business to unload 250,000 volumes upon the public in five years
if you possibly could. Have you succeeded? Yes, you have--and more.
For in four years, with a year still to spare, you have sold the 250,000
volumes, and 240,000 besides.
Your sales have increased each year. In the first year you sold 90,328;
in the second year, 104,851; in the third, 133,975; in the fourth year--
which was last year--you sold 160,000. The aggregate for the four years
is 500,000 volumes, lacking 11,000.
Of the oldest book, The Innocents Abroad,--now forty years old--you sold
upward of 46,000 copies in the four years; of Roughing It--now thirty-
eight years old; I think--you sold 40,334; of Tom Sawyer, 41,000. And so
And there is one thing that is peculiarly gratifying to me: the Personal
Recollections of Joan of Arc is a serious book; I wrote it for love, and
never expected it to sell, but you have pleasantly disappointed me in
that matter. In your hands its sale has increased each year. In 1904
you sold 1726 copies; in 1905, 2445; in 1906, 5381; and last year, 6574.
"MARK TWAIN'S FIRST APPEARANCE"
On October 5, 1906, Mr. Clemens, following a musical recital by
his daughter in Norfolk, Conn., addressed her audience on the
subject of stage-fright. He thanked the people for making
things as easy as possible for his daughter's American debut as
a contralto, and then told of his first experience before the
My heart goes out in sympathy to any one who is making his first
appearance before an audience of human beings. By a direct process of
memory I go back forty years, less one month--for I'm older than I look.
I recall the occasion of my first appearance. San Francisco knew me then
only as a reporter, and I was to make my bow to San Francisco as a
lecturer. I knew that nothing short of compulsion would get me to the
theatre. So I bound myself by a hard-and-fast contract so that I could
not escape. I got to the theatre forty-five minutes before the hour set
for the lecture. My knees were shaking so that I didn't know whether I
could stand up. If there is an awful, horrible malady in the world, it
is stage-fright-and seasickness. They are a pair. I had stage-fright
then for the first and last time. I was only seasick once, too. It was
on a little ship on which there were two hundred other passengers. I--
was--sick. I was so sick that there wasn't any left for those other two
It was dark and lonely behind the scenes in that theatre, and I peeked
through the little peekholes they have in theatre curtains and looked
into the big auditorium. That was dark and empty, too. By-and-by it
lighted up, and the audience began to arrive.
I had got a number of friends of mine, stalwart men, to sprinkle
themselves through the audience armed with big clubs. Every time I said
anything they could possibly guess I intended to be funny they were to
pound those clubs on the floor. Then there was a kind lady in a box up
there, also a good friend of mine, the wife of the Governor. She was to
watch me intently, and whenever I glanced toward her she was going to
deliver a gubernatorial laugh that would lead the whole audience into
At last I began. I had the manuscript tucked under a United States flag
in front of me where I could get at it in case of need. But I managed to
get started without it. I walked up and down--I was young in those days
and needed the exercise--and talked and talked.
Right in the middle of the speech I had placed a gem. I had put in a
moving, pathetic part which was to get at the hearts and souls of my
hearers. When I delivered it they did just what I hoped and expected.
They sat silent and awed. I had touched them. Then I happened to glance
up at the box where the Governor's wife was--you know what happened.
Well, after the first agonizing five minutes, my stage-fright left me,
never to return. I know if I was going to be hanged I could get up and
make a good showing, and I intend to. But I shall never forget my
feelings before the agony left me, and I got up here to thank you for her
for helping my daughter, by your kindness, to live through her first
appearance. And I want to thank you for your appreciation of her
singing, which is, by-the-way, hereditary.
MORALS AND MEMORY
Mr. Clemens was the guest of honor at a reception held at
Barnard College (Columbia University), March 7, 1906, by the
Barnard Union. One of the young ladies presented Mr. Clemens,
and thanked him for his amiability in coming to make them an
address. She closed with the expression of the great joy it
gave her fellow-collegians, "because we all love you."
If any one here loves me, she has my sincere thanks. Nay, if any one
here is so good as to love me--why, I'll be a brother to her. She shall
have my sincere, warm, unsullied affection. When I was coming up in the
car with the very kind young lady who was delegated to show me the way,
she asked me what I was going to talk about. And I said I wasn't sure.
I said I had some illustrations, and I was going to bring them in.
I said I was certain to give those illustrations, but that I hadn't the
faintest notion what they were going to illustrate.
Now, I've been thinking it over in this forest glade [indicating the
woods of Arcady on the scene setting], and I've decided to work them in
with something about morals and the caprices of memory. That seems to me
to be a pretty good subject. You see, everybody has a memory and it's
pretty sure to have caprices. And, of course, everybody has morals.
It's my opinion that every one I know has morals, though I wouldn't like
to ask. I know I have. But I'd rather teach them than practice them any
day. "Give them to others"--that's my motto. Then you never have any
use for them when you're left without. Now, speaking of the caprices of
memory in general, and of mine in particular, it's strange to think of
all the tricks this little mental process plays on us. Here we're
endowed with a faculty of mind that ought to be more supremely
serviceable to us than them all. And what happens? This memory of ours
stores up a perfect record of the most useless facts and anecdotes and
experiences. And all the things that we ought to know--that we need to
know--that we'd profit by knowing--it casts aside with the careless
indifference of a girl refusing her true lover. It's terrible to think
of this phenomenon. I tremble in all my members when I consider all the
really valuable things that I've forgotten in seventy years--when I
meditate upon the caprices of my memory.
There's a bird out in California that is one perfect symbol of the human
memory. I've forgotten the bird's name (just because it would be
valuable for me to know it--to recall it to your own minds, perhaps).
But this fool of a creature goes around collecting the most ridiculous
things you can imagine and storing them up. He never selects a thing
that could ever prove of the slightest help to him; but he goes about
gathering iron forks, and spoons, and tin cans, and broken mouse-traps
--all sorts of rubbish that is difficult for him to carry and yet be any
use when he gets it. Why, that bird will go by a gold watch to bring
back one of those patent cake-pans.
Now, my mind is just like that, and my mind isn't very different from
yours--and so our minds are just like that bird. We pass by what would
be of inestimable value to us, and pack our memories with the most
trivial odds and ends that never by any chance; under any circumstances
whatsoever, could be of the slightest use to any one.
Now, things that I have remembered are constantly popping into my head.
And I am repeatedly startled by the vividness with which they recur to me
after the lapse of years and their utter uselessness in being remembered
I was thinking over some on my way up here. They were the illustrations
I spoke about to the young lady on the way up. And I've come to the
conclusion, curious though it is, that I can use every one of these
freaks of memory to teach you all a lesson. I'm convinced that each one
has its moral. And I think it's my duty to hand the moral on to you.
Now, I recall that when I was a boy I was a good boy--I was a very good
boy. Why, I was the best boy in my school. I was the best boy in that
little Mississippi town where I lived. The population was only about
twenty million. You may not believe it, but I was the best boy in that
State--and in the United States, for that matter.
But I don't know why I never heard any one say that but myself. I always
recognized it. But even those nearest and dearest to me couldn't seem to
see it. My mother, especially, seemed to think there was something wrong
with that estimate. And she never got over that prejudice.
Now, when my mother got to be eighty-five years old her memory failed
her. She forgot little threads that hold life's patches of meaning
together. She was living out West then, and I went on to visit her.
I hadn't seen my mother in a year or so. And when I got there she knew
my face; knew I was married; knew I had a family, and that I was living
with them. But she couldn't, for the life of her, tell my name or who I
was. So I told her I was her boy.
"But you don't live with me," she said.
"No," said I, "I'm living in Rochester."
"What are you doing there?"
"Going to school."
"And how do you stand?" said my mother.
"I'm the best boy in that school," I answered.
"Well," said my mother, with a return of her old fire, "I'd like to know
what the other boys are like."
Now, one point in this story is the fact that my mother's mind went back
to my school days, and remembered my little youthful self-prejudice when
she'd forgotten everything else about me.
The other point is the moral. There's one there that you will find if
you search for it.
Now, here's something else I remember. It's about the first time I ever
stole a watermelon. "Stole" is a strong word. Stole? Stole? No, I
don't mean that. It was the first time I ever withdrew a watermelon.
It was the first time I ever extracted a watermelon. That is exactly the
word I want--"extracted." It is definite. It is precise. It perfectly
conveys my idea. Its use in dentistry connotes the delicate shade of
meaning I am looking for. You know we never extract our own teeth.
And it was not my watermelon that I extracted. I extracted that
watermelon from a farmer's wagon while he was inside negotiating with an
other customer. I carried that watermelon to one of the secluded
recesses of the lumber-yard, and there I broke it open.
It was a green watermelon.
Well, do you know when I saw that I began to feel sorry--sorry--sorry.
It seemed to me that I had done wrong. I reflected deeply. I reflected
that I was young--I think I was just eleven. But I knew that though
immature I did not lack moral advancement. I knew what a boy ought to do
who had extracted a watermelon--like that.
I considered George Washington, and what action he would have taken under
similar circumstances. Then I knew there was just one thing to make me
feel right inside, and that was--Restitution.
So I said to myself: "I will do that. I will take that green watermelon
back where I got it from." And the minute I had said it I felt that
great moral uplift that comes to you when you've made a noble resolution.
So I gathered up the biggest fragments, and I carried them back to the
farmer's wagon, and I restored the watermelon--what was left of it. And
I made him give me a good one in place of it, too.
And I told him he ought to be ashamed of himself going around working off
his worthless, old, green watermelons on trusting purchasers who had to
rely on him. How could they tell from the outside whither the melons
were good or not? That was his business. Arid if he didn't reform, I
told him I'd see that he didn't get any more of my trade--nor anybody,
else's I knew, if I could help it.
You know that man was as contrite as a revivalist's last convert.
He said he was all broken up to think I'd gotten a green watermelon.
He promised the he would never carry another green watermelon if he
starved for it. And he drove off--a better man.
Now, do you see what I did for that man? He was on a downward path, and
I rescued him. But all I got out of it was a watermelon.
Yet I'd rather have that memory--just that memory of the good I did for
that depraved farmer--than all the material gain you can think of. Look
at the lesson he got! I never got anything like that from it. But I
ought to be satisfied: I was only eleven years old, but I secured
everlasting benefit to other people.
The moral in this is perfectly clear, and I think there's one in they
next memory I'm going to tell you about.
To go back to my childhood, there's another little incident that comes to
me from which you can draw even another moral. It's about one of the
times I went fishing. You see, in our house there was a sort of family
prejudice against going fishing if you hadn't permission. But it would
frequently be bad judgment to ask. So I went fishing secretly, as it
were--way up the Mississippi. It was an exquisitely happy trip, I
recall, with a very pleasant sensation.
Well, while I was away there was a tragedy in our town. A stranger,
stopping over on his way East from California; was stabbed to death in an
Now; my father was justice of the peace, and because he was justice of
the peace he was coroner; and since he was coroner he was also constable;
and being constable he vas sheriff; and out of consideration for his
holding the office of sheriff he was likewise county clerk and a dozen
other officials I don't think of just this minute.
I thought he had power of life or death, only he didn't use it over other
boys. He was sort of an austere man. Somehow I didn't like being round
him when I'd done anything he, disapproved of. So that's the reason I
wasn't often around.
Well, when this gentleman got knifed they communicated with the proper
authority; the coroner, and they laid, the corpse out in the coroner's
office--our front sitting-room--in preparation for the inquest the next
About 9 or 10 o'clock I got back from fishing. It was a little too late
for me to be received by my folks, so I took my shoes off and slipped
noiselessly up the back way to the sitting-room. I was very tired, and I
didn't wish to disturb my people. So I groped my way to the sofa and lay
Now, I didn't know anything of what had happened during my absence.
But I was sort of nervous on my own account-afraid of being caught,
and rather dubious about the morning affair. And I had been lying there
a few moments when my eyes gradually got used to the darkness, and I
became aware of something on the other side of the room.
It was something foreign to the apartment. It had an uncanny appearance.
And I sat up looking very hard, and wondering what in heaven this long,
formless, vicious-looking thing might be.
First I thought I'd go and see. Then I thought, "Never mind that."
Mind you, I had no cowardly sensations whatever, but it didn't seem
exactly prudent to investigate. But I somehow couldn't keep my eyes off
the thing. And the more I looked at it the more disagreeably it grew on
me. But I was resolved to play the man. So I decided to turn over and
count a hundred, and let the patch of moonlight creep up and show me what
the dickens it was.
I turned over and tried to count, but I couldn't keep my mind on it.
I kept thinking of that grewsome mass. I was losing count all the time,
and going back and beginning over again. Oh no; I wasn't frightened--
just annoyed. But by the time I'd gotten to the century mark I turned
cautiously over and opened my eyes with great fortitude.
The moonlight revealed to me a marble-white human hand. Well, maybe I
wasn't embarrassed! But then that changed to a creepy feeling again, and
I thought I'd try the counting again. I don't know how many hours or
weeks it was that I lay there counting hard. But the moonlight crept up
that white arm, and it showed me a lead face and a terrible wound over
I could scarcely say that I was terror-stricken or anything like that.
But somehow his eyes interested me so that I went right out of the
window. I didn't need the sash. But it seemed easier to take it than
leave it behind.
Now, let that teach you a lesson--I don't know just what it is. But at
seventy years old I find that memory of peculiar value to me. I have
been unconsciously guided by it all these years. Things that seemed
pigeon-holed and remote are a perpetual influence. Yes, you're taught in
so many ways. And you're so felicitously taught when you don't know it.
Here's something else that taught me a good deal.
When I was seventeen I was very bashful, and a sixteen-year-old girl came
to stay a week with us. She was a peach, and I was seized with a
happiness not of this world.
One evening my mother suggested that, to entertain her, I take her to the
theatre. I didn't really like to, because I was seventeen and sensitive
about appearing in the streets with a girl. I couldn't see my way to
enjoying my delight in public. But we went.
I didn't feel very happy. I couldn't seem to keep my mind on the play.
I became conscious, after a while, that that was due less to my lovely
company than my boots. They were sweet to look upon, as smooth as skin,
but fitted ten time as close. I got oblivious to the play and the girl
and the other people and everything but my boots until--I hitched one
partly off. The sensation was sensuously perfect: I couldn't help it. I
had to get the other off, partly. Then I was obliged to get them off
altogether, except that I kept my feet in the legs so they couldn't get
From that time I enjoyed the play. But the first thing I knew the
curtain came down, like that, without my notice, and--I hadn't any boots
on. What's more, they wouldn't go on. I tugged strenuously. And the
people in our row got up and fussed and said things until the peach and I
simply had to move on.
We moved--the girl on one arm and the boots under the other.
We walked home that way, sixteen blocks, with a retinue a mile long:
Every time we passed a lamp-post, death gripped one at the throat. But
we, got home--and I had on white socks.
If I live to be nine hundred and ninety-nine years old I don't suppose I
could ever forget that walk. I, remember, it about as keenly as the
chagrin I suffered on another occasion.
At one time in our domestic history we had a colored butler who had a
failing. He could never remember to ask people who came to the door to
state their business. So I used to suffer a good many calls
One morning when I was especially busy he brought me a card engraved with
a name I did not know. So I said, "What does he wish to see me for?" and
Sylvester said, "Ah couldn't ask him, sah; he, wuz a genlinun." "Return
instantly," I thundered, "and inquire his mission. Ask him what's his
game." Well, Sylvester returned with the announcement that he had
lightning-rods to sell. "Indeed," said I, "things are coming to a fine
pass when lightning-rod agents send up engraved cards." "He has
pictures," added Sylvester. "Pictures, indeed! He maybe peddling
etchings. Has he a Russia leather case?" But Sylvester was too
frightened to remember. I said; "I am going down to make it hot for that
I went down the stairs, working up my temper all the way. When I got to
the parlor I was in a fine frenzy concealed beneath a veneer of frigid
courtesy. And when I looked in the door, sure enough he had a Russia
leather case in his hand. But I didn't happen to notice that it was our
Russia leather case.
And if you'd believe me, that man was sitting with a whole gallery of
etchings spread out before him. But I didn't happen to notice that they
were our etchings, spread out by some member of my family for some
Very curtly I asked the gentleman his business. With a surprised, timid
manner he faltered that he had met my wife and daughter at Onteora, and
they had asked him to call. Fine lie, I thought, and I froze him.
He seemed to be kind of non-plussed, and sat there fingering the etchings
in the case until I told him he needn't bother, because we had those.
That pleased him so much that he leaned over, in an embarrassed way, to
pick up another from the floor. But I stopped him. I said, "We've got
that, too." He seemed pitifully amazed, but I was congratulating myself
on my great success.
Finally the gentleman asked where Mr. Winton lived; he'd met him in the
mountains, too. So I said I'd show him gladly. And I did on the spot.
And when he was gone I felt queer, because there were all his etchings
spread out on the floor.
Well, my wife came in and asked me who had been in. I showed her the
card, and told her all exultantly. To my dismay she nearly fainted. She
told me he had been a most kind friend to them in the country, and had
forgotten to tell me that he was expected our way. And she pushed me out
of the door, and commanded me to get over to the Wintons in a hurry and
get him back.
I came into the drawing-room, where Mrs. Winton was sitting up very stiff
in a chair, beating me at my own game. Well, I began, to put another
light on things. Before many seconds Mrs. Winton saw it was time to
change her temperature. In five minutes I had asked the man to luncheon,
and she to dinner, and so on.
We made that fellow change his trip and stay a week, and we gave him the
time of his life. Why, I don't believe we let him get sober the whole
I trust that you will carry away some good thought from these lessons I
have given you, and that the memory of them will inspire you to higher
things, and elevate you to plans far above the old--and--and--
And I tell you one thing, young ladies: I've had a better time with you
to-day than with that peach fifty-three years ago.
ADDRESS TO THE BRITISH SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES CLUB, AT
DELMONICO'S, MONDAY, MAY 25, IN HONOR OF QUEEN VICTORIA'S
Mr. Clemens told the story of his duel with a rival editor: how
he practised firing at a barn door and failed to hit it, but a
friend of his took off the head of a little bird at thirty-five
yards and attributed the shot to Mark twain. The duel did not
take place. Mr. Clemens continued as follows:
It also happened that I was the means of stopping duelling in Nevada, for
a law was passed sending all duellists to jail for two years, and the
Governor, hearing of my marksmanship, said that if he got me I should go
to prison for the full term. That's why I left Nevada, and I have not
been there since.
You do me a high honor, indeed, in selecting me to speak of my country
in this commemoration of the birthday of that noble lady whose life was
consecrated to the virtues and the humanities and to the promotion of
lofty ideals, and was a model upon which many a humbler life was formed
and made beautiful while she lived, and upon which many such lives will
still be formed in the generations that are to come--a life which finds
its just image in the star which falls out of its place in the sky and
out of existence, but whose light still streams with unfaded lustre
across the abysses of space long after its fires have been extinguished
at their source.
As a woman the Queen was all that the most exacting standards could
require. As a far-reaching and effective beneficent moral force she had
no peer in her time among either, monarchs or commoners. As a monarch
she was without reproach in her great office. We may not venture,
perhaps, to say so sweeping a thing as this in cold blood about any
monarch that preceded her upon either her own throne or upon any other.
It is a colossal eulogy, but it is justified.
In those qualities of the heart which beget affection in all sorts and
conditions of men she was rich, surprisingly rich, and for this she will
still be remembered and revered in the far-off ages when the political
glories of her reign shall have faded from vital history and fallen to a
place in that scrap-heap of unverifiable odds and ends which we call
tradition. Which is to say, in briefer phrase, that her name will live
always. And with it her character--a fame rare in the history of
thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, since it will not rest
upon harvested selfish and sordid ambitions, but upon love, earned and
freely vouchsafed. She mended broken hearts where she could, but she
What she did for us in America in our time of storm and stress we shall
not forget, and whenever we call it to mind we shall always remember the
wise and righteous mind that guided her in it and sustained and supported
her--Prince Albert's. We need not talk any idle talk here to-night about
either possible or impossible war between the two countries; there will
be no war while we remain sane and the son of Victoria and Albert sits
upon the throne. In conclusion, I believe I may justly claim to utter
the voice of my country in saying that we hold him in deep honor, and
also in cordially wishing him a long life and a happy reign.
JOAN OF ARC
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER OF THE SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS, GIVEN AT
THE ALDINE ASSOCIATION CLUB, DECEMBER 22, 1905
Just before Mr. Clemens made his speech, a young woman attired
as Joan of Arc, with a page bearing her flag of battle,
courtesied reverently and tendered Mr. Clemens a laurel wreath
on a satin pillow. He tried to speak, but his voice failed
from excess of emotion. "I thank you!" he finally exclaimed,
and, pulling him self together, he began his speech.
Now there is an illustration [pointing to the retreating Joan of Arc].
That is exactly what I wanted--precisely what I wanted--when I was
describing to myself Joan of Arc, after studying her history and her
character for twelve years diligently.
That was the product--not the conventional Joan of Arc. Wherever you
find the conventional Joan of Arc in history she is an offence to anybody
who knows the story of that wonderful girl.
Why, she was--she was almost supreme in several details. She had a
marvellous intellect; she had a great heart, had a noble spirit, was
absolutely pure in her character, her feeling, her language, her words,
her everything--she was only eighteen years old.
Now put that heart into such a breast--eighteen years old--and give it
that masterly intellect which showed in the face, and furnish it with
that almost god-like spirit, and what are you going to have?
The conventional Joan of Arc? Not by any means. That is impossible.
I cannot comprehend any such thing as that.
You must have a creature like that young and fair and beautiful girl we
just saw. And her spirit must look out of the eyes. The figure should
be--the figure should be in harmony with all that, but, oh, what we get
in the conventional picture, and it is always the conventional picture!
I hope you will allow me to say that your guild, when you take the
conventional, you have got it at second-hand. Certainly, if you had
studied and studied, then you might have something else as a result, but
when you have the common convention you stick to that.
You cannot prevail upon the artist to do it; he always gives you a Joan
of Arc--that lovely creature that started a great career at thirteen, but
whose greatness arrived when she was eighteen; and merely, because she
was a girl he can not see the divinity in her, and so he paints a
peasant, a coarse and lubberly figure--the figure of a cotton-bale, and
he clothes that in the coarsest raiment of the peasant region just like a
fish woman, her hair cropped short like a Russian peasant, and that face
of hers, which should be beautiful and which should radiate all the
glories which are in the spirit and in her heart that expression in that
face is always just the fixed expression of a ham.
But now Mr. Beard has intimated a moment ago, and so has Sir Purdon-
Clarke also, that the artist, the, illustrator, does not often get the
idea of the man whose book he is illustrating. Here is a very remarkable
instance of the other thing in Mr. Beard, who illustrated a book of mine.
You may never have heard of it. I will tell you about it now--A Yankee
in King Arthur's Court.
Now, Beard got everything that I put into that book and a little more
besides. Those pictures of Beard's in that book--oh, from the first page
to the last is one vast sardonic laugh at the trivialities, the
servilities of our poor human race, and also at the professions and the
insolence of priest-craft and king-craft--those creatures that make
slaves of themselves and have not the manliness to shake it off. Beard
put it all in that book. I meant it to be there. I put a lot of it
there and Beard put the rest.
What publisher of mine in Hartford had an eye for the pennies, and he
saved them. He did not waste any on the illustrations. He had a very
good artist--Williams--who had never taken a lesson in drawing.
Everything he did was original. The publisher hired the cheapest wood-
engraver he could find, and in my early books you can see a trace of
that. You can see that if Williams had had a chance he would have made
some very good pictures. He had a good heart and good intentions.
I had a character in the first book he illustrated--The Innocents Abroad.
That was a boy seventeen or eighteen years old--Jack Van Nostrand--a New
York boy, who, to my mind, was a very remarkable creature. He and I
tried to get Williams to understand that boy, and make a picture of Jack
that would be worthy of Jack.
Jack was a most singular combination. He was born and reared in New York
here. He was as delicate in his feelings, as clean and pure and refined
in his feelings as any lovely girl that ever was, but whenever he
expressed a feeling he did it in Bowery slang, and it was a most curious
combination--that delicacy of his and that apparent coarseness. There
was no coarseness inside of Jack at all, and Jack, in the course of
seventeen or eighteen years, had acquired a capital of ignorance that was
marvellous--ignorance of various things, not of all things. For
instance, he did not know anything about the Bible. He had never been in
Sunday-school. Jack got more out of the Holy Land than anybody else,
because the others knew what they were expecting, but it was a land of
surprises to him.
I said in the book that we found him watching a turtle on a log, stoning
that turtle, and he was stoning that turtle because he had read that "The
song of the turtle was heard in the land," and this turtle wouldn't sing.
It sounded absurd, but it was charged on Jack as a fact, and as he went
along through that country he had a proper foil in an old rebel colonel,
who was superintendent and head engineer in a large Sunday-school in
Wheeling, West Virginia. That man was full of enthusiasm wherever he
went, and would stand and deliver himself of speeches, and Jack would
listen to those speeches of the colonel and wonder.
Jack had made a trip as a child almost across this continent in the first
overland stage-coach. That man's name who ran that line of stages--well,
I declare that name is gone. Well, names will go.
Halliday--ah, that's the name--Ben Halliday, your uncle [turning to Mr.
Carnegie]. That was the fellow--Ben Halliday--and Jack was full of
admiration at the prodigious speed that that line of stages made--and it
was good speed--one hundred and twenty-five miles a day, going day and
night, and it was the event of Jack's life, and there at the Fords of the
Jordan the colonel was inspired to a speech (he was always making a
speech), so he called us up to him. He called up five sinners and three
saints. It has been only lately that Mr. Carnegie beatified me. And he
said: "Here are the Fords of the Jordan--a monumental place. At this
very point, when Moses brought the children of Israel through--he brought
the children of Israel from Egypt through the desert you see them--he
guarded them through that desert patiently, patiently during forty years,
and brought them to this spot safe and sound. There you see--there is
the scene of what Moses did."
And Jack said: "Moses who?"
"Oh," he says, "Jack, you ought not to ask that! Moses, the great law-
giver! Moses, the great patriot! Moses, the great warrior! Moses, the
great guide, who, as I tell you, brought these people through these three
hundred miles of sand in forty years, and landed there safe and sound."
Jack said: "There's nothin' in that three hundred miles in forty years.
Ben Halliday would have snaked 'em through in thirty--six hours."
Well, I was speaking of Jack's innocence, and it was beautiful. Jack was
not ignorant on all subjects. That boy was a deep student in the history
of Anglo-Saxon liberty, and he was a patriot all the way through to the
marrow. There was a subject that interested him all the time. Other
subjects were of no concern to Jack, but that quaint, inscrutable
innocence of his I could not get Williams to put into the picture.
Yes, Williams wanted to do it. He said: "I will make him as innocent as
a virgin." He thought a moment, and then said, "I will make him as
innocent as an unborn virgin;" which covered the ground.
I was reminded of Jack because I came across a letter to-day which is
over thirty years old that Jack wrote. Jack was doomed to consumption.
He was very long and slim, poor creature; and in a year or two after he
got back from that excursion, to the Holy Land he went on a ride on
horseback through Colorado, and he did not last but a year or two.
He wrote this letter, not to me, but to a friend of mine; and he said:
"I have ridden horseback"--this was three years after--"I hate ridden
horseback four hundred miles through a desert country where you never see
anything but cattle now and then, and now and then a cattle station--ten
miles apart, twenty miles apart. Now you tell Clemens that in all that
stretch of four hundred miles I have seen only two books--the Bible and
'Innocents Abroad'. Tell Clemens the Bible was in a very good
I say that he had studied, and he had, the real Saxon liberty, the
acquirement of our liberty, and Jack used to repeat some verses--I don't
know where they came from, but I thought of them to-day when I saw that
letter--that that boy could have been talking of himself in those quoted
lines from that unknown poet:
"For he had sat at Sidney's feet
And walked with him in plain apart,
And through the centuries heard the beat
Of Freedom's march through Cromwell's heart."
And he was that kind of a boy. He should have lived, and yet he should
not have lived, because he died at that early age--he couldn't have been
more than twenty--he had seen all there was to see in the world that was
worth the trouble of living in it; he had seen all of this world that is
valuable; he had seen all of this world that was illusion, and illusion,
is the only valuable thing in it. He had arrived at that point where
presently the illusions would cease and he would have entered upon the
realities of life, and God help the man that has arrived at that point.
DELIVERED IN HARTFORD, AT A DINNER TO CORNELIUS WALFORD,
GENTLEMAN,--I am glad, indeed, to assist in welcoming the distinguished
guest of this occasion to a city whose fame as an insurance centre has
extended to all lands, and given us the name of being a quadruple band of
brothers working sweetly hand in hand--the Colt's arms company making the
destruction of our race easy and convenient, our life-insurance citizens
paying for the victims when they pass away, Mr. Batterson perpetuating
their memory with his stately monuments, and our fire-insurance comrades
taking care of their hereafter. I am glad to assist in welcoming our
guest--first, because he is an Englishman, and I owe a heavy debt of
hospitality to certain of his fellow-countrymen; and secondly, because he
is in sympathy with insurance, and has been the means of making many
other men cast their sympathies in the same direction.
Certainly there is no nobler field for human effort than the insurance
line of business--especially accident insurance. Ever since I have been
a director in an accident-insurance company I have felt that I am a
better man. Life has seemed more precious. Accidents have assumed a
kindlier aspect. Distressing special providences have lost half their
horror. I look upon a cripple now with affectionate interest--as an
advertisement. I do not seem, to care for poetry any more. I do not
care for politics--even agriculture does not excite me. But to me now
there is a charm about a railway collision that is unspeakable.
There is nothing more beneficent than accident insurance. I have seen an
entire family lifted out of poverty and into affluence by the simple boon
of a broken leg. I have had people come to me on crutches, with tears in
their eyes, to bless this beneficent institution. In all my experience
of life, I have seen nothing so seraphic as the look that comes into a
freshly mutilated man's face when he feels in his vest pocket with his
remaining hand and finds his accident ticket all right. And I have seen
nothing so sad as the look that came into another splintered customer's
face when he found he couldn't collect on a wooden leg.
I will remark here, by way of advertisement, that that noble charity
which we have named the HARTFORD ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY is an
institution, which is peculiarly to be depended upon. A man is bound to
prosper who gives it his custom. No man pan take out a policy in it and
not get crippled before the year is out. Now there was one indigent man
who had been disappointed so often with other companies that he had grown
disheartened, his appetite left him, he ceased to smile--said life was
but a weariness. Three weeks ago I got him to insure with us, and now he
is the brightest, happiest spirit in this land--has a good steady income
and a stylish suit of new bandages every day, and travels around on a
I will say in conclusion, that my share of the welcome to our guest is
none the less hearty because I talk so much nonsense, and I know that I
curl say the same far the rest of the speakers.
On February 27, 1901, Mr. Clemens appeared before the Assembly
Committee in Albany, New York, in favor of the Seymour bill
legalizing the practice of osteopathy.
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN,--Dr. Van Fleet is the gentleman who gave me
the character. I have heard my character discussed a thousand times
before you were born, sir, and shown the iniquities in it, and you did
not get more than half of them.
I was touched and distressed when they brought that part of a child in
here, and proved that you cannot take a child to pieces in that way.
What remarkable names those diseases have! It makes me envious of the
man that has them all. I have had many diseases, and am thankful for all
I have had.
One of the gentlemen spoke of the knowledge of something else found in
Sweden, a treatment which I took. It is, I suppose, a kindred thing.
There is apparently no great difference between them. I was a year and a
half in London and Sweden, in the hands of that grand old man, Mr.
I cannot call him a doctor, for he has not the authority to give a
certificate if a patient should die, but fortunately they don't.
The State stands as a mighty Gibraltar clothed with power. It stands
between me and my body, and tells me what kind of a doctor I must employ.
When my soul is sick unlimited spiritual liberty is given me by the
State. Now then, it doesn't seem logical that the State shall depart
from this great policy, the health of the soul, and change about and take
the other position in the matter of smaller consequence--the health of
The Bell bill limitations would drive the osteopaths out of the State.
Oh, dear me! when you drive somebody out of the State you create the same
condition as prevailed in the Garden of Eden.
You want the thing that you can't have. I didn't care much about the
osteopaths, but as soon as I found they were going to drive them out I
got in a state of uneasiness, and I can't sleep nights now.
I know how Adam felt in the Garden of Eden about the prohibited apple.
Adam didn't want the apple till he found out he couldn't have it,
just as he would have wanted osteopathy if he couldn't have it.
Whose property is my body? Probably mine. I so regard it. If I
experiment with it, who must be answerable? I, not the State. If I
choose injudiciously, does the State die? Oh no.
I was the subject of my mother's experiment. She was wise. She made
experiments cautiously. She didn't pick out just any child in the flock.
No, she chose judiciously. She chose one she could spare, and she
couldn't spare the others. I was the choice child of the flock; so I had
to take all of the experiments.
In 1844 Kneipp filled the world with the wonder of the water cure.
Mother wanted to try it, but on sober second thought she put me through.
A bucket of ice-water was poured over to see the effect. Then I was
rubbed down with flannels, sheet was dipped in the water, and I was put
to bed. I perspired so much that mother put a life-preserver to bed with
But this had nothing but a spiritual effect on me, and I didn't care for
that. When they took off the sheet it was yellow from the output of my
conscience, the exudation of sin. It purified me spiritually, and it
remains until this day.
I have experimented with osteopathy and allopathy. I took a chance at
the latter for old times' sake, for, three tines, when a boy, mother's
new methods got me so near death's door she had to call in the family
physician to pull me out.
The physicians think they are moved by regard for the best interests of
the public. Isn't there a little touch of self-interest back of it all?
It seems to me there is, and I don't claim to have all the virtues--only
nine or ten of them.
I was born in the "Banner State," and by "Banner State" I mean Missouri.
Osteopathy was born in the same State, and both of us are getting along
reasonably well. At a time during my younger days my attention was
attracted to a picture of a house which bore the inscription, "Christ
Disputing with the Doctors."
I could attach no other meaning to it than that Christ was actually
quarreling with the doctors. So I asked an old slave, who was a sort of
a herb doctor in a small way--unlicensed, of course--what the meaning of
the picture was. "What had has done?" I asked. And the colored man
replied "Humph, he ain't got no license."
Mr. Clemens visited Albany on February 21 and 28, 1901. The
privileges of the floor were granted and he was asked to make a
short address to the Senate.
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--I do not know how to thank you sufficiently
for this high honor which you are conferring upon me. I have for the
second time now enjoyed this kind of prodigal hospitality--in the other
House yesterday, to-day in this one. I am a modest man, and diffident
about appearing before legislative bodies, and yet utterly an entirely
appreciative of a courtesy like this when it is extended to me, and I
thank you very much for it.
If I had the privilege, which unfortunately I have not got, of suggesting
things to the legislators in my individual capacity, I would so enjoy the
opportunity that I would not charge anything for it at all. I would do
that without a salary. I would give them the benefit of my wisdom and
experience in legislative bodies, and if I could have had the privilege
for a few minutes of giving advice to the other House I should have liked
to, but of course I could not undertake it, as they did not ask me to do
it--but if they had only asked me!
Now that the House is considering a measure which is to furnish a water-
supply to the city of New York, why, permit me to say I live in New York
myself. I know all about its ways, its desires, and its residents, and--
if I had the privilege--I should have urged them not to weary themselves
over a measure like that to furnish water to the city of New York, for we
never drink it.
But I will not venture to advise this body, as I only venture to advise
bodies who are, not present.
ADDRESS AT THE ANNUAL "LADIES' DAY," PAPYRUS CLUB, BOSTON
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--I am perfectly astonished--a-s-t-o-n-i-s-h-e-d--
ladies and gentlemen--astonished at the way history repeats itself.
I find myself situated at this moment exactly and precisely as I was once
before, years ago, to a jot, to a tittle--to a very hair. There isn't a
shade of difference. It is the most astonishing coincidence that ever--
but wait. I will tell you the former instance, and then you will see it
for yourself. Years ago I arrived one day at Salamanca, New York,
eastward bound; must change cars there and take the sleeper train. There
were crowds of people there, and they were swarming into the long sleeper
train and packing it full, and it was a perfect purgatory of dust and
confusion and gritting of teeth and soft, sweet, and low profanity.
I asked the young man in the ticket-office if I could have a sleeping-
section, and he answered "No," with a snarl that shrivelled me up like
burned leather. I went off, smarting under this insult to my dignity,
and asked another local official, supplicatingly, if I couldn't have some
poor little corner somewhere in a sleeping-car; but he cut me short with
a venomous "No, you can't; every corner is full. Now, don't bother me
any more"; and he turned his back and walked off. My dignity was in a
state now which cannot be described. I was so ruffled that--well, I said
to my companion, "If these people knew who I am they--"But my companion
cut me short there--"Don't talk such folly," he said; "if they did know
who you are, do you suppose it would help your high-mightiness to a
vacancy in a train which has no vacancies in it?"
This did not improve my condition any to speak of, but just then I
observed that the colored porter of a sleeping-car had his eye on me.
I saw his dark countenance light up. He whispered to the uniformed
conductor, punctuating with nods and jerks toward me, and straightway
this conductor came forward, oozing politeness from every pore.
"Can I be of any service to you ?" he asked. "Will you have a place in
"Yes," I said, "and much oblige me, too. Give me anything--anything will
"We have nothing left but the big family state-room," he continued, "with
two berths and a couple of arm-chairs in it, but it is entirely at your
disposal. Here, Tom, take these satchels aboard!"
Then he touched his hat and we and the colored Tom moved along. I was
bursting to drop just one little remark to my companion, but I held in
and waited. Tom made us comfortable in that sumptuous great apartment,
and then said, with many bows and a perfect affluence of smiles:
"Now, is dey anything you want, sah? Case you kin have jes' anything you
wants. It don't make no difference what it is."
"Can I have some hot water and a tumbler at nine to-night-blazing hot?"
I asked. "You know about the right temperature for a hot Scotch punch?"
"Yes, sah, dat you kin; you kin pen on it; I'll get it myself."
"Good! Now, that lamp is hung too high. Can I have a big coach candle
fixed up just at the head of my bed, so that I can read comfortably?"
"Yes, sah, you kin; I'll fix her up myself, an' I'll fix her so she'll
burn all night. Yes, sah; an' you can jes' call for anything you want,
and dish yer whole railroad'll be turned wrong end up an' inside out for
to get it for you. Dat's so." And he disappeared.
Well, I tilted my head back, hooked my thumbs in my armholes, smiled a
smile on my companion, and said, gently:
"Well, what do you say now?"
My companion was not in the humor to respond, and didn't. The next
moment that smiling black face was thrust in at the crack of the door,
and this speech followed:
"Laws bless you, sah, I knowed you in a minute. I told de conductah so.
Laws! I knowed you de minute I sot eyes on you."
"Is that so, my boy?" (Handing him a quadruple fee.) "Who am I?"
"Jenuel McClellan," and he disappeared again.
My companion said, vinegarishly, "Well, well! what do you say now?"
Right there comes in the marvellous coincidence I mentioned a while ago
--viz., I was speechless, and that is my condition now. Perceive it?
CATS AND CANDY
The following address was delivered at a social meeting of
literary men in New York in 1874:
When I was fourteen I was living with my parents, who were very poor--and
correspondently honest. We had a youth living with us by the name of Jim
Wolfe. He was an excellent fellow, seventeen years old, and very
diffident. He and I slept together--virtuously; and one bitter winter's
night a cousin Mary--she's married now and gone--gave what they call a
candy-pulling in those days in the West, and they took the saucers of hot
candy outside of the house into the snow, under a sort of old bower that
came from the eaves--it was a sort of an ell then, all covered with
vines--to cool this hot candy in the snow, and they were all sitting
there. In the mean time we were gone to bed. We were not invited to
attend this party; we were too young.
The young ladies and gentlemen were assembled there, and Jim and I were
in bed. There was about four inches of snow on the roof of this ell, and
our windows looked out on it; and it was frozen hard. A couple of tom-
cats--it is possible one might have been of the opposite sex--were
assembled on the chimney in the middle of this ell, and they were
growling at a fearful rate, and switching their tails about and going on,
and we couldn't sleep at all.
Finally Jim said, "For two cents I'd go out and snake them cats off that
chimney." So I said, "Of course you would." He said, "Well, I would;
I have a mighty good notion to do it." Says I, "Of course you have;
certainly you have, you have a great notion to do it." I hoped he might
try it, but I was afraid he wouldn't.
Finally I did get his ambition up, and he raised the window and climbed
out on the icy roof, with nothing on but his socks and a very short
shirt. He went climbing along on all fours on the roof toward the
chimney where the cats were. In the mean time these young ladies and
gentlemen were enjoying themselves down under the eaves, and when Jim got
almost to that chimney he made a pass at the cats, and his heels flew up
and he shot down and crashed through those vines, and lit in the midst of
the ladies and gentlemen, and sat down in those hot saucers of candy.
There was a stampede, of course, and he came up-stairs dropping pieces of
chinaware and candy all the way up, and when he got up there--now anybody
in the world would have gone into profanity or something calculated to
relieve the mind, but he didn't; he scraped the candy off his legs,
nursed his blisters a little, and said, "I could have ketched them cats
if I had had on a good ready."
[Does any reader know what a "ready" was in 1840? D.W.]
ADDRESS AT THE ACTORS' FUND FAIR, PHILADELPHIA, in 1895
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--The--er this--er--welcome occasion gives me an--
er--opportunity to make an--er--explanation that I have long desired to
deliver myself of. I rise to the highest honors before a Philadelphia
audience. In the course of my checkered career I have, on divers
occasions, been charged--er--maliciously with a more or less serious
offence. It is in reply to one of the more--er--important of these that
I wish to speak. More than once I have been accused of writing obituary
poetry in the Philadelphia Ledger.
I wish right here to deny that dreadful assertion. I will admit that
once, when a compositor in the Ledger establishment, I did set up some of
that poetry, but for a worse offence than that no indictment can be found
against me. I did not write that poetry--at least, not all of it.
CIGARS AND TOBACCO
My friends for some years now have remarked that I am an inveterate
consumer of tobacco. That is true, but my habits with regard to tobacco
have changed. I have no doubt that you will say, when I have explained
to you what my present purpose is, that my taste has deteriorated, but I
do not so regard it.
Whenever I held a smoking-party at my house, I found that my guests had
always just taken the pledge.
Let me tell you briefly the history of my personal relation to tobacco.
It began, I think, when I was a lad, and took the form of a quid, which I
became expert in tucking under my tongue. Afterward I learned the
delights of the pipe, and I suppose there was no other youngster of my
age who could more deftly cut plug tobacco so as to make it available for
Well, time ran on, and there came a time when I was able to gratify one
of my youthful ambitions--I could buy the choicest Havana cigars without
seriously interfering with my income. I smoked a good many, changing off
from the Havana cigars to the pipe in the course of a day's smoking.
At last it occurred to n1e that something was lacking in the Havana
cigar. It did not quite fulfil my youthful anticipations.
I experimented. I bought what was called a seed-leaf cigar with a
Connecticut wrapper. After a while I became satiated of these, and I
searched for something else, The Pittsburg stogy was recommended to me.
It certainly had the merit of cheapness, if that be a merit in tobacco,
and I experimented with the stogy.
Then, once more, I changed off, so that I might acquire the subtler
flavor of the Wheeling toby. Now that palled, and I looked around New
York in the hope of finding cigars which would seem to most people vile,
but which, I am sure, would be ambrosial to me. I couldn't find any.
They put into my hands some of those little things that cost ten cents a
box, but they are a delusion.
I said to a friend, "I want to know if you can direct me to an honest
tobacco merchant who will tell me what is the worst cigar in the New York
market, excepting those made for Chinese consumption--I want real
tobacco. If you will do this and I find the man is as good as his word,
I will guarantee him a regular market for a fair amount of his cigars."
We found a tobacco dealer who would tell the truth--who, if a cigar was
bad, would boldly say so. He produced what he called the very worst
cigars he had ever had in his shop. He let me experiment with one then
and there. The test was satisfactory.
This was, after all, the real thing. I negotiated for a box of them and
took them away with me, so that I might be sure of having them handy when
I want them.
I discovered that the "worst cigars," so called, are the best for me,
Mr. Clemens attended a billiard tourney on the evening of April
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