Mark Twain's Speeches
Part 4 out of 5
24, 1906, and was called on to tell a story.
The game of billiards has destroyed my naturally sweet disposition.
Once, when I was an underpaid reporter in Virginia City, whenever I
wished to play billiards I went out to look for an easy mark. One day a
stranger came to town and opened a billiard parlor. I looked him over
casually. When he proposed a game, I answered, "All right."
"Just knock the balls around a little so that I can get your gait," he
said; and when I had done so, he remarked: "I will be perfectly fair with
you. I'll play you left-handed." I felt hurt, for he was cross-eyed,
freckled, and had red hair, and I determined to teach him a lesson. He
won first shot, ran out, took my half-dollar, and all I got was the
opportunity to chalk my cue.
"If you can play like that with your left hand," I said, "I'd like to see
you play with your right."
"I can't," he said. "I'm left-handed."
THE UNION RIGHT OR WRONG
REMINISCENCES OF NEVADA
I can assure you, ladies and gentlemen, that Nevada had lively newspapers
in those days.
My great competitor among the reporters was Boggs, of the Union, an
Once in three or four months he would get a little intoxicated; but, as a
general thing, he was a wary and cautious drinker, although always ready
to damp himself a little with the enemy.
He had the advantage of me in one thing: he could get the monthly public-
school report and I could not, because the principal hated my sheet--the
One snowy night, when the report was due, I started out, sadly wondering
how I was to get it.
Presently, a few steps up the almost deserted street, I stumbled on
Boggs, and asked him where he was going.
"After the school report."
"I'll go along with you."
"No, Sir. I'll excuse you."
"Have it your own way."
A saloon-keeper's boy passed by with a steaming pitcher of hot punch, and
Boggs snuffed the fragrance gratefully.
He gazed fondly after the boy, and saw him start up the Enterprise
"I wish you could help me get that school business, but since you can't,
I must run up to the Union office and see if I can get a proof of it
after it's set up, though I don't begin to suppose I can. Good night."
"Hold on a minute. I don't mind getting the report and sitting around
with the boys a little while you copy it, if you're willing to drop down
to the principal's with me."
"Now you talk like a human being. Come along."
We ploughed a couple of blocks through the snow, got the report--a short
document--and soon copied it in our office.
Meantime, Boggs helped himself to the punch.
I gave the manuscript back to him, and we started back to get an inquest.
At four o'clock in the morning, when we had gone to press and were having
a relaxing concert as usual (for some of the printers were good singers
and others good performers on the guitar and on that atrocity the
accordion), the proprietor of the Union strode in and asked if anybody
had heard anything of Boggs or the school report.
We stated the case, and all turned out to help hunt for the delinquent.
We found him standing on a table in a saloon, with an old tin lantern in
one hand and the school report in the other, haranguing a gang of
"corned" miners on, the iniquity of squandering the public money on
education "when hundreds and hundreds of honest, hard-working men were
literally starving for whiskey."
He had been assisting in a regal spree with those parties for hours.
We dragged him away, and put him into bed.
Of course there was no school report in the Union, and Boggs held me
accountable, though I was innocent of any intention or desire to compass
its absence from that paper, and was as sorry as any one that the
misfortune had occurred. But we were perfectly friendly.
The day the next school report was due the proprietor of the Tennessee
Mine furnished us a buggy, and asked us to go down and write something
about the property--a very common request, and one always gladly acceded
to when people furnished buggies, for we were as fond of pleasure
excursions as other people.
The "mine" was a hole in the ground ninety feet deep, and no way of
getting down into it but by holding on to a rope and being lowered with a
The workmen had just gone off somewhere to dinner.
I was not strong enough to lower Boggs's bulk, so I took an unlighted
candle in my teeth, made a loop for my foot in the end of the rope,
implored Boggs not to go to sleep or let the windlass get the start of
him, and then swung out over the shaft.
I reached the bottom muddy and bruised about the elbows, but safe.
I lit the candle, made an examination of the rock, selected some
specimens, and shouted to Boggs to hoist away.
Presently a head appeared in the circle of daylight away aloft, and a
voice came down:
"Are you all set?"
"All set-hoist away!"
"Are you comfortable?"
"Could you wait a little?"
"Oh, certainly-no particular hurry."
"Why, where are you going?"
"After the school report!"
And he did.
I stayed down there an hour, and surprised the workmen when they hauled
up and found a man on the rope instead of a bucket of rock.
I walked home, too--five miles-up-hill.
We had no school report next morning--but the Union had.
AN IDEAL FRENCH ADDRESS
EXTRACT FROM "PARIS NOTES," IN "TOM SAWYER ABROAD," ETC.
I am told that a French sermon is like a French speech--it never names an
historical event, but only the date of it; if you are not up in dates,
you get left. A French speech is something like this:
"Comrades, citizens, brothers, noble parts of the only sublime and
perfect nation, let us not forget that the 21st January cast off our
chains; that the 10th August relieved us of the shameful presence of
foreign spies; that the 5th September was its own justification before
Heaven and humanity; that the 18th Brumaire contained the seeds of its
own punishment; that the 14th July was the mighty voice of liberty
proclaiming the resurrection, the new day, and inviting the oppressed
peoples of the earth to look upon the divine face of France and live;
and let us here record our everlasting curse against the man of the
2d December, and declare in thunder tones, the native tones of France,
that but for him there had been no 17th Mardi in history, no 12th
October, nor 9th January, no 22d April, no 16th November, no 30th
September, no 2d July, no 14th February, no 29th June, no 15th August, no
31st May--that but for him, France, the pure, the grand, the peerless,
had had a serene and vacant almanac to-day."
I have heard of one French sermon which closed in this odd yet eloquent
"My hearers, we have sad cause to remember the man of the 13th January.
The results of the vast crime of the 13th January have been in just
proportion to the magnitude of the act itself. But for it there had been
no 30th November--sorrowful spectacle! The grisly deed of the 16th June
had not been done but for it, nor had the man of the 16th June known
existence; to it alone the 3d September was due, also the fatal 12th
October. Shall we, then, be grateful for the 13th January, with its
freight of death for you and me and all that breathe? Yes, my friends,
for it gave us also that which had never come but for it, and it alone--
the blessed 25th December."
It may be well enough to explain. The man of the 13th January is Adam;
the crime of that date was the eating of the apple; the sorrowful
spectacle of the 30th November was the expulsion from Eden; the grisly
deed of the 16th June was the murder of Abel; the act of the 3d September
was the beginning of the journey to the land of Nod; the 12th day of
October, the last mountaintops disappeared under the flood. When you go
to church in France, you want to take your almanac with you--annotated.
EXTRACT FROM "THE HISTORY OF THE SAVAGE CLUB"
During that period of gloom when domestic bereavement had
forced Mr. Clemens and his dear ones to secure the privacy they
craved until their wounds should heal, his address was known to
only a very few of his closest friends. One old friend in New
York, after vain efforts to get his address, wrote him a letter
addressed as follows
God Knows Where,
The letter found him, and Mr. Clemens replied to the letter
expressing himself surprised and complimented that the person
who was credited with knowing his whereabouts should take so
much interest in him, adding: "Had the letter been addressed to
the care of the 'other party,' I would naturally have expected
to receive it without delay."
His correspondent tried again, and addressed the second letter:
The Devil Knows Where,
This found him also no less promptly.
On June 9, 1899, he consented to visit the Savage Club, London,
on condition that there was to be no publicity and no speech
was to be expected from him. The toastmaster, in proposing the
health of their guest, said that as a Scotchman, and therefore
as a born expert, he thought Mark Twain had little or no claim
to the title of humorist. Mr. Clemens had tried to be funny
but had failed, and his true role in life was statistics; that
he was a master of statistics, and loved them for their own
sake, and it would be the easiest task he ever undertook if he
would try to count all the real jokes he had ever made. While
the toastmaster was speaking, the members saw Mr. Clemens's
eyes begin to sparkle and his cheeks to flush. He jumped up,
and made a characteristic speech.
Perhaps I am not a humorist, but I am a first-class fool--a simpleton;
for up to this moment I have believed Chairman MacAlister to be a decent
person whom I could allow to mix up with my friends and relatives. The
exhibition he has just made of himself reveals him to be a scoundrel and
a knave of the deepest dye. I have been cruelly deceived, and it serves
me right for trusting a Scotchman. Yes, I do understand figures, and I
can count. I have counted the words in MacAlister's drivel (I certainly
cannot call it a speech), and there were exactly three thousand four
hundred and thirty-nine. I also carefully counted the lies--there were
exactly three thousand four hundred and thirty-nine. Therefore, I leave
MacAlister to his fate.
I was sorry to have my name mentioned as one of the great authors,
because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, Spencer is
dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I am not feeling very well
GALVESTON ORPHAN BAZAAR
ADDRESS AT A FAIR HELD AT THE WALDORF-ASTORIA, NEW YORK, IN
OCTOBER, 1900, IN AID OF THE ORPHANS AT GALVESTON
I expected that the Governor of Texas would occupy this place first and
would speak to you, and in the course of his remarks would drop a text
for me to talk from; but with the proverbial obstinacy that is proverbial
with governors, they go back on their duties, and he has not come here,
and has not furnished me with a text, and I am here without a text. I
have no text except what you furnish me with your handsome faces, and--
but I won't continue that, for I could go on forever about attractive
faces, beautiful dresses, and other things. But, after all, compliments
should be in order in a place like this.
I have been in New York two or three days, and have been in a condition
of strict diligence night and day, the object of this diligence being to
regulate the moral and political situation on this planet--put it on a
sound basis--and when you are regulating the conditions of a planet it
requires a great deal of talk in a great many kinds of ways, and when you
have talked a lot the emptier you get, and get also in a position of
corking. When I am situated like that, with nothing to say, I feel as
though I were a sort of fraud; I seem to be playing a part, and please
consider I am playing a part for want of something better, and this, is
not unfamiliar to me; I have often done this before.
When I was here about eight years ago I was coming up in a car of the
elevated road. Very few people were in that car, and on one end of it
there was no one, except on the opposite seat, where sat a man about
fifty years old, with a most winning face and an elegant eye--a beautiful
eye; and I took him from his dress to be a master mechanic, a man who had
a vocation. He had with him a very fine little child of about four or
five years. I was watching the affection which existed between those
two. I judged he was the grandfather, perhaps. It was really a pretty
child, and I was admiring her, and as soon as he saw I was admiring her
he began to notice me.
I could see his admiration of me in his eye, and I did what everybody
else would do--admired the child four times as much, knowing I would get
four times as much of his admiration. Things went on very pleasantly.
I was making my way into his heart.
By-and-by, when he almost reached the station where he was to get off,
he got up, crossed over, and he said: "Now I am going to say something to
you which I hope you will regard as a compliment." And then he went on
to say: "I have never seen Mark Twain, but I have seen a portrait of him,
and any friend of mine will tell you that when I have once seen a
portrait of a man I place it in my eye and store it away in my memory,
and I can tell you now that you look enough like Mark Twain to be his
brother. Now," he said, "I hope you take this as a compliment. Yes, you
are a very good imitation; but when I come to look closer, you are
probably not that man."
I said: "I will be frank with you. In my desire to look like that
excellent character I have dressed for the character; I have been playing
He said: "That is all right, that is all right; you look very well on the
outside, but when it comes to the inside you are not in it with the
So when I come to a place like this with nothing valuable to say I always
play a part. But I will say before I sit down that when it comes to
saying anything here I will express myself in this way: I am heartily in
sympathy with you in your efforts to help those who were sufferers in
this calamity, and in your desire to heap those who were rendered
homeless, and in saying this I wish to impress on you the fact that I am
not playing a part.
SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE
After the address at the Robert Fulton Fund meeting, June 19,
1906, Mr. Clemens talked to the assembled reporters about the
San Francisco earthquake.
I haven't been there since 1868, and that great city of San Francisco has
grown up since my day. When I was there she had one hundred and eighteen
thousand people, and of this number eighteen thousand were Chinese.
I was a reporter on the Virginia City Enterprise in Nevada in 1862, and
stayed there, I think, about two years, when I went to San Francisco and
got a job as a reporter on The Call. I was there three or four
I remember one day I was walking down Third Street in San Francisco. It
was a sleepy, dull Sunday afternoon, and no one was stirring. Suddenly
as I looked up the street about three hundred yards the whole side of a
house fell out. The street was full of bricks and mortar. At the same
time I was knocked against the side of a house, and stood there stunned
for a moment.
I thought it was an earthquake. Nobody else had heard anything about it
and no one said earthquake to me afterward, but I saw it and I wrote it.
Nobody else wrote it, and the house I saw go into the street was the only
house in the city that felt it. I've always wondered if it wasn't a
little performance gotten up for my especial entertainment by the nether
CHARITY AND ACTORS
ADDRESS AT THE ACTORS' FUND FAIR IN THE METROPOLITAN
OPERA HOUSE, NEW YORK, MAY 6, 1907
Mr. Clemens, in his white suit, formally declared the fair
open. Mr. Daniel Frohman, in introducing Mr. Clemens, said:
"We intend to make this a banner week in the history of the
Fund, which takes an interest in every one on the stage, be he
actor, singer, dancer, or workman. We have spent more than
$40,000 during the past year. Charity covers a multitude of
sins, but it also reveals a multitude of virtues. At the
opening of the former fair we had the assistance of Edwin Booth
and Joseph Jefferson. In their place we have to-day that
American institution and apostle of wide humanity--Mark Twain."
As Mr. Frohman has said, charity reveals a multitude of virtues. This is
true, and it is to be proved here before the week is over. Mr. Frohman
has told you something of the object and something of the character of
the work. He told me he would do this--and he has kept his word! I had
expected to hear of it through the newspapers. I wouldn't trust anything
between Frohman and the newspapers--except when it's a case of charity!
You should all remember that the actor has been your benefactor many and
many a year. When you have been weary and downcast he has lifted your
heart out of gloom and given you a fresh impulse. You are all under
obligation to him. This is your opportunity to be his benefactor--to
help provide for him in his old age and when he suffers from infirmities.
At this fair no one is to be persecuted to buy. If you offer a twenty-
dollar bill in payment for a purchase of $1 you will receive $19 in
change. There is to be no robbery here. There is to be no creed here--
no religion except charity. We want to raise $250,000--and that is a
great task to attempt.
The President has set the fair in motion by pressing the button in
Washington. Now your good wishes are to be transmuted into cash.
By virtue of the authority in me vested I declare the fair open. I call
the ball game. Let the transmuting begin!
The American auxiliary movement to aid the cause of freedom in Russia was
launched on the evening of April 11, 1906, at the Club A house, 3 Fifth
Avenue, with Mr. Clemens and Maxim Gorky as the principal spokesmen.
Mr. Clemens made an introductory address, presenting Mr. Gorky.
If we can build a Russian republic to give to the persecuted people of
the Tsar's domain the same measure of freedom that we enjoy, let us go
ahead and do it. We need not discuss the methods by which that purpose
is to be attained. Let us hope that fighting will be postponed or
averted. for a while, but if it must come--
I am most emphatically in sympathy with the movement, now on foot in
Russia, to make that country free. I am certain that it will be
successful, as it deserves to be. Any such movement should have and
deserves our earnest and unanimous co-operation, and such a petition for
funds as has been explained by Mr. Hunter, with its just and powerful
meaning, should have the utmost support of each and every one of us.
Anybody whose ancestors were in this country when we were trying to free
ourselves from oppression, must sympathize with those who now are trying
to do the same thing in Russia.
The parallel I have just drawn only goes to show that it makes no
difference whether the oppression is bitter or not; men with red, warm
blood in their veins will not endure it, but will seek to cast it off.
If we keep our hearts in this matter Russia will be free.
On December 18, 1905, an entertainment was given at the Casino
for the benefit of the Russian sufferers. After the
performance Mr. Clemens spoke.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--It seems a sort of cruelty to inflict upon an
audience like this our rude English tongue, after we have heard that
divine speech flowing in that lucid Gallic tongue.
It has always been a marvel to me--that French language; it has always
been a puzzle to me. How beautiful that language is. How expressive it
seems to be. How full of grace it is.
And when it comes from lips like those, how eloquent and how liquid it
is. And, oh, I am always deceived--I always think I am going to
Oh, it is such a delight to me, such a delight to me, to meet Madame
Bernhardt, and laugh hand to hand and heart to heart with her.
I have seen her play, as we all have, and oh, that is divine; but I have
always wanted to know Madame Bernhardt herself--her fiery self. I have
wanted to know that beautiful character.
Why, she is the youngest person I ever saw, except myself--for I always
feel young when I come in the presence of young people.
I have a pleasant recollection of an incident so many years ago--when
Madame Bernhardt came to Hartford, where I lived, and she was going to
play and the tickets were three dollars, and there were two lovely women
--a widow and her daughter--neighbors of ours, highly cultivated ladies
they were; their tastes were fine and elevated, but they were very poor,
and they said "Well, we must not spend six dollars on a pleasure of the
mind, a pleasure of the intellect; we must spend it, if it must go at
all, to furnish to somebody bread to eat."
And so they sorrowed over the fact that they had to give up that great
pleasure of seeing Madame Bernhardt, but there were two neighbors equally
highly cultivated and who could not afford bread, and those good-hearted
Joneses sent that six dollars--deprived themselves of it--and sent it to
those poor Smiths to buy bread with. And those Smiths took it and bought
tickets with it to see Madame Bernhardt.
Oh yes, some people have tastes and intelligence also.
Now, I was going to make a speech--I supposed I was, but I am not. It is
late, late; and so I am going to tell a story; and there is this
advantage about a story, anyway, that whatever moral or valuable thing
you put into a speech, why, it gets diffused among those involuted
sentences and possibly your audience goes away without finding out what
that valuable thing was that you were trying to confer upon it; but, dear
me, you put the same jewel into a story and it becomes the keystone of
that story, and you are bound to get it--it flashes, it flames, it is the
jewel in the toad's head--you don't overlook that.
Now, if I am going to talk on such a subject as, for instance, the lost
opportunity--oh, the lost opportunity. Anybody in this house who has
reached the turn of life--sixty, or seventy, or even fifty, or along
there--when he goes back along his history, there he finds it mile-stoned
all the way with the lost opportunity, and you know how pathetic that is.
You younger ones cannot know the full pathos that lies in those words--
the lost opportunity; but anybody who is old, who has really lived and
felt this life, he knows the pathos of the lost opportunity.
Now, I will tell you a story whose moral is that, whose lesson is that,
whose lament is that.
I was in a village which is a suburb of New Bedford several years ago--
well, New Bedford is a suburb of Fair Haven, or perhaps it is the other
way; in any case, it took both of those towns to make a great centre of
the great whaling industry of the first half of the nineteenth century,
and I was up there at Fair Haven some years ago with a friend of mine.
There was a dedication of a great town-hall, a public building, and we
were there in the afternoon. This great building was filled, like this
great theatre, with rejoicing villagers, and my friend and I started down
the centre aisle. He saw a man standing in that aisle, and he said "Now,
look at that bronzed veteran--at that mahogany-faced man. Now, tell me,
do you see anything about that man's face that is emotional? Do you see
anything about it that suggests that inside that man anywhere there are
fires that can be started? Would you ever imagine that that is a human
"Why, no," I said, "I would not. He looks like a wooden Indian in front
of a cigar store."
"Very well," said my friend, "I will show you that there is emotion even
in that unpromising place. I will just go to that man and I will just
mention in the most casual way an incident in his life. That man is
getting along toward ninety years old. He is past eighty. I will
mention an incident of fifty or sixty years ago. Now, just watch the
effect, and it will be so casual that if you don't watch you won't know
when I do say that thing--but you just watch the effect."
He went on down there and accosted this antiquity, and made a remark or
two. I could not catch up. They were so casual I could not recognize
which one it was that touched that bottom, for in an instant that old man
was literally in eruption and was filling the whole place with profanity
of the most exquisite kind. You never heard such accomplished profanity.
I never heard it also delivered with such eloquence.
I never enjoyed profanity as I enjoyed it then--more than if I had been
uttering it myself. There is nothing like listening to an artist--all
his passions passing away in lava, smoke, thunder, lightning, and
Then this friend said to me: "Now, I will tell you about that. About
sixty years ago that man was a young fellow of twenty-three, and had just
come home from a three years' whaling voyage. He came into that village
of his, happy and proud because now, instead of being chief mate, he was
going to be master of a whaleship, and he was proud and happy about it.
"Then he found that there had been a kind of a cold frost come upon that
town and the whole region roundabout; for while he had been away the
Father Mathew temperance excitement had come upon the whole region.
Therefore, everybody had taken the pledge; there wasn't anybody for miles
and miles around that had not taken the pledge.
"So you can see what a solitude it was to this young man, who was fond of
his grog. And he was just an outcast, because when they found he would
not join Father Mathew's Society they ostracized him, and he went about
that town three weeks, day and night, in utter loneliness--the only human
being in the whole place who ever took grog, and he had to take it
"If you don't know what it is to be ostracized, to be shunned by your
fellow-man, may you never know it. Then he recognized that there was
something more valuable in this life than grog, and that is the
fellowship of your fellow-man. And at last he gave it up, and at nine
o'clock one night he went down to the Father Mathew Temperance Society,
and with a broken heart he said: 'Put my name down for membership in this
"And then he went away crying, and at earliest dawn the next morning they
came for him and routed him out, and they said that new ship of his was
ready to sail on a three years' voyage. In a minute he was on board that
ship and gone.
"And he said--well, he was not out of sight of that town till he began to
repent, but he had made up his mind that he would not take a drink, and
so that whole voyage of three years was a three years' agony to that man
because he saw all the time the mistake he had made.
"He felt it all through; he had constant reminders of it, because the
crew would pass him with their grog, come out on the deck and take it,
and there was the torturous Smell of it.
"He went through the whole, three years of suffering, and at last coming
into port it was snowy, it was cold, he was stamping through the snow two
feet deep on the deck and longing to get home, and there was his crew
torturing him to the last minute with hot grog, but at last he had his
reward. He really did get to shore at fast, and jumped and ran and
bought a jug and rushed to the society's office, and said to the
"'Take my name off your membership books, and do it right away! I have
got a three years' thirst on.'
"And the secretary said: 'It is not necessary. You were blackballed!'"
WATTERSON AND TWAIN AS REBELS
ADDRESS AT THE CELEBRATION OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S 92D BIRTHDAY
ANNIVERSARY, CARNEGIE HALL, FEBRUARY 11, 1901, TO RAISE FUNDS
FOR THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY AT CUMBERLAND GAP, TENN.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--The remainder of my duties as presiding chairman
here this evening are but two--only two. One of them is easy, and the
other difficult. That is to say, I must introduce the orator, and then
keep still and give him a chance. The name of Henry Watterson carries
with it its own explanation. It is like an electric light on top of
Madison Square Garden; you touch the button and the light flashes up out
of the darkness. You mention the name of Henry Watterson, and your minds
are at once illuminated with the splendid radiance of his fame and
achievements. A journalist, a soldier, an orator, a statesman, a rebel.
Yes, he was a rebel; and, better still, now he is a reconstructed rebel.
It is a curious circumstance, a circumstance brought about without any
collusion or prearrangement, that he and I, both of whom were rebels
related by blood to each other, should be brought here together this
evening bearing a tribute in our hands and bowing our heads in reverence
to that noble soul who for three years we tried to destroy. I don't know
as the fact has ever been mentioned before, but it is a fact,
nevertheless. Colonel Watterson and I were both rebels, and we are blood
relations. I was a second lieutenant in a Confederate company for a
while--oh, I could have stayed on if I had wanted to. I made myself
felt, I left tracks all around the country. I could have stayed on, but
it was such weather. I never saw such weather to be out-of-doors in, in
all my life.
The Colonel commanded a regiment, and did his part, I suppose, to destroy
the Union. He did not succeed, yet if he had obeyed me he would have
done so. I had a plan, and I fully intended to drive General Grant into
the Pacific Ocean--if I could get transportation. I told Colonel
Watterson about it. I told him what he had to do. What I wanted him to
do was to surround the Eastern army and wait until I came up. But he was
insubordinate; he stuck on some quibble of military etiquette about a
second lieutenant giving orders to a colonel or something like that. And
what was the consequence? The Union was preserved. This is the first
time I believe that that secret has ever been revealed.
No one outside of the family circle, I think, knew it before; but there
the facts are. Watterson saved the Union; yes, he saved the Union. And
yet there he sits, and not a step has been taken or a movement made
toward granting him a pension. That is the way things are done. It is a
case where some blushing ought to be done. You ought to blush, and I
ought to blush, and he--well, he's a little out of practice now.
ROBERT FULTON FUND
ADDRESS MADE ON THE EVENING OF APRIL 19, 1906
Mr. Clemens had been asked to address the association by Gen.
Frederick D. Grant, president. He was offered a fee of $1,000,
but refused it, saying:
"I shall be glad to do it, but I must stipulate that you keep
the $1,000, and add it to the Memorial Fund as my contribution
to erect a monument in New York to the memory of the man who
applied steam to navigation."
At this meeting Mr. Clemens made this formal announcement from
"This is my last appearance on the paid platform. I shall not
retire from the gratis platform until I am buried, and courtesy
will compel me to keep still and not disturb the others. Now,
since I must, I shall say good-bye. I see many faces in this
audience well known to me. They are all my friends, and I feel
that those I don't know are my friends, too. I wish to
consider that you represent the nation, and that in saying
good-bye to you I am saying good-bye to the nation. In the
great name of humanity, let me say this final word: I offer an
appeal in behalf of that vast, pathetic multitude of fathers,
mothers, and helpless little children. They were sheltered and
happy two days ago. Now they are wandering, forlorn, hopeless,
and homeless, the victims of a great disaster. So I beg of
you, I beg of you, to open your hearts and open your purses and
remember San Francisco, the smitten city."
I wish to deliver a historical address. I've been studying the history
of---er--a--let me see--a [then he stopped in confusion, and walked over
to Gen. Fred D. Grant, who sat at the head of the platform. He leaned
over an a whisper, and then returned to the front of the stage and
continued]. Oh yes! I've been studying Robert Fulton. I've been
studying a biographical sketch of Robert Fulton, the inventor of--er--a--
let's see--ah yes, the inventor of the electric telegraph and the Morse
sewing--machine. Also, I understand he invented the air--diria--pshaw!
I have it at last--the dirigible balloon. Yes, the dirigible--but it is
a difficult word, and I don't see why anybody should marry a couple of
words like that when they don't want to be married at all and are likely
to quarrel with each other all the time. I should put that couple of
words under the ban of the United States Supreme Court, under its
decision of a few days ago, and take 'em out and drown 'em.
I used to know Fulton. It used to do me good to see him dashing through
tile town on a wild broncho.
And Fulton was born in---er--a--Well, it doesn't make much difference
where he was born, does it? I remember a man who came to interview me
once, to get a sketch of my life. I consulted with a friend--a practical
man--before he came, to know how I should treat him.
"Whenever you give the interviewer a fact," he said, "give him another
fact that will contradict it. Then he'll go away with a jumble that he
can't use at all. Be gentle, be sweet, smile like an idiot--just be
natural." That's what my friend told me to do, and I did it.
"Where were you born?" asked the interviewer.
"Well-er-a," I began, "I was born in Alabama, or Alaska, or the Sandwich
Islands; I don't know where, but right around there somewhere. And you
had better put it down before you forget it."
"But you weren't born in all those places," he said.
"Well, I've offered you three places. Take your choice. They're all at
the same price."
"How old are you?" he asked.
"I shall be nineteen in June," I said.
"Why, there's such a discrepancy between your age and your looks," he
"Oh, that's nothing," I said, "I was born discrepantly."
Then we got to talking about my brother Samuel, and he told me my
explanations were confusing.
"I suppose he is dead," I said. "Some said that he was dead and some
said that he wasn't."
"Did you bury him without knowing whether he was dead or not?" asked the
"There was a mystery," said I. "We were twins, and one day when we were
two weeks old--that is, he was one week old, and I was one week old--we
got mixed up in the bath-tub, and one of us drowned. We never could tell
which. One of us had a strawberry birthmark on the back of his hand.
There it is on my hand. This is the one that was drowned. There's no
doubt about it.
"Where's the mystery?" he said.
"Why, don't you see how stupid it was to bury the wrong twin?"
I answered. I didn't explain it any more because he said the explanation
confused him. To me it is perfectly plain.
But, to get back to Fulton. I'm going along like an old man I used to
know who used to start to tell a story about his grandfather. He had an
awfully retentive memory, and he never finished the story, because he
switched off into something else. He used to tell about how his
grandfather one day went into a pasture, where there was a ram. The old
man dropped a silver dime in the grass, and stooped over to pick it up.
The ram was observing him, and took the old man's action as an
Just as he was going to finish about the ram this friend of mine would
recall that his grandfather had a niece who had a glass eye. She used to
loan that glass eye to another lady friend, who used it when she received
company. The eye didn't fit the friend's face, and it was loose. And
whenever she winked it would turn aver.
Then he got on the subject of accidents, and he would tell a story about
how he believed accidents never happened.
"There was an Irishman coming down a ladder with a hod of bricks," he
said, "and a Dutchman was standing on the ground below. The Irishman
fell on the Dutchman and killed him. Accident? Never! If the Dutchman
hadn't been there the Irishman would have been killed. Why didn't the
Irishman fall on a dog which was next, to the Dutchman? Because the dog
would have seen him coming."
Then he'd get off from the Dutchman to an uncle named Reginald Wilson.
Reginald went into a carpet factory one day, and got twisted into the
machinery's belt. He went excursioning around the factory until he was
properly distributed and was woven into sixty-nine yards of the best
three-ply carpet. His wife bought the carpet, and then she erected a
monument to his memory. It read:
Sacred to the memory
sixty-nine yards of the best three-ply carpet
containing the mortal remainders of
Go thou and do likewise
And so an he would ramble about telling the story of his grandfather
until we never were told whether he found the ten-cent piece or whether
something else happened.
FULTON DAY, JAMESTOWN
ADDRESS DELIVERED SEPTEMBER 23, 1907
Lieutenant-Governor Ellyson, of Virginia, in introducing Mr.
"The people have come here to bring a tribute of affectionate
recollection for the man who has contributed so much to the
progress of the world and the happiness of mankind." As Mr.
Clemens came down to the platform the applause became louder
and louder, until Mr. Clemens held out his hand for silence.
It was a great triumph, and it was almost a minute after the
applause ceased before Mr. Clemens could speak. He attempted
it once, and when the audience noticed his emotion, it cheered
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--I am but human, and when you, give me a reception
like that I am obliged to wait a little while I get my voice. When you
appeal to my head, I don't feel it; but when you appeal to my heart, I do
We are here to celebrate one of the greatest events of American history,
and not only in American history, but in the world's history.
Indeed it was--the application of steam by Robert Fulton.
It was a world event--there are not many of them. It is peculiarly an
American event, that is true, but the influence was very broad in effect.
We should regard this day as a very great American holiday. We have not
many that are exclusively American holidays. We have the Fourth of July,
which we regard as an American holiday, but it is nothing of the kind.
I am waiting for a dissenting voice. All great efforts that led up to
the Fourth of July were made, not by Americans, but by English residents
of America, subjects of the King of England.
They fought all the fighting that was done, they shed and spilt all the
blood that was spilt, in securing to us the invaluable liberties which
are incorporated in the Declaration of Independence; but they were not
Americans. They signed the Declaration of Independence; no American's
name is signed to that document at all. There never was an American such
as you and I are until after the Revolution, when it had all been fought
out and liberty secured, after the adoption of the Constitution, and the
recognition of the Independence of America by all powers.
While we revere the Fourth of July--and let us always revere it, and the
liberties it conferred upon us--yet it was not an American event, a great
It was an American who applied that steam successfully. There are not a
great many world events, and we have our full share. The telegraph,
telephone, and the application of steam to navigation--these are great
To-day I have been requested, or I have requested myself, not to confine
myself to furnishing you with information, but to remind you of things,
and to introduce one of the nation's celebrants.
Admiral Harrington here is going to tell you all that I have left untold.
I am going to tell you all that I know, and then he will follow up with
such rags and remnants as he can find, and tell you what he knows.
No doubt you have heard a great deal about Robert Fulton and the
influences that have grown from his invention, but the little steamboat
is suffering neglect.
You probably do not know a great deal about that boat. It was the most
important steamboat in the world. I was there and saw it. Admiral
Harrington was there at the time. It need not surprise you, for he is
not as old as he looks. That little boat was interesting in every way.
The size of it. The boat was one [consults Admiral], he said ten feet
long. The breadth of that boat [consults Admiral], two hundred feet.
You see, the first and most important detail is the length, then the
breadth, and then the depth; the depth of that boat was [consults again]
--the Admiral says it was a flat boat. Then her tonnage--you know
nothing about a boat until you know two more things: her speed and her
tonnage. We know the speed she made. She made four miles---and
sometimes five miles. It was on her initial trip, on, August 11, 1807,
that she made her initial trip, when she went from [consults Admiral]
Jersey City--to Chicago. That's right. She went by way of Albany.
Now comes the tonnage of that boat. Tonnage of a boat means the amount
of displacement; displacement means the amount of water a vessel can
shove in a day. The tonnage of man is estimated by the amount of whiskey
he can displace in a day.
Robert Fulton named the 'Clermont' in honor of his bride, that is,
Clermont was the name of the county-seat.
I feel that it surprises you that I know so much. In my remarks of
welcome of Admiral Harrington I am not going to give him compliments.
Compliments always embarrass a man. You do not know anything to say.
It does not inspire you with words. There is nothing you can say in
answer to a compliment. I have been complimented myself a great many
times, and they always embarrass me--I always feel that they have not
The Admiral and myself have held public office, and were associated
together a great deal a friendly way in the time of Pocahontas. That
incident where Pocahontas saves the life of Smith from her father,
Powhatan's club, was gotten up by the Admiral and myself to advertise
At that time the Admiral and myself did not have the facilities of
advertising that you have.
I have known Admiral Harrington in all kinds of situations--in public
service, on the platform, and in the chain-gang now and then--but it was
a mistake. A case of mistaken identity. I do not think it is at all a
necessity to tell you Admiral Harrington's public history. You know that
it is in the histories. I am not here to tell you anything about his
public life, but to expose his private life.
I am something of a poet. When the great poet laureate, Tennyson, died,
and I found that the place was open, I tried to get it--but I did not get
it. Anybody can write the first line of a poem, but it is a very
difficult task to make the second line rhyme with the first. When I was
down in Australia there were two towns named Johnswood and Par-am. I
made this rhyme:
"The people of Johnswood are pious and good;
The people of Par-am they don't care a----."
I do not want to compliment Admiral Harrington, but as long as such men
as he devote their lives to the public service the credit of the country
will never cease. I will say that the same high qualities, the same
moral and intellectual attainments, the same graciousness of manner, of
conduct, of observation, and expression have caused Admiral Harrington to
be mistaken for me--and I have been mistaken for him.
A mutual compliment can go no further, and I now have the honor and
privilege of introducing to you Admiral Harrington.
LOTOS CLUB DINNER IN HONOR OF MARK TWAIN
ADDRESS AT THE FIRST FORMAL DINNER IN THE NEW CLUB-HOUSE,
NOVEMBER 11, 1893
In introducing the guest of the evening, Mr. Lawrence said:
"To-night the old faces appear once more amid new surroundings.
The place where last we met about the table has vanished, and
to-night we have our first Lotos dinner in a home that is all
our own. It is peculiarly fitting that the board should now be
spread in honor of one who has been a member of the club for
full a score of years, and it is a happy augury for the future
that our fellow-member whom we assemble to greet should be the
bearer of a most distinguished name in the world of letters;
for the Lotos Club is ever at its best when paying homage to
genius in literature or in art. Is there a civilized being who
has not heard the name of Mark Twain? We knew him long years
ago, before he came out of the boundless West, brimful of wit
and eloquence, with no reverence for anything, and went abroad
to educate the untutored European in the subtleties of the
American joke. The world has looked on and applauded while he
has broken many images. He has led us in imagination all over
the globe. With him as our guide we have traversed alike the
Mississippi and the Sea of Galilee. At his bidding we have
laughed at a thousand absurdities. By a laborious process of
reasoning he has convinced us that the Egyptian mummies are
actually dead. He has held us spellbound upon the plain at the
foot of the great Sphinx, and we have joined him in weeping
bitter tears at the tomb of Adam. To-night we greet him in the
flesh. What name is there in literature that can be likened to
his? Perhaps some of the distinguished gentlemen about this
table can tell us, but I know of none. Himself his only
MR. PRESIDENT, GENTLEMEN, AND MY FELLOW-MEMBERS OF THE LOTOS CLUB,--I
have seldom in my lifetime listened to compliments so felicitously
phrased or so well deserved. I return thanks for them from a full heart
and an appreciative spirit, and I will say this in self-defence: While I
am charged with having no reverence for anything, I wish to say that I
have reverence for the man who can utter such truths, and I also have a
deep reverence and a sincere one for a club that can do such justice to
me. To be the chief guest of such a club is something to be envied, and
if I read your countenances rightly I am envied. I am glad to see this
club in such palatial quarters. I remember it twenty years ago when it
was housed in a stable.
Now when I was studying for the ministry there were two or three things
that struck my attention particularly. At the first banquet mentioned in
history that other prodigal son who came back from his travels was
invited to stand up and have his say. They were all there, his brethren,
David and Goliath, and--er, and if he had had such experience as I have
had he would have waited until those other people got through talking.
He got up and testified to all his failings. Now if he had waited before
telling all about his riotous living until the others had spoken he might
not have given himself away as he did, and I think that I would give
myself away if I should go on. I think I'd better wait until the others
hand in their testimony; then if it is necessary for me to make an
explanation, I will get up and explain, and if I cannot do that, I'll
deny it happened.
Later in the evening Mr. Clemens made another speech, replying
to a fire of short speeches by Charles Dudley Warner, Charles
A. Dana, Seth Low, General Porter, and many others, each
welcoming the guest of honor.
I don't see that I have a great deal to explain. I got off very well,
considering the opportunities that these other fellows had. I don't see
that Mr. Low said anything against me, and neither did Mr. Dana.
However, I will say that I never heard so many lies told in one evening
as were told by Mr. McKelway--and I consider myself very capable; but
even in his case, when he got through, I was gratified by finding how
much he hadn't found out. By accident he missed the very things that I
didn't want to have said, and now, gentlemen, about Americanism.
I have been on the continent of Europe for two and a half years. I have
met many Americans there, some sojourning for a short time only, others
making protracted stays, and it has been very gratifying to me to find
that nearly all preserved their Americanism. I have found they all like
to see the Flag fly, and that their hearts rise when they see the Stars
and Stripes. I met only one lady who had forgotten the land of her birth
and glorified monarchical institutions.
I think it is a great thing to say that in two and a half years I met
only one person who had fallen a victim to the shams--I think we may call
them shams--of nobilities and of heredities. She was entirely lost in
them. After I had listened to her for a long time, I said to her: "At
least you must admit that we have one merit. We are not like the
Chinese, who refuse to allow their citizens who are tired of the country
to leave it. Thank God, we don't!"
With Mr. Howells, Edward Everett Hale, Thomas Nelson Page, and
a number of other authors, Mr. Clemens appeared before the
committee December 6, 1906. The new Copyright Bill
contemplated an author's copyright for the term of his life and
for fifty years thereafter, applying also for the benefit of
artists, musicians, and others, but the authors did most of the
talking. F. D. Millet made a speech for the artists, and John
Philip Sousa for the musicians.
Mr. Clemens was the last speaker of the day, and its chief
feature. He made a speech, the serious parts of which created
a strong impression, and the humorous parts set the Senators
and Representatives in roars of laughter.
I have read this bill. At least I have read such portions as I could
understand. Nobody but a practised legislator can read the bill and
thoroughly understand it, and I am not a practised legislator.
I am interested particularly and especially in the part of the bill which
concerns my trade. I like that extension of copyright life to the
author's life and fifty years afterward. I think that would satisfy any
reasonable author, because it would take care of his children. Let the
grandchildren take care of themselves. That would take care of my
daughters, and after that I am not particular. I shall then have long
been out of this struggle, independent of it, indifferent to it.
It isn't objectionable to me that all the trades and professions in the
United States are protected by the bill. I like that. They are all
important and worthy, and if we can take care of them under the Copyright
law I should like to see it done. I should like to see oyster culture
added, and anything else.
I am aware that copyright must have a limit, because that is required by
the Constitution of the United States, which sets aside the earlier
Constitution, which we call the decalogue. The decalogue says you shall
not take away from any man his profit. I don't like to be obliged to use
the harsh term. What the decalogue really says is, "Thou shaft not
steal," but I am trying to use more polite language.
The laws of England and America do take it away, do select but one class,
the people who create the literature of the land. They always talk
handsomely about the literature of the land, always what a fine, great,
monumental thing a great literature is, and in the midst of their
enthusiasm they turn around and do what they can to discourage it.
I know we must have a limit, but forty-two years is too much of a limit.
I am quite unable to guess why there should be a limit at all to the
possession of the product of a man's labor. There is no limit to real
Doctor Bale has suggested that a man might just as well, after
discovering a coal-mine and working it forty-two years, have the
Government step in and take it away.
What is the excuse? It is that the author who produced that book has had
the profit of it long enough, and therefore the Government takes a profit
which does not belong to it and generously gives it to the 88,000,000 of
people. But it doesn't do anything of the kind. It merely takes the
author's property, takes his children's bread, and gives the publisher
double profit. He goes on publishing the book and as many of his
confederates as choose to go into the conspiracy do so, and they rear
families in affluence.
And they continue the enjoyment of those ill-gotten gains generation
after generation forever, for they never die. In a few weeks or months
or years I shall be out of it, I hope under a monument. I hope I shall
not be entirely forgotten, and I shall subscribe to the monument myself.
But I shall not be caring what happens if there are fifty years left of
my copyright. My copyright produces annually a good deal more than I can
use, but my children can use it. I can get along; I know a lot of
trades. But that goes to my daughters, who can't get along as well as I
can because I have carefully raised them as young ladies, who don't know
anything and can't do anything. I hope Congress will extend to them the
charity which they have failed to get from me.
Why, if a man who is not even mad, but only strenuous--strenuous about
race-suicide--should come to me and try to get me to use my large
political and ecclesiastical influence to get a bill passed by this
Congress limiting families to twenty-two children by one mother, I should
try to calm him down. I should reason with him. I should say to him,
"Leave it alone. Leave it alone and it will take care of itself. Only
one couple a year in the United States can reach that limit. If they
have reached that limit let them go right on. Let them have all the
liberty they want. In restricting that family to twenty-two children you
are merely conferring discomfort and unhappiness on one family per year
in a nation of 88,000,000, which is not worth while."
It is the very same with copyright. One author per year produces a book
which can outlive the forty-two-year limit; that's all. This nation
can't produce two authors a year that can do it; the thing is
demonstrably impossible. All that the limited copyright can do is to
take the bread out of the mouths of the children of that one author per
I made an estimate some years ago, when I appeared before a committee of
the House of Lords, that we had published in this country since the
Declaration of Independence 220,000 books. They have all gone. They had
all perished before they were ten years old. It is only one book in 1000
that can outlive the forty-two year limit. Therefore why put a limit at
all? You might as well limit the family to twenty-two children.
If you recall the Americans in the nineteenth century who wrote books
that lived forty-two years you will have to begin with Cooper; you can
follow with Washington Irving, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edgar Allan Poe,
and there you have to wait a long time. You come to Emerson, and you
have to stand still and look further. You find Howells and T. B.
Aldrich, and then your numbers begin to run pretty thin, and you question
if you can name twenty persons in the United States who--in a whole
century have written books that would live forty-two years. Why, you
could take them all and put them on one bench there [pointing]. Add the
wives and children and you could put the result on, two or three more
One hundred persons--that is the little, insignificant crowd whose bread-
and-butter is to be taken away for what purpose, for what profit to
anybody? You turn these few books into the hands of the pirate and of
the legitimate publisher, too, and they get the profit that should have
gone to the wife and children.
When I appeared before that committee of the House of Lords the chairman
asked me what limit I would propose. I said, "Perpetuity." I could see
some resentment in his manner, and he said the idea was illogical, for
the reason that it has long ago been decided that there can be no such
thing as property in ideas. I said there was property in ideas before
Queen Anne's time; they had perpetual copyright. He said, "What is a
book? A book is just built from base to roof on ideas, and there can be
no property in it."
I said I wished he could mention any kind of property on this planet that
had a pecuniary value which was not derived from an idea or ideas.
He said real estate. I put a supposititious case, a dozen Englishmen who
travel through South Africa and camp out, and eleven of them see
nothing at all; they are mentally blind. But there is one in the party
who knows what this harbor means and what the lay of the land means. To
him it means that some day a railway will go through here, and there on
that harbor a great city will spring up. That is his idea. And he has
another idea, which is to go and trade his last bottle of Scotch whiskey
and his last horse-blanket to the principal chief of that region and
buy a piece of land the size of Pennsylvania.
That was the value of an idea that the day would come when the Cape to
Cairo Railway would be built.
Every improvement that is put upon the real estate is the result of an
idea in somebody's head. The skyscraper is another idea; the railroad is
another; the telephone and all those things are merely symbols which
represent ideas. An andiron, a wash-tub, is the result of an idea that
did not exist before.
So if, as that gentleman said, a book does consist solely of ideas, that
is the best argument in the world that it is property, and should not be
under any limitation at all. We don't ask for that. Fifty years from
now we shall ask for it.
I hope the bill will pass without any deleterious amendments. I do seem
to be extraordinarily interested in a whole lot of arts and things that I
have got nothing to do with. It is a part of my generous, liberal
nature; I can't help it. I feel the same sort of charity to everybody
that was manifested by a gentleman who arrived at home at two o'clock in
the morning from the club and was feeling so perfectly satisfied with
life, so happy, and so comfortable, and there was his house weaving,
weaving, weaving around. He watched his chance, and by and by when the
steps got in his neighborhood he made a jump and climbed up and got on
And the house went on weaving and weaving and weaving, but he watched the
door, and when it came around his way he plunged through it. He got to
the stairs, and when he went up on all fours the house was so unsteady
that he could hardly make his way, but at last he got to the top and
raised his foot and put it on the top step. But only the toe hitched on
the step, and he rolled down and fetched up on the bottom step, with his
arm around the newel-post, and he said:
"God pity the poor sailors out at sea on a night like this."
IN AID OF THE BLIND
ADDRESS AT A PUBLIC MEETING OF THE NEW YORK ASSOCIATION FOR
PROMOTING THE INTERESTS OF THE BLIND AT THE WALDORF ASTORIA,
MARCH 29, 1906
If you detect any awkwardness in my movements and infelicities in my
conduct I will offer the explanation that I never presided at a meeting
of any kind before in my life, and that I do find it out of my line.
I supposed I could do anything anybody else could, but I recognize that
experience helps, and I do feel the lack of that experience. I don't
feel as graceful and easy as I ought to be in order to impress an
audience. I shall not pretend that I know how to umpire a meeting like
this, and I shall just take the humble place of the Essex band.
There was a great gathering in a small New England town, about twenty-
five years ago. I remember that circumstance because there was something
that happened at that time. It was a great occasion. They gathered in
the militia and orators and everybody from all the towns around. It was
an extraordinary occasion.
The little local paper threw itself into ecstasies of admiration and
tried to do itself proud from beginning to end. It praised the orators,
the militia, and all the bands that came from everywhere, and all this in
honest country newspaper detail, but the writer ran out of adjectives
toward the end. Having exhausted his whole magazine of praise and
glorification, he found he still had one band left over. He had to say
something about it, and he said: "The Essex band done the best it could."
I am an Essex band on this occasion, and I am going to get through as
well as inexperience and good intentions will enable me. I have got all
the documents here necessary to instruct you in the objects and
intentions of this meeting and also of the association which has called
the meeting. But they are too voluminous. I could not pack those
statistics into my head, and I had to give it up. I shall have to just
reduce all that mass of statistics to a few salient facts. There are too
many statistics and figures for me. I never could do anything with
figures, never had any talent for mathematics, never accomplished
anything in my efforts at that rugged study, and to-day the only
mathematics I know is multiplication, and the minute I get away up in
that, as soon as I reach nine times seven--
[Mr. Clemens lapsed into deep thought for a moment. He was trying to
figure out nine times seven, but it was a hopeless task, and he turned to
St. Clair McKelway, who sat near him. Mr. McKelway whispered the answer,
and the speaker resumed:]
I've got it now. It's eighty-four. Well, I can get that far all right
with a little hesitation. After that I am uncertain, and I can't manage
"This association for the--"
[Mr. Clemens was in another dilemma. Again he was obliged to turn to Mr.
Oh yes, for promoting the interests of the blind. It's a long name. If
I could I would write it out for you and let you take it home and study
it, but I don't know how to spell it. And Mr. Carnegie is down in
Virginia somewhere. Well, anyway, the object of that association which
has been recently organized, five months ago, in fact, is in the hands of
very, very energetic, intelligent, and capable people, and they will push
it to success very surely, and all the more surely if you will give them
a little of your assistance out of your pockets.
The intention, the purpose, is to search out all the blind and find work
for them to do so that they may earn, their own bread. Now it is dismal
enough to be blind--it is dreary, dreary life at best, but it can be
largely ameliorated by finding something for these poor blind people to
do with their hands. The time passes so heavily that it is never day or
night with them, it is always night, and when they have to sit with
folded hands and with nothing to do to amuse or entertain or employ their
minds, it is drearier and drearier.
And then the knowledge they have that they must subsist on charity, and
so often reluctant charity, it would renew their lives if they could have
something to do with their hands and pass their time and at the same time
earn their bread, and know the sweetness of the bread which is the result
of the labor of one's own hands. They need that cheer and pleasure. It
is the only way you can turn their night into day, to give them happy
hearts, the only thing you can put in the place of the blessed sun. That
you can do in the way I speak of.
Blind people generally who have seen the light know what it is to miss
the light. Those who have gone blind since they were twenty years old--
their lives are unendingly dreary. But they can be taught to use their
hands and to employ themselves at a great many industries. That
association from which this draws its birth in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
has taught its blind to make many things. They make them better than
most people, and more honest than people who have the use of their eyes.
The goods they make are readily salable. People like them. And so they
are supporting themselves, and it is a matter of cheer, cheer. They pass
their time now not too irksomely as they formerly did.
What this association needs and wants is $15,000. The figures are set
down, and what the money is for, and there is no graft in it or I would
not be here. And they hope to beguile that out of your pockets, and you
will find affixed to the programme an opportunity, that little blank
which you will fill out and promise so much money now or to-morrow or
some time. Then, there is another opportunity which is still better, and
that is that you shall subscribe an annual sum.
I have invented a good many useful things in my time, but never anything
better than that of getting money out of people who don't want to part
with it. It is always for good objects, of course. This is the plan:
When you call upon a person to contribute to a great and good object, and
you think he should furnish about $1,000, he disappoints you as like as
not. Much the best way to work him to supply that thousand dollars is to
split it into parts and contribute, say a hundred dollars a year, or
fifty, or whatever the sum maybe. Let him contribute ten or twenty a
year. He doesn't feel that, but he does feel it when you call upon him
to contribute a large amount. When you get used to it you would rather
contribute than borrow money.
I tried it in Helen Keller's case. Mr. Hutton wrote me in 1896 or 1897
when I was in London and said: "The gentleman who has been so liberal in
taking care of Helen Keller has died without making provision for her in
his will, and now they don't know what to do." They were proposing to
raise a fund, and he thought $50,000 enough to furnish an income of $2400
or $2500 a year for the support of that wonderful girl and her wonderful
teacher, Miss Sullivan, now Mrs. Macy. I wrote to Mr. Hutton and said:
"Go on, get up your fund. It will be slow, but if you want quick work,
I propose this system," the system I speak of, of asking people to
contribute such and such a sum from year to year and drop out whenever
they please, and he would find there wouldn't be any difficulty, people
wouldn't feel the burden of it. And he wrote back saying he had raised
the $2400 a year indefinitely by that system in, a single afternoon. We
would like to do something just like that to-night. We will take as many
checks as you care to give. You can leave your donations in the big room
I knew once what it was to be blind. I shall never forget that
experience. I have been as blind as anybody ever was for three or four
hours, and the sufferings that I endured and the mishaps and the
accidents that are burning in my memory make my sympathy rise when I feel
for the blind and always shall feel. I once went to Heidelberg on an
excursion. I took a clergyman along with me, the Rev. Joseph Twichell,
of Hartford, who is still among the living despite that fact. I always
travel with clergymen when I can. It is better for them, it is better
for me. And any preacher who goes out with me in stormy weather and
without a lightning rod is a good one. The Reverend Twichell is one of
those people filled with patience and endurance, two good ingredients for
a man travelling with me, so we got along very well together. In that
old town they have not altered a house nor built one in 1500 years. We
went to the inn and they placed Twichell and me in a most colossal
bedroom, the largest I ever saw or heard of. It was as big as this room.
I didn't take much notice of the place. I didn't really get my bearings.
I noticed Twichell got a German bed about two feet wide, the kind in
which you've got to lie on your edge, because there isn't room to lie on
your back, and he was way down south in that big room, and I was way up
north at the other end of it, with a regular Sahara in between.
We went to bed. Twichell went to sleep, but then he had his conscience
loaded and it was easy for him to get to sleep. I couldn't get to sleep.
It was one of those torturing kinds of lovely summer nights when you hear
various kinds of noises now and then. A mouse away off in the southwest.
You throw things at the mouse. That encourages the mouse. But I
couldn't stand it, and about two o'clock I got up and thought I would
give it up and go out in the square where there was one of those tinkling
fountains, and sit on its brink and dream, full of romance.
I got out of bed, and I ought to have lit a candle, but I didn't think of
it until it was too late. It was the darkest place that ever was. There
has never been darkness any thicker than that. It just lay in cakes.
I thought that before dressing I would accumulate my clothes. I pawed
around in the dark and found everything packed together on the floor
except one sock. I couldn't get on the track of that sock. It might
have occurred to me that maybe it was in the wash. But I didn't think of
that. I went excursioning on my hands and knees. Presently I thought,
"I am never going to find it; I'll go back to bed again." That is what I
tried to do during the next three hours. I had lost the bearings of that
bed. I was going in the wrong direction all the time. By-and-by I came
in collision with a chair and that encouraged me.
It seemed to me, as far as I could recollect, there was only a chair here
and there and yonder, five or six of them scattered over this territory,
and I thought maybe after I found that chair I might find the next one.
Well, I did. And I found another and another and another. I kept going
around on my hands and knees, having those sudden collisions, and finally
when I banged into another chair I almost lost my temper. And I raised
up, garbed as I was, not for public exhibition, right in front of a
mirror fifteen or sixteen feet high.
I hadn't noticed the mirror; didn't know it was there. And when I saw
myself in the mirror I was frightened out of my wits. I don't allow any
ghosts to bite me, and I took up a chair and smashed at it. A million
pieces. Then I reflected. That's the way I always do, and it's
unprofitable unless a man has had much experience that way and has clear
judgment. And I had judgment, and I would have had to pay for that
mirror if I hadn't recollected to say it was Twichell who broke it.
Then I got down, on my hands and knees and went on another exploring
As far as I could remember there were six chairs in that Oklahoma, and
one table, a great big heavy table, not a good table to hit with your
head when rushing madly along. In the course of time I collided with
thirty-five chairs and tables enough to stock that dining-room out there.
It was a hospital for decayed furniture, and it was in a worse condition
when I got through with it. I went on and on, and at last got to a place
where I could feel my way up, and there was a shelf. I knew that wasn't
in the middle of the room. Up to that time I was afraid I had gotten out
of the city.
I was very careful and pawed along that shelf, and there was a pitcher of
water about a foot high, and it was at the head of Twichell's bed, but I
didn't know it. I felt that pitcher going and I grabbed at it, but it
didn't help any and came right down in Twichell's face and nearly drowned
him. But it woke him up. I was grateful to have company on any terms.
He lit a match, and there I was, way down south when I ought to have been
back up yonder. My bed was out of sight it was so far away. You needed
a telescope to find it. Twichell comforted me and I scrubbed him off and
we got sociable.
But that night wasn't wasted. I had my pedometer on my leg. Twichell
and I were in a pedometer match. Twichell had longer legs than I. The
only way I could keep up was to wear my pedometer to bed. I always walk
in my sleep, and on this occasion I gained sixteen miles on him. After
all, I never found that sock. I never have seen it from that day to
this. But that adventure taught me what it is to be blind. That was one
of the most serious occasions of my whole life, yet I never can speak of
it without somebody thinking it isn't serious. You try it and see how
serious it is to be as the blind are and I was that night.
[Mr. Clemens read several letters of regret. He then introduced Joseph
H. Choate, saying:]
It is now my privilege to present to you Mr. Choate. I don't have to
really introduce him. I don't have to praise him, or to flatter him.
I could say truly that in the forty-seven years I have been familiarly
acquainted with him he has always been the handsomest man America has
ever produced. And I hope and believe he will hold the belt forty-five
years more. He has served his country ably, faithfully, and brilliantly.
He stands at the summit, at the very top in the esteem and regard of his
countrymen, and if I could say one word which would lift him any higher
in his countrymen's esteem and affection, I would say that word whether
it was true or not.
DR. MARK TWAIN, FARMEOPATH
ADDRESS AT THE ANNUAL DINNER OF THE NEW YORK POST-GRADUATE
MEDICAL SCHOOL AND HOSPITAL, JANUARY 21, 1909
The president, Dr. George N. Miller, in introducing Mr.
Clemens, referred to his late experience with burglars.
GENTLEMEN AND DOCTORS,--I am glad to be among my own kind to-night.
I was once a sharpshooter, but now I practise a much higher and equally
as deadly a profession. It wasn't so very long ago that I became a
member of your cult, and for the time I've been in the business my record
is one that can't be scoffed at.
As to the burglars, I am perfectly familiar with these people. I have
always had a good deal to do with burglars--not officially, but through
their attentions to me. I never suffered anything at the hands of a
burglar. They have invaded my house time and time again. They never got
anything. Then those people who burglarized our house in September--we
got back the plated ware they took off, we jailed them, and I have been
sorry ever since. They did us a great service they scared off all the
servants in the place.
I consider the Children's Theatre, of which I am president, and the Post-
Graduate Medical School as the two greatest institutions in the country.
This school, in bringing its twenty thousand physicians from all parts of
the country, bringing them up to date, and sending them back with renewed
confidence, has surely saved hundreds of thousands of lives which
otherwise would have been lost.
I have been practising now for seven months. When I settled on my farm
in Connecticut in June I found the Community very thinly settled--and
since I have been engaged in practice it has become more thinly settled
still. This gratifies me, as indicating that I am making an impression
on my community. I suppose it is the same with all of you.
I have always felt that I ought to do something for you, and so I
organized a Redding (Connecticut) branch of the Post-Graduate School.
I am only a country farmer up there, but I am doing the best I can.
Of course, the practice of medicine and surgery in a remote country
district has its disadvantages, but in my case I am happy in a division
of responsibility. I practise in conjunction with a horse-doctor, a
sexton, and an undertaker. The combination is air-tight, and once a man
is stricken in our district escape is impossible for him.
These four of us--three in the regular profession and the fourth an
undertaker--are all good men. There is Bill Ferguson, the Redding
undertaker. Bill is there in every respect. He is a little lukewarm on
general practice, and writes his name with a rubber stamp. Like my old
Southern, friend, he is one of the finest planters anywhere.
Then there is Jim Ruggles, the horse-doctor. Ruggles is one of the best
men I have got. He also is not much on general medicine, but he is a
fine horse-doctor. Ferguson doesn't make any money off him.
You see, the combination started this way. When I got up to Redding and
had become a doctor, I looked around to see what my chances were for
aiding in, the great work. The first thing I did was to determine what
manner of doctor I was to be. Being a Connecticut farmer, I naturally
consulted my farmacopia, and at once decided to become a farmeopath.
Then I got circulating about, and got in touch with Ferguson and
Ruggles. Ferguson joined readily in my ideas, but Ruggles kept saying
that, while it was all right for an undertaker to get aboard, he couldn't
see where it helped horses.
Well, we started to find out what was the trouble with the community, and
it didn't take long to find out that there was just one disease, and that
was race-suicide. And driving about the country-side I was told by my
fellow-farmers that it was the only rational human and valuable disease.
But it is cutting into our profits so that we'll either have to stop it
or we'll have to move.
We've had some funny experiences up there in Redding. Not long ago a
fellow came along with a rolling gait and a distressed face. We asked
him what was the matter. We always hold consultations on every case, as
there isn't business enough for four. He said he didn't know, but that
he was a sailor, and perhaps that might help us to give a diagnosis. We
treated him for that, and I never saw a man die more peacefully.
That same afternoon my dog Tige treed an African gentleman. We chained
up the dog, and then the gentleman came down and said he had
appendicitis. We asked him if he wanted to be cut open, and he said yes,
that he'd like to know if there was anything in it. So we cut him open
and found nothing in him but darkness. So we diagnosed his case as
infidelity, because he was dark inside. Tige is a very clever dog, and
aids us greatly.
The other day a patient came to me and inquired if I was old Doctor
As a practitioner I have given a great deal of my attention to Bright's
disease. I have made some rules for treating it that may be valuable.
Rule 1. When approaching the bedside of one whom an all-wise President--
I mean an all-wise Providence--well, anyway, it's the same thing--has
seen fit to afflict with disease--well, the rule is simple, even if it is
Rule 2. I've forgotten just what it is, but--
Rule 3. This is always indispensable: Bleed your patient.
MISSOURI UNIVERSITY SPEECH
ADDRESS DELIVERED JUNE 4, 1902, AT COLUMBIA, MO.
When the name of Samuel L. Clemens was called the humorist
stepped forward, put his hand to his hair, and apparently
hesitated. There was a dead silence for a moment. Suddenly
the entire audience rose and stood in silence. Some one began
to spell out the word Missouri with an interval between the
letters. All joined in. Then the house again became silent.
Mr. Clemens broke the spell:
As you are all standing [he drawled in his characteristic voice], I
guess, I suppose I had better stand too.
[Then came a laugh and loud cries for a speech. As the great humorist
spoke of his recent visit to Hannibal, his old home, his voice trembled.]
You cannot know what a strain it was on my emotions [he said]. In fact,
when I found myself shaking hands with persons I had not seen for fifty
years and looking into wrinkled faces that were so young and joyous when
I last saw them, I experienced emotions that I had never expected, and
did not know were in me. I was profoundly moved anal saddened to think
that this was the last time, perhaps, that I would ever behold those kind
old faces and dear old scenes of childhood.
[The humorist then changed to a lighter mood, and for a time the audience
was in a continual roar of laughter. He was particularly amused at the
eulogy on himself read by Gardiner Lathrop in conferring the degree.] He
has a fine opportunity to distinguish himself [said Mr. Clemens] by
telling the truth about me.
I have seen it stated in print that as a boy I had been guilty of
stealing peaches, apples, and watermelons. I read a story to this effect
very closely not long ago, and I was convinced of one thing, which was
that the man who wrote it was of the opinion that it was wrong to steal,
and that I had not acted right in doing so. I wish now, however, to make
an honest statement, which is that I do not believe, in all my checkered
career, I stole a ton of peaches.
One night I stole--I mean I removed--a watermelon from a wagon while the
owner was attending to another customer. I crawled off to a secluded
spot, where I found that it was green. It was the greenest melon in the
Mississippi Valley. Then I began to reflect. I began to be sorry. I
wondered what George Washington would have done had he been in my place.
I thought a long time, and then suddenly felt that strange feeling which
comes to a man with a good resolution, and I took up that watermelon and
took it back to its owner. I handed him the watermelon and told him to
reform. He took my lecture much to heart, and, when he gave me a good
one in place of the green melon, I forgave him.
I told him that I would still be a customer of his, and that I cherished
no ill-feeling because of the incident--that would remain green in my
The alumni of Eastman College gave their annual banquet,
March 30, 1901, at the Y. M. C. A. Building. Mr. James G.
Cannon, of the Fourth National Bank, made the first speech of
the evening, after which Mr. Clemens was introduced by Mr.
Bailey as the personal friend of Tom Sawyer, who was one of the
types of successful business men.
MR. CANNON has furnished me with texts enough to last as slow a speaker
as myself all the rest of the night. I took exception to the introducing
of Mr. Cannon as a great financier, as if he were the only great
financier present. I am a financier. But my methods are not the same as
I cannot say that I have turned out the great business man that I thought
I was when I began life. But I am comparatively young yet, and may
learn. I am rather inclined to believe that what troubled me was that I
got the big-head early in the game. I want to explain to you a few
points of difference between the principles of business as I see them and
those that Mr. Cannon believes in.
He says that the primary rule of business success is loyalty to your
employer. That's all right--as a theory. What is the matter with
loyalty to yourself? As nearly as I can understand Mr. Cannon's
methods, there is one great drawback to them. He wants you to work a
great deal. Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much
more-restful. My idea is that the employer should be the busy man, and
the employee the idle one. The employer should be the worried man, and
the employee the happy one. And why not? He gets the salary. My plan
is to get another man to do the work for me. In that there's more
repose. What I want is repose first, last, and all the time.
Mr. Cannon says that there are three cardinal rules of business success;
they are diligence, honesty, and truthfulness. Well, diligence is all
right. Let it go as a theory. Honesty is the best policy--when there is
money in it. But truthfulness is one of the most dangerous--why, this
man is misleading you.
I had an experience to-day with my wife which illustrates this. I was
acknowledging a belated invitation to another dinner for this evening,
which seemed to have been sent about ten days ago. It only reached me
this morning. I was mortified at the discourtesy into which I had been
brought by this delay, and wondered what was being thought of me by my
hosts. As I had accepted your invitation, of course I had to send
regrets to my other friends.
When I started to write this note my wife came up and stood looking over
my shoulder. Women always want to know what is going on. Said she
"Should not that read in the third person?" I conceded that it should,
put aside what I was writing, and commenced over again. That seemed to
satisfy her, and so she sat down and let me proceed. I then--finished my
first note--and so sent what I intended. I never could have done this if
I had let my wife know the truth about it. Here is what I wrote:
TO THE OHIO SOCIETY,--I have at this moment received a most kind
invitation (eleven days old) from Mr. Southard, president; and a
like one (ten days old) from Mr. Bryant, president of the Press
Club. I thank the society cordially for the compliment of these
invitations, although I am booked elsewhere and cannot come.
But, oh, I should like to know the name of the Lightning Express by
which they were forwarded; for I owe a friend a dozen chickens, and
I believe it will be cheaper to send eggs instead, and let them
develop on the road.
I want to tell you of some of my experiences in business, and then I will
be in a position to lay down one general rule for the guidance of those
who want to succeed in business. My first effort was about twenty-five
years ago. I took hold of an invention--I don't know now what it was all
about, but some one came to me tend told me it was a good thing, and that
there was lots of money in it. He persuaded me to invest $15,000, and I
lived up to my beliefs by engaging a man to develop it. To make a long
story short, I sunk $40,000 in it.
Then I took up the publication of a book. I called in a publisher and
said to him: "I want you to publish this book along lines which I shall
lay down. I am the employer, and you are the employee. I am going to
show them some new kinks in the publishing business. And I want you to
draw on me for money as you go along," which he did. He drew on me for
$56,000. Then I asked him to take the book and call it off. But he
refused to do that.
My next venture was with a machine for doing something or other. I knew
less about that than I did about the invention. But I sunk $170,000 in
the business, and I can't for the life of me recollect what it was the
machine was to do.
I was still undismayed. You see, one of the strong points about my
business life was that I never gave up. I undertook to publish General
Grant's book, and made $140,000 in six months. My axiom is, to succeed
in business: avoid my example.
CARNEGIE THE BENEFACTOR
At the dinner given in honor of Andrew Carnegie by the Lotos
Club, March 17, 1909, Mr. Clemens appeared in a white suit from
head to feet. He wore a white double-breasted coat, white
trousers, and white shoes. The only relief was a big black
cigar, which he confidentially informed the company was not
from his usual stack bought at $3 per barrel.
The State of Missouri has for its coat of arms a barrel-head with two
Missourians, one on each side of it, and mark the motto--"United We
Stand, Divided We Fall." Mr. Carnegie, this evening, has suffered from
compliments. It is interesting to hear what people will say about a man.
Why, at the banquet given by this club in my honor, Mr. Carnegie had the
inspiration for which the club is now honoring him. If Dunfermline
contributed so much to the United States in contributing Mr. Carnegie,
what would have happened if all Scotland had turned out? These
Dunfermline folk have acquired advantages in coming to America.
Doctor McKelway paid the top compliment, the cumulation, when he said of
"There is a man who wants to pay more taxes than he is charged." Richard
Watson Gilder did very well for a poet. He advertised his magazine. He
spoke of hiring Mr. Carnegie--the next thing he will be trying to hire
If I undertook--to pay compliments I would do it stronger than any others
have done it, for what Mr. Carnegie wants are strong compliments. Now,
the other side of seventy, I have preserved, as my chiefest virtue,
ON POETRY, VERACITY, AND SUICIDE
ADDRESS AT A DINNER OF THE MANHATTAN DICKENS FELLOWSHIP,
NEW YORK CITY, FEBRUARY 7, 1906
This dinner was in commemoration of the ninety-fourth
anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. On an other
occasion Mr. Clemens told the same story with variations and a
different conclusion to the University Settlement Society.
I always had taken an interest in young people who wanted to become
poets. I remember I was particularly interested in one budding poet when
I was a reporter. His name was Butter.
One day he came to me and said, disconsolately, that he was going to
commit suicide--he was tired of life, not being able to express his
thoughts in poetic form. Butter asked me what I thought of the idea.
I said I would; that it was a good idea. "You can do me a friendly turn.
You go off in a private place and do it there, and I'll get it all. You
do it, and I'll do as much for you some time."
At first he determined to drown himself. Drowning is so nice and clean,
and writes up so well in a newspaper.
But things ne'er do go smoothly in weddings, suicides, or courtships.
Only there at the edge of the water, where Butter was to end himself,
lay a life-preserver--a big round canvas one, which would float after the
scrap-iron was soaked out of it.
Butter wouldn't kill himself with the life-preserver in sight, and so I
had an idea. I took it to a pawnshop, and [soaked] it for a revolver:
The pawnbroker didn't think much of the exchange, but when I explained
the situation he acquiesced. We went up on top of a high building, and
this is what happened to the poet:
He put the revolver to his forehead and blew a tunnel straight through
his head. The tunnel was about the size of your finger. You could look
right through it. The job was complete; there was nothing in it.
Well, after that that man never could write prose, but he could write
poetry. He could write it after he had blown his brains out. There is
lots of that talent all over the country, but the trouble is they don't
I am suffering now from the fact that I, who have told the truth a good
many times in my life, have lately received more letters than anybody
else urging me to lead a righteous life. I have more friends who want to
see me develop on a high level than anybody else.
Young John D. Rockefeller, two weeks ago, taught his Bible class all
about veracity, and why it was better that everybody should always keep a
plentiful supply on hand. Some of the letters I have received suggest
that I ought to attend his class and learn, too. Why, I know Mr.
Rockefeller, and he is a good fellow. He is competent in many ways to
teach a Bible class, but when it comes to veracity he is only thirty-five
years old. I'm seventy years old. I have been familiar with veracity
twice as long as he.
And the story about George Washington and his little hatchet has also
been suggested to me in these letters--in a fugitive way, as if I needed
some of George Washington and his hatchet in my constitution. Why, dear
me, they overlook the real point in that story. The point is not the one
that is usually suggested, and you can readily see that.
The point is not that George said to his father, "Yes, father, I cut down
the cheery-tree; I can't tell a lie," but that the little boy--only seven
years old--should have his sagacity developed under such circumstances.
He was a boy wise beyond his years. His conduct then was a prophecy of
later years. Yes, I think he was the most remarkable man the country
ever produced-up to my time, anyway.
Now then, little George realized that circumstantial evidence was against
him. He knew that his father would know from the size of the chips that
no full-grown hatchet cut that tree down, and that no man would have
haggled it so. He knew that his father would send around the plantation
and inquire for a small boy with a hatchet, and he had the wisdom to come
out and confess it. Now, the idea that his father was overjoyed when he
told little George that he would rather have him cut down, a thousand
cheery-trees than tell a lie is all nonsense. What did he really mean?
Why, that he was absolutely astonished that he had a son who had the
chance to tell a lie and didn't.
I admire old George--if that was his name--for his discernment. He knew
when he said that his son couldn't tell a lie that he was stretching it a
good deal. He wouldn't have to go to John D. Rockefeller's Bible class
to find that out. The way the old George Washington story goes down it
doesn't do anybody any good. It only discourages people who can tell a
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER IN HIS HONOR AT THE LOTOS CLUB,
NOVEMBER 10, 1900
In August, 1895, just before sailing for Australia, Mr. Clemens issued
the following statement:
"It has been reported that I sacrificed, for the benefit of the
creditors, the property of the publishing firm whose financial backer I
was, and that I am now lecturing for my own benefit.
"This is an error. I intend the lectures, as well as the property, for
the creditors. The law recognizes no mortgage on a man's brains, and a
merchant who has given up all he has may take advantage of the laws of
insolvency and may start free again for himself. But I am not a business
man, and honor is a harder master than the law. It cannot compromise for
less than one hundred cents on a dollar, and its debts are never
"I had a two-thirds interest in the publishing firm whose capital I
furnished. If the firm had prospered I would have expected to collect
two-thirds of the profits. As it is, I expect to pay all the debts. My
partner has no resources, and I do not look for assistance to my wife,
whose contributions in cash from her own means have nearly equalled the
claims of all the creditors combined. She has taken nothing; on the
contrary, she has helped and intends to help me to satisfy the
obligations due to the rest of the creditors.
"It is my intention to ask my creditors to accept that as a legal
discharge, and trust to my honor to pay the other fifty per cent. as fast
as I can earn it. From my reception thus far on my lecturing tour, I am
confident that if I live I can pay off the last debt within four years.
"After which, at the age of sixty-four, I can make a fresh and
unincumbered start in life. I am going to Australia, India, and South
Africa, and next year I hope to make a tour of the great cities of the
I thank you all out of my heart for this fraternal welcome, and it seems
almost too fine, almost too magnificent, for a humble Missourian such as
I am, far from his native haunts on the banks of the Mississippi; yet my
modesty is in a degree fortified by observing that I am not the only
Missourian who has been honored here to-night, for I see at this very
table-here is a Missourian [indicating Mr. McKelway], and there is a
Missourian [indicating Mr. Depew], and there is another Missourian--and
Hendrix and Clemens; and last but not least, the greatest Missourian of
them all--here he sits--Tom Reed, who has always concealed his birth till
now. And since I have been away I know what has been happening in his
case: he has deserted politics, and now is leading a creditable life. He
has reformed, and God prosper him; and I judge, by a remark which he made
up-stairs awhile ago, that he had found a new business that is utterly
suited to his make and constitution, and all he is doing now is that he
is around raising the average of personal beauty.
But I am grateful to the president for the kind words which he has said
of me, and it is not for me to say whether these praises were deserved or
not. I prefer to accept them just as they stand, without concerning
myself with the statistics upon which they have been built, but only with
that large matter, that essential matter, the good-fellowship, the
kindliness, the magnanimity, and generosity that prompted their
utterance. Well, many things have happened since I sat here before, and
now that I think of it, the president's reference to the debts which were
left by the bankrupt firm of Charles L. Webster & Co. gives me an
opportunity to say a word which I very much wish to say, not for myself,
but for ninety-five men and women whom I shall always hold in high esteem
and in pleasant remembrance--the creditors of that firm. They treated me
well; they treated me handsomely. There were ninety-six of them, and by
not a finger's weight did ninety-five of them add to the burden of that
time for me. Ninety-five out of the ninety-six--they didn't indicate by
any word or sign that they were anxious about their money. They treated
me well, and I shall not forget it; I could not forget it if I wanted to.
Many of them said, "Don't you worry, don't you hurry"; that's what they
said. Why, if I could have that kind of creditors always, and that
experience, I would recognize it as a personal loss to be out of debt.
I owe those ninety-five creditors a debt of homage, and I pay it now in
such measure as one may pay so fine a debt in mere words. Yes, they said
that very thing. I was not personally acquainted with ten of them, and
yet they said, "Don't you worry, and don't you hurry." I know that
phrase by heart, and if all the other music should perish out of the
world it would still sing to me. I appreciate that; I am glad to say
this word; people say so much about me, and they forget those creditors.
They were handsomer than I was--or Tom Reed.
Oh, you have been doing many things in this time that I have been absent;
you have done lots of things, some that are well worth remembering, too.
Now, we have fought a righteous war since I have gone, and that is rare
in history--a righteous war is so rare that it is almost unknown in
history; but by the grace of that war we set Cuba free, and we joined her
to those three or four nations that exist on this earth; and we started
out to set those poor Filipinos free, too, and why, why, why that most
righteous purpose of ours has apparently miscarried I suppose I never
But we have made a most creditable record in China in these days--our
sound and level-headed administration has made a most creditable record
Back to Full Books