Part 5 out of 5
over there, and there are some of the Powers that cannot say that by any
means. The Yellow Terror is threatening this world to-day. It is
looming vast and ominous on that distant horizon. I do not know what is
going to be the result of that Yellow Terror, but our government has had
no hand in evoking it, and let's be happy in that and proud of it.
We have nursed free silver, we watched by its cradle; we have done the
best we could to raise that child, but those pestiferous Republicans have
--well, they keep giving it the measles every chance they get, and we
never shall raise that child. Well, that's no matter--there's plenty of
other things to do, and we must think of something else. Well, we have
tried a President four years, criticised him and found fault with him the
whole time, and turned around a day or two ago with votes enough to spare
to elect another. O consistency! consistency! thy name--I don't know
what thy name is--Thompson will do--any name will do--but you see there
is the fact, there is the consistency. Then we have tried for governor
an illustrious Rough Rider, and we liked him so much in that great office
that now we have made him Vice-President--not in order that that office
shall give him distinction, but that he may confer distinction upon that
office. And it's needed, too--it's needed. And now, for a while anyway,
we shall not be stammering and embarrassed when a stranger asks us, "What
is the name of the Vice-President?" This one is known; this one is
pretty well known, pretty widely known, and in some quarters favorably.
I am not accustomed to dealing in these fulsome compliments, and I am
probably overdoing it a little; but--well, my old affectionate admiration
for Governor Roosevelt has probably betrayed me into the complimentary
excess; but I know him, and you know him; and if you give him rope
enough--I mean if--oh yes, he will justify that compliment; leave it just
as it is. And now we have put in his place Mr. Odell, another Rough
Rider, I suppose; all the fat things go to that profession now. Why, I
could have been a Rough Rider myself if I had known that this political
Klondike was going to open up, and I would have been a Rough Rider if I
could have gone to war on an automobile but not on a horse! No, I know
the horse too well; I have known the horse in war and in peace, and there
is no place where a horse is comfortable. The horse has too many
caprices, and he is too much given to initiative. He invents too many
new ideas. No, I don't want anything to do with a horse.
And then we have taken Chauncey Depew out of a useful and active life and
made him a Senator--embalmed him, corked him up. And I am not grieving.
That man has said many a true thing about me in his time, and I always
said something would happen to him. Look at that [pointing to Mr. Depew]
gilded mummy! He has made my life a sorrow to me at many a banquet on
both sides of the ocean, and now he has got it. Perish the hand that
pulls that cork!
All these things have happened, all these things have come to pass, while
I have been away, and it just shows how little a Mugwump can be missed in
a cold, unfeeling world, even when he is the last one that is left--
a GRAND OLD PARTY all by himself. And there is another thing that has
happened, perhaps the most imposing event of them all: the institution
called the Daughters of the--Crown--the Daughters of the Royal Crown--has
established itself and gone into business. Now, there's an American idea
for you; there's an idea born of God knows what kind of specialized
insanity, but not softening of the brain--you cannot soften a thing that
doesn't exist--the Daughters of the Royal Crown! Nobody eligible but
American descendants of Charles II. Dear me, how the fancy product of
that old harem still holds out!
Well, I am truly glad to foregather with you again, and partake of the
bread and salt of this hospitable house once more. Seven years ago, when
I was your guest here, when I was old and despondent, you gave me the
grip and the word that lift a man up and make him glad to be alive; and
now I come back from my exile young again, fresh and alive, and ready to
begin life once more, and your welcome puts the finishing touch upon my
restored youth and makes it real to me, and not a gracious dream that
must vanish with the morning. I thank you.
AN UNDELIVERED SPEECH
The steamship St. Paul was to have been launched from Cramp's
shipyard in Philadelphia on March 25, 1895. After the
launching a luncheon was to nave been given, at which Mr.
Clemens was to make a speech. Just before the final word was
given a reporter asked Mr. Clemens for a copy of his speech to
be delivered at the luncheon. To facilitate the work of the
reporter he loaned him a typewritten copy of the speech. It
happened, however, that when the blocks were knocked away the
big ship refused to budge, and no amount of labor could move
her an inch. She had stuck fast upon the ways. As a result,
the launching was postponed for a week or two; but in the mean
time Mr. Clemens had gone to Europe. Years after a reporter
called on Mr. Clemens and submitted the manuscript of the
speech, which was as follows:
Day after to-morrow I sail for England in a ship of this line, the Paris.
It will be my fourteenth crossing in three years and a half. Therefore,
my presence here, as you see, is quite natural, quite commercial. I am
interested in ships. They interest me more now than hotels do. When a
new ship is launched I feel a desire to go and see if she will be good
quarters for me to live in, particularly if she belongs to this line, for
it is by this line that I have done most of my ferrying.
People wonder why I go so much. Well, I go partly for my health, partly
to familiarize myself with the road. I have gone over the same road so
many times now that I know all the whales that belong along the route,
and latterly it is an embarrassment to me to meet them, for they do not
look glad to see me, but annoyed, and they seem to say: "Here is this old
Earlier in life this would have pained me and made me ashamed, but I am
older now, and when I am behaving myself, and doing right, I do not care
for a whale's opinion about me. When we are young we generally estimate
an opinion by the size of the person that holds it, but later we find
that that is an uncertain rule, for we realize that there are times when
a hornet's opinion disturbs us more than an emperor's.
I do not mean that I care nothing at all for a whale's opinion, for that
would be going to too great a length. Of course, it is better to have
the good opinion of a whale than his disapproval; but my position is that
if you cannot have a whale's good opinion, except at some sacrifice of
principle or personal dignity, it is better to try to live without it.
That is my idea about whales.
Yes, I have gone over that same route so often that I know my way without
a compass, just by the waves. I know all the large waves and a good many
of the small ones. Also the sunsets. I know every sunset and where it
belongs just by its color. Necessarily, then, I do not make the passage
now for scenery. That is all gone by.
What I prize most is safety, and in, the second place swift transit and
handiness. These are best furnished, by the American line, whose
watertight compartments have no passage through them; no doors to be left
open, and consequently no way for water to get from one of them to
another in time of collision. If you nullify the peril which collisions
threaten you with, you nullify the only very serious peril which attends
voyages in the great liners of our day, and makes voyaging safer than
staying at home.
When the Paris was half-torn to pieces some years ago, enough of the
Atlantic ebbed and flowed through one end of her, during her long agony,
to sink the fleets of the world if distributed among them; but she
floated in perfect safety, and no life was lost. In time of collision
the rock of Gibraltar is not safer than the Paris and other great ships
of this line. This seems to be the only great line in the world that
takes a passenger from metropolis to metropolis without the intervention
of tugs and barges or bridges--takes him through without breaking bulk,
so to speak.
On the English side he lands at a dock; on the dock a special train is
waiting; in an hour and three-quarters he is in, London. Nothing could
be handier. If your journey were from a sand-pit on our side to a
lighthouse on the other, you could make it quicker by other lines, but
that is not the case. The journey is from the city of New York to the
city of London, and no line can do that journey quicker than this one,
nor anywhere near as conveniently and handily. And when the passenger
lands on our side he lands on the American side of the river, not in the
provinces. As a very learned man said on the last voyage (he is head
quartermaster of the New York land garboard streak of the middle watch)
"When we land a passenger on the American side there's nothing betwix him
and his hotel but hell and the hackman."
I am glad, with you and the nation, to welcome the new ship. She is
another pride, another consolation, for a great country whose mighty
fleets have all vanished, and which has almost forgotten, what it is to
fly its flag to sea. I am not sure as to which St. Paul she is named
for. Some think it is the one that is on the upper Mississippi, but the
head quartermaster told me it was the one that killed Goliath. But it is
not important. No matter which it is, let us give her hearty welcome and
AT THE METROPOLITAN CLUB, NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 28, 1902
Address at a dinner given in honor of Mr. Clemens by Colonel
Harvey, President of Harper & Brothers.
I think I ought to be allowed to talk as long as I want to, for the
reason that I have cancelled all my winter's engagements of every kind,
for good and sufficient reasons, and am making no new engagements for
this winter, and, therefore, this is the only chance I shall have to
disembowel my skull for a year--close the mouth in that portrait for a
year. I want to offer thanks and homage to the chairman for this
innovation which he has introduced here, which is an improvement, as I
consider it, on the old-fashioned style of conducting occasions like
this. That was bad that was a bad, bad, bad arrangement. Under that old
custom the chairman got up and made a speech, he introduced the prisoner
at the bar, and covered him all over with compliments, nothing but
compliments, not a thing but compliments, never a slur, and sat down and
left that man to get up and talk without a text. You cannot talk on
compliments; that is not a text. No modest person, and I was born one,
can talk on compliments. A man gets up and is filled to the eyes with
happy emotions, but his tongue is tied; he has nothing to say; he is in
the condition of Doctor Rice's friend who came home drunk and explained
it to his wife, and his wife said to him, "John, when you have drunk all
the whiskey you want, you ought to ask for sarsaparilla." He said, "Yes,
but when I have drunk all the whiskey I want I can't say sarsaparilla."
And so I think it is much better to leave a man unmolested until the
testimony and pleadings are all in. Otherwise he is dumb--he is at the
Before I get to the higgledy-piggledy point, as Mr. Howells suggested I
do, I want to thank you, gentlemen, for this very high honor you are
doing me, and I am quite competent to estimate it at its value. I see
around me captains of all the illustrious industries, most distinguished
men; there are more than fifty here, and I believe I know thirty-nine of
them well. I could probably borrow money from--from the others, anyway.
It is a proud thing to me, indeed, to see such a distinguished company
gather here on such an occasion as this, when there is no foreign prince
to be feted--when you have come here not to do honor to hereditary
privilege and ancient lineage, but to do reverence to mere moral
excellence and elemental veracity-and, dear me, how old it seems to make
me! I look around me and I see three or four persons I have known so
many, many years. I have known Mr. Secretary Hay--John Hay, as the
nation and the rest of his friends love to call him--I have known John
Hay and Tom Reed and the Reverend Twichell close upon thirty-six years.
Close upon thirty-six years I have known those venerable men. I have
known Mr. Howells nearly thirty-four years, and I knew Chauncey Depew
before he could walk straight, and before he learned to tell the truth.
Twenty-seven years ago, I heard him make the most noble and eloquent and
beautiful speech that has ever fallen from even his capable lips. Tom
Reed said that my principal defect was inaccuracy of statement. Well,
suppose that that is true. What's the use of telling the truth all the
time? I never tell the truth about Tom Reed--but that is his defect,
truth; he speaks the truth always. Tom Reed has a good heart, and he has
a good intellect, but he hasn't any judgment. Why, when Tom Reed was
invited to lecture to the Ladies' Society for the Procreation or
Procrastination, or something, of morals, I don't know what it was--
advancement, I suppose, of pure morals--he had the immortal indiscretion
to begin by saying that some of us can't be optimists, but by judiciously
utilizing the opportunities that Providence puts in our way we can all be
bigamists. You perceive his limitations. Anything he has in his mind he
states, if he thinks it is true. Well, that was true, but that was no
place to say it--so they fired him out.
A lot of accounts have been settled here tonight for me; I have held
grudges against some of these people, but they have all been wiped out by
the very handsome compliments that have been paid me. Even Wayne
MacVeagh--I have had a grudge against him many years. The first time I
saw Wayne MacVeagh was at a private dinner-party at Charles A. Dana's,
and when I got there he was clattering along, and I tried to get a word
in here and there; but you know what Wayne MacVeagh is when he is
started, and I could not get in five words to his one--or one word to his
five. I struggled along and struggled along, and--well, I wanted to tell
and I was trying to tell a dream I had had the night before, and it was a
remarkable dream, a dream worth people's while to listen to, a dream
recounting Sam Jones the revivalist's reception in heaven. I was on a
train, and was approaching the celestial way-station--I had a through
ticket--and I noticed a man sitting alongside of me asleep, and he had
his ticket in his hat. He was the remains of the Archbishop of
Canterbury; I recognized him by his photograph. I had nothing against
him, so I took his ticket and let him have mine. He didn't object--he
wasn't in a condition to object--and presently when the train stopped at
the heavenly station--well, I got off, and he went on by request--but
there they all were, the angels, you know, millions of them, every one
with a torch; they had arranged for a torch-light procession; they were
expecting the Archbishop, and when I got off they started to raise a
shout, but it didn't materialize. I don't know whether they were
disappointed. I suppose they had a lot of superstitious ideas about the
Archbishop and what he should look like, and I didn't fill the bill, and
I was trying to explain to Saint Peter, and was doing it in the German
tongue, because I didn't want to be too explicit. Well, I found it was
no use, I couldn't get along, for Wayne MacVeagh was occupying the whole
place, and I said to Mr. Dana, "What is the matter with that man? Who is
that man with the long tongue? What's the trouble with him, that long,
lank cadaver, old oil-derrick out of a job--who is that?" "Well, now,"
Mr. Dana said, "you don't want to meddle with him; you had better keep
quiet; just keep quiet, because that's a bad man. Talk! He was born to
talk. Don't let him get out with you; he'll skin you." I said, "I have
been skinned, skinned, and skinned for years, there is nothing left."
He said, "Oh, you'll find there is; that man is the very seed and
inspiration of that proverb which says, 'No matter how close you skin an
onion, a clever man can always peel it again.'" Well, I reflected and
I quieted down. That would never occur to Tom Reed. He's got no
discretion. Well, MacVeagh is just the same man; he hasn't changed a bit
in all those years; he has been peeling Mr. Mitchell lately. That's the
kind of man he is.
Mr. Howells--that poem of his is admirable; that's the way to treat a
person. Howells has a peculiar gift for seeing the merits of people,
and he has always exhibited them in my favor. Howells has never written
anything about me that I couldn't read six or seven times a day; he is
always just and always fair; he has written more appreciatively of me
than any one in this world, and published it in the North American
Review. He did me the justice to say that my intentions--he italicized
that--that my intentions were always good, that I wounded people's
conventions rather than their convictions. Now, I wouldn't want anything
handsomer than that said of me. I would rather wait, with anything harsh
I might have to say, till the convictions become conventions. Bangs has
traced me all the way down. He can't find that honest man, but I will
look for him in the looking-glass when I get home. It was intimated by
the Colonel that it is New England that makes New York and builds up this
country and makes it great, overlooking the fact that there's a lot of
people here who came from elsewhere, like John Hay from away out West,
and Howells from Ohio, and St. Clair McKelway and me from Missouri, and
we are doing what we can to build up New York a little-elevate it. Why,
when I was living in that village of Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of
the Mississippi, and Hay up in the town of Warsaw, also on the banks of
the Mississippi River it is an emotional bit of the Mississippi, and when
it is low water you have to climb up to it on a ladder, and when it
floods you have to hunt for it; with a deep-sea lead--but it is a great
and beautiful country. In that old time it was a paradise for
simplicity--it was a simple, simple life, cheap but comfortable, and full
of sweetness, and there was nothing of this rage of modern civilization
there at all. It was a delectable land. I went out there last June,
and I met in that town of Hannibal a schoolmate of mine, John Briggs,
whom I had not seen for more than fifty years. I tell you, that was a
meeting! That pal whom I had known as a little boy long ago, and knew
now as a stately man three or four inches over six feet and browned by
exposure to many climes, he was back there to see that old place again.
We spent a whole afternoon going about here and there and yonder, and
hunting up the scenes and talking of the crimes which we had committed so
long ago. It was a heartbreaking delight, full of pathos, laughter, and
tears, all mixed together; and we called the roll of the boys and girls
that we picnicked and sweethearted with so many years ago, and there were
hardly half a dozen of them left; the rest were in their graves; and we
went up there on the summit of that hill, a treasured place in my memory,
the summit of Holiday's Hill, and looked out again over that magnificent
panorama of the Mississippi River, sweeping along league after league, a
level green paradise on one side, and retreating capes and promontories
as far as you could see on the other, fading away in the soft, rich
lights of the remote distance. I recognized then that I was seeing now
the most enchanting river view the planet could furnish. I never knew it
when I was a boy; it took an educated eye that had travelled over the
globe to know and appreciate it; and John said, "Can you point out the
place where Bear Creek used to be before the railroad came?" I said,
"Yes, it ran along yonder." "And can you point out the swimming-hole?"
"Yes, out there." And he said, "Can you point out the place where we
stole the skiff?" Well, I didn't know which one he meant. Such a
wilderness of events had intervened since that day, more than fifty years
ago, it took me more than five minutes to call back that little incident,
and then I did call it back; it was a white skiff, and we painted it red
to allay suspicion. And the saddest, saddest man came along--a stranger
he was--and he looked that red skiff over so pathetically, and he said:
"Well, if it weren't for the complexion I'd know whose skiff that was."
He said it in that pleading way, you know, that appeals for sympathy and
suggestion; we were full of sympathy for him, but we weren't in any
condition to offer suggestions. I can see him yet as he turned away with
that same sad look on his face and vanished out of history forever.
I wonder what became of that man. I know what became of the skiff.
Well, it was a beautiful life, a lovely life. There was no crime.
Merely little things like pillaging orchards and watermelon-patches and
breaking the Sabbath--we didn't break the Sabbath often enough to
signify--once a week perhaps. But we were good boys, good Presbyterian
boys, all Presbyterian boys, and loyal and all that; anyway, we were good
Presbyterian boys when the weather was doubtful; when it was fair, we did
wander a little from the fold.
Look at John Hay and me. There we were in obscurity, and look where we
are now. Consider the ladder which he has climbed, the illustrious
vocations he has served--and vocations is the right word; he has in all
those vocations acquitted himself with high credit and honor to his
country and to the mother that bore him. Scholar, soldier, diplomat,
poet, historian--now, see where we are. He is Secretary of State and I
am a gentleman. It could not happen in any other country. Our
institutions give men the positions that of right belong to them through
merit; all you men have won your places, not by heredities, and not by
family influence or extraneous help, but only by the natural gifts God
gave you at your birth, made effective by your own energies; this is the
country to live in.
Now, there is one invisible guest here. A part of me is present; the
larger part, the better part, is yonder at her home; that is my wife,
and she has a good many personal friends here, and I think it won't
distress any one of them to know that, although she is going to be
confined to that bed for many months to come from that nervous
prostration, there is not any danger and she is coming along very well--
and I think it quite appropriate that I should speak of her. I knew her
for the first time just in the same year that I first knew John Hay and
Tom Reed and Mr. Twichell--thirty-six years ago--and she has been the
best friend I have ever had, and that is saying a good deal; she has
reared me--she and Twichell together--and what I am I owe to them.
Twichell why, it is such a pleasure to look upon Twichell's face!
For five-and-twenty years I was under the Rev. Mr. Twichell's tuition,
I was in his pastorate, occupying a pew in his church, and held him in
due reverence. That man is full of all the graces that go to make a
person companionable and beloved; and wherever Twichell goes to start a
church the people flock there to buy the land; they find real estate goes
up all around the spot, and the envious and the thoughtful always try to
get Twichell to move to their neighborhood and start a church; and
wherever you see him go you can go and buy land there with confidence,
feeling sure that there will be a double price for you before very long.
I am not saying this to flatter Mr. Twichell; it is the fact. Many and
many a time I have attended the annual sale in his church, and bought up
all the pews on a margin--and it would have been better for me
spiritually and financially if I had stayed under his wing.
I have tried to do good in this world, and it is marvellous in how many
different ways I have done good, and it is comfortable to reflect--now,
there's Mr. Rogers--just out of the affection I bear that man many a time
I have given him points in finance that he had never thought of--and if
he could lay aside envy, prejudice, and superstition, and utilize those
ideas in his business, it would make a difference in his bank account.
Well, I like the poetry. I like all the speeches and the poetry, too.
I liked Doctor Van Dyke's poem. I wish I could return thanks in proper
measure to you, gentlemen, who have spoken and violated your feelings to
pay me compliments; some were merited and some you overlooked, it is
true; and Colonel Harvey did slander every one of you, and put things
into my mouth that I never said, never thought of at all.
And now, my wife and I, out of our single heart, return you our deepest
and most grateful thanks, and--yesterday was her birthday.
TO THE WHITEFRIARS
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER GIVEN BY THE WHITEFRIARS CLUB IN HONOR OF
MR. CLEMENS, LONDON, JUNE 20, 1899
The Whitefriars Club was founded by Dr. Samuel Johnson, and Mr.
Clemens was made an honorary member in 1874. The members are
representative of literary and journalistic London. The toast
of "Our Guest" was proposed by Louis F. Austin, of the
Illustrated London News, and in the course of some humorous
remarks he referred to the vow and to the imaginary woes of the
"Friars," as the members of the club style themselves.
MR. CHAIRMAN AND BRETHREN OF THE VOW--in whatever the vow is; for
although I have been a member of this club for five-and twenty years,
I don't know any more about what that vow is than Mr. Austin seems to.
But what ever the vow is, I don't care what it is. I have made a
There is no pleasure comparable to making a vow in the presence of one
who appreciates that vow, in the presence of men who honor and appreciate
you for making the vow, and men who admire you for making the vow.
There is only one pleasure higher than that, and that is to get outside
and break the vow. A vow is always a pledge of some kind or other for
the protection of your own morals and principles or somebody else's,
and generally, by the irony of fate, it is for the protection of your own
Hence we have pledges that make us eschew tobacco or wine, and while you
are taking the pledge there is a holy influence about that makes you feel
you are reformed, and that you can never be so happy again in this world
until--you get outside and take a drink.
I had forgotten that I was a member of this club--it is so long ago.
But now I remember that I was here five-and-twenty years ago, and that I
was then at a dinner of the Whitefriars Club, and it was in those old
days when you had just made two great finds. All London was talking
about nothing else than that they had found Livingstone, and that the
lost Sir Roger Tichborne had been found--and they were trying him for it.
And at the dinner, Chairman (I do not know who he was)--failed to come to
time. The gentleman who had been appointed to pay me the customary
compliments and to introduce me forgot the compliments, and did not know
what they were.
And George Augustus Sala came in at the last moment, just when I was
about to go without compliments altogether. And that man was a gifted
man. They just called on him instantaneously, while he was going to sit
down, to introduce the stranger, and Sala, made one of those marvellous
speeches which he was capable of making. I think no man talked so fast
as Sala did. One did not need wine while he was making a speech. The
rapidity of his utterance made a man drunk in a minute. An incomparable
speech was that, an impromptu speech, and--an impromptu speech is a
seldom thing, and he did it so well.
He went into the whole history of the United States, and made it entirely
new to me. He filled it with episodes and incidents that Washington
never heard of, and he did it so convincingly that although I knew none
of it had happened, from that day to this I do not know any history but
I do not know anything so sad as a dinner where you are going to get up
and say something by-and-by, and you do not know what it is. You sit and
wonder and wonder what the gentleman is going to say who is going to
introduce you. You know that if he says something severe, that if he
will deride you, or traduce you, or do anything of that kind, he will
furnish you with a text, because anybody can get up and talk against
Anybody can get up and straighten out his character. But when a
gentleman gets up and merely tells the truth about you, what can you do?
Mr. Austin has done well. He has supplied so many texts that I will have
to drop out a lot of them, and that is about as difficult as when you do
not have any text at all. Now, he made a beautiful and smooth speech
without any difficulty at all, and I could have done that if I had gone
on with the schooling with which I began. I see here a gentleman on my
left who was my master in the art of oratory more than twenty-five years
When I look upon the inspiring face of Mr. Depew, it carries me a long
way back. An old and valued friend of mine is he, and I saw his career
as it came along, and it has reached pretty well up to now, when he, by
another miscarriage of justice, is a United States Senator. But those
were delightful days when I was taking lessons in oratory.
My other master the Ambassador-is not here yet. Under those two
gentlemen I learned to make after-dinner speeches, and it was charming.
You know the New England dinner is the great occasion on the other side
of the water. It is held every year to celebrate the landing of the
Pilgrims. Those Pilgrims were a lot of people who were not needed in
England, and you know they had great rivalry, and they were persuaded to
go elsewhere, and they chartered a ship called Mayflower and set sail,
and I have heard it said that they pumped the Atlantic Ocean through that
ship sixteen times.
They fell in over there with the Dutch from Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and a
lot of other places with profane names, and it is from that gang that Mr.
Depew is descended.
On the other hand, Mr. Choate is descended from those Puritans who landed
on a bitter night in December. Every year those people used to meet at a
great banquet in New York, and those masters of mind in oratory had to
make speeches. It was Doctor Depew's business to get up there and
apologise for the Dutch, and Mr. Choate had to get up later and explain
the crimes of the Puritans, and grand, beautiful times we used to have.
It is curious that after that long lapse of time I meet the Whitefriars
again, some looking as young and fresh as in the old days, others showing
a certain amount of wear and tear, and here, after all this time, I find
one of the masters of oratory and the others named in the list.
And here we three meet again as exiles on one pretext or another, and you
will notice that while we are absent there is a pleasing tranquillity in
America--a building up of public confidence. We are doing the best we
can for our country. I think we have spent our lives in serving our
country, and we never serve it to greater advantage than when we get out
But impromptu speaking--that is what I was trying to learn. That is a
difficult thing. I used to do it in this way. I used to begin about a
week ahead, and write out my impromptu, speech and get it by heart. Then
I brought it to the New England dinner printed on a piece of paper in my
pocket, so that I could pass it to the reporters all cut and dried, and
in order to do an impromptu speech as it should be done you have to
indicate the places for pauses and hesitations. I put them all in it.
And then you want the applause in the right places.
When I got to the place where it should come in, if it did not come in
I did not care, but I had it marked in the paper. And these masters of
mind used to wonder why it was my speech came out in the morning in the
first person, while theirs went through the butchery of synopsis.
I do that kind of speech (I mean an offhand speech), and do it well, and
make no mistake in such a way to deceive the audience completely and make
that audience believe it is an impromptu speech--that is art.
I was frightened out of it at last by an experience of Doctor Hayes. He
was a sort of Nansen of that day. He had been to the North Pole, and it
made him celebrated. He had even seen the polar bear climb the pole.
He had made one of those magnificent voyages such as Nansen made, and in
those days when a man did anything which greatly distinguished him for
the moment he had to come on to the lecture platform and tell all about
Doctor Hayes was a great, magnificent creature like Nansen, superbly
built. He was to appear in Boston. He wrote his lecture out, and it was
his purpose to read it from manuscript; but in an evil hour he concluded
that it would be a good thing to preface it with something rather
handsome, poetical, and beautiful that he could get off by heart and
deliver as if it were the thought of the moment.
He had not had my experience, and could not do that. He came on the
platform, held his manuscript down, and began with a beautiful piece of
oratory. He spoke something like this:
"When a lonely human being, a pigmy in the midst of the architecture of
nature, stands solitary on those icy waters and looks abroad to the
horizon and sees mighty castles and temples of eternal ice raising up
their pinnacles tipped by the pencil of the departing sun--"
Here a man came across the platform and touched him on the shoulder, and
said: "One minute." And then to the audience:
"Is Mrs. John Smith in the house? Her husband has slipped on the ice and
broken his leg."
And you could see the Mrs. John Smiths get up everywhere and drift out of
the house, and it made great gaps everywhere. Then Doctor Hayes began
again: "When a lonely man, a pigmy in the architecture--" The janitor
came in again and shouted: "It is not Mrs. John Smith! It is Mrs. John
Then all the Mrs. Jones got up and left. Once more the speaker started,
and was in the midst of the sentence when he was interrupted again, and
the result was that the lecture was not delivered. But the lecturer
interviewed the janitor afterward in a private room, and of the fragments
of the janitor they took "twelve basketsful."
Now, I don't want to sit down just in this way. I have been talking with
so much levity that I have said no serious thing, and you are really no
better or wiser, although Robert Buchanan has suggested that I am a
person who deals in wisdom. I have said nothing which would make you
better than when you came here.
I should be sorry to sit down without having said one serious word which
you can carry home and relate to your children and the old people who are
not able to get away.
And this is just a little maxim which has saved me from many a difficulty
and many a disaster, and in times of tribulation and uncertainty has come
to my rescue, as it shall to yours if you observe it as I do day and
I always use it in an emergency, and you can take it home as a legacy
from me, and it is "When in doubt, tell the truth."
THE ASCOT GOLD CUP
The news of Mr. Clemens's arrival in England in June, 1907, was
announced in the papers with big headlines. Immediately
following the announcement was the news--also with big
headlines--that the Ascot Gold Cup had been stolen the same
day. The combination, MARK TWAIN ARRIVES-ASCOT CUP STOLEN,
amused the public. The Lord Mayor of London gave a banquet at
the Mansion House in honor of Mr. Clemens.
I do assure you that I am not so dishonest as I look. I have been so
busy trying to rehabilitate my honor about that Ascot Cup that I have had
no time to prepare a speech.
I was not so honest in former days as I am now, but I have always been
reasonably honest. Well, you know how a man is influenced by his
surroundings. Once upon a time I went to a public meeting where the
oratory of a charitable worker so worked on my feelings that, in common
with others, I would have dropped something substantial in the hat--if it
had come round at that moment.
The speaker had the power of putting those vivid pictures before one.
We were all affected. That was the moment for the hat. I would have put
two hundred dollars in. Before he had finished I could have put in four
hundred dollars. I felt I could have filled up a blank check--with
somebody else's name--and dropped it in.
Well, now, another speaker got up, and in fifteen minutes damped my
spirit; and during the speech of the third speaker all my enthusiasm went
away. When at last the hat came round I dropped in ten cents--and took
I came over here to get the honorary degree from Oxford, and I would have
encompassed the seven seas for an honor like that--the greatest honor
that has ever fallen to my share. I am grateful to Oxford for conferring
that honor upon me, and I am sure my country appreciates it, because
first and foremost it is an honor to my country.
And now I am going home again across the sea. I am in spirit young but
in the flesh old, so that it is unlikely that when I go away I shall ever
see England again. But I shall go with the recollection of the generous
and kindly welcome I have had.
I suppose I must say "Good-bye." I say it not with my lips only, but
from the heart.
THE SAVAGE CLUB DINNER
A portrait of Mr. Clemens, signed by all the members of the
club attending the dinner, was presented to him, July 6, 1907,
and in submitting the toast "The Health of Mark Twain" Mr. J.
Scott Stokes recalled the fact that he had read parts of Doctor
Clemens's works to Harold Frederic during Frederic's last
MR. CHAIRMAN AND FELLOW-SAVAGES,--I am very glad indeed to have that
portrait. I think it is the best one that I have ever had, and there
have been opportunities before to get a good photograph. I have sat to
photographers twenty-two times to-day. Those sittings added to those
that have preceded them since I have been in Europe--if we average at
that rate--must have numbered one hundred to two hundred sittings. Out
of all those there ought to be some good photographs. This is the best I
have had, and I am glad to have your honored names on it. I did not know
Harold Frederic personally, but I have heard a great deal about him, and
nothing that was not pleasant and nothing except such things as lead a
man to honor another man and to love him. I consider that it is a
misfortune of mine that I have never had the luck to meet him, and if any
book of mine read to him in his last hours made those hours easier for
him and more comfortable, I am very glad and proud of that. I call to
mind such a case many years ago of an English authoress, well known in
her day, who wrote such beautiful child tales, touching and lovely in
every possible way. In a little biographical sketch of her I found that
her last hours were spent partly in reading a book of mine, until she was
no longer able to read. That has always remained in my mind, and I have
always cherished it as one of the good things of my life. I had read
what she had written, and had loved her for what she had done.
Stanley apparently carried a book of mine feloniously away to Africa,
and I have not a doubt that it had a noble and uplifting influence there
in the wilds of Africa--because on his previous journeys he never carried
anything to read except Shakespeare and the Bible. I did not know of
that circumstance. I did not know that he had carried a book of mine.
I only noticed that when he came back he was a reformed man. I knew
Stanley very well in those old days. Stanley was the first man who ever
reported a lecture of mine, and that was in St. Louis. When I was down
there the next time to give the same lecture I was told to give them
something fresh, as they had read that in the papers. I met Stanley here
when he came back from that first expedition of his which closed with the
finding of Livingstone. You remember how he would break out at the
meetings of the British Association, and find fault with what people
said, because Stanley had notions of his own, and could not contain them.
They had to come out or break him up--and so he would go round and
address geographical societies. He was always on the warpath in those
days, and people always had to have Stanley contradicting their geography
for them and improving it. But he always came back and sat drinking beer
with me in the hotel up to two in the morning, and he was then one of the
most civilized human beings that ever was.
I saw in a newspaper this evening a reference to an interview which
appeared in one of the papers the other day, in which the interviewer
said that I characterized Mr. Birrell's speech the other day at the
Pilgrims' Club as "bully." Now, if you will excuse me, I never use slang
to an interviewer or anybody else. That distresses me. Whatever I said
about Mr. Birrell's speech was said in English, as good English as
anybody uses. If I could not describe Mr. Birrell's delightful speech
without using slang I would not describe it at all. I would close my
mouth and keep it closed, much as it would discomfort me.
Now that comes of interviewing a man in the first person, which is an
altogether wrong way to interview him. It is entirely wrong because none
of you, I, or anybody else, could interview a man--could listen to a man
talking any length of time and then go off and reproduce that talk in the
first person. It can't be done. What results is merely that the
interviewer gives the substance of what is said and puts it in his own
language and puts it in your mouth. It will always be either better
language than you use or worse, and in my case it is always worse.
I have a great respect for the English language. I am one of its
supporters, its promoters, its elevators. I don't degrade it. A slip of
the tongue would be the most that you would get from me. I have always
tried hard and faithfully to improve my English and never to degrade it.
I always try to use the best English to describe what I think and what I
feel, or what I don't feel and what I don't think.
I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to
facts. I don't know anything that mars good literature so completely as
too much truth. Facts contain a deal of poetry, but you can't use too
many of them without damaging your literature. I love all literature,
and as long as I am a doctor of literature--I have suggested to you for
twenty years I have been diligently trying to improve my own literature,
and now, by virtue of the University of Oxford, I mean to doctor
Now I think I ought to apologize for my clothes. At home I venture
things that I am not permitted by my family to venture in foreign parts.
I was instructed before I left home and ordered to refrain from white
clothes in England. I meant to keep that command fair and clean, and I
would have done it if I had been in the habit of obeying instructions,
but I can't invent a new process in life right away. I have not had
white clothes on since I crossed the ocean until now.
In these three or four weeks I have grown so tired of gray and black that
you have earned my gratitude in permitting me to come as I have. I wear
white clothes in the depth of winter in my home, but I don't go out in
the streets in them. I don't go out to attract too much attention.
I like to attract some, and always I would like to be dressed so that I
may be more conspicuous than anybody else.
If I had been an ancient Briton, I would not have contented myself with
blue paint, but I would have bankrupted the rainbow. I so enjoy gay
clothes in which women clothe themselves that it always grieves me when I
go to the opera to see that, while women look like a flower-bed, the men
are a few gray stumps among them in their black evening dress. These are
two or three reasons why I wish to wear white clothes: When I find
myself in assemblies like this, with everybody in black clothes, I know I
possess something that is superior to everybody else's. Clothes are
never clean. You don't know whether they are clean or not, because you
Here or anywhere you must scour your head every two or three days or it
is full of grit. Your clothes must collect just as much dirt as your
hair. If you wear white clothes you are clean, and your cleaning bill
gets so heavy that you have to take care. I am proud to say that I can
wear a white suit of clothes without a blemish for three days. If you
need any further instruction in the matter of clothes I shall be glad to
give it to you. I hope I have convinced some of you that it is just as
well to wear white clothes as any other kind. I do not want to boast.
I only want to make you understand that you are not clean.
As to age, the fact that I am nearly seventy-two years old does not
clearly indicate how old I am, because part of every day--it is with me
as with you, you try to describe your age, and you cannot do it.
Sometimes you are only fifteen; sometimes you are twenty-five. It is
very seldom in a day that I am seventy-two years old. I am older now
sometimes than I was when I used to rob orchards; a thing which I would
not do to-day--if the orchards were watched. I am so glad to be here to-
night. I am so glad to renew with the Savages that now ancient time when
I first sat with a company of this club in London in 1872. That is a
long time ago. But I did stay with the Savages a night in London long
ago, and as I had come into a very strange land, and was with friends,
as I could see, that has always remained in my mind as a peculiarly
blessed evening, since it brought me into contact with men of my own kind
and my own feelings.
I am glad to be here, and to see you all again, because it is very likely
that I shall not see you again. It is easier than I thought to come
across the Atlantic. I have been received, as you know, in the most
delightfully generous way in England ever since I came here. It keeps me
choked up all the time. Everybody is so generous, and they do seem to
give you such a hearty welcome. Nobody in the world can appreciate it
higher than I do. It did not wait till I got to London, but when I came
ashore at Tilbury the stevedores on the dock raised the first welcome
--a good and hearty welcome from the men who do the heavy labor in the
world, and save you and me having to do it. They are the men who with
their hands build empires and make them prosper. It is because of them
that the others are wealthy and can live in luxury. They received me
with a "Hurrah!" that went to my heart. They are the men that build
civilization, and without them no civilization can be built. So I came
first to the authors and creators of civilization, and I blessedly end
this happy meeting with the Savages who destroy it.
GENERAL MILES AND THE DOG
Mr. Clemens was the guest of honor at a dinner given by the
Pleiades Club at the Hotel Brevoort, December 22, 1907. The
toastmaster introduced the guest of the evening with a high
tribute to his place in American literature, saying that he was
dear to the hearts of all Americans.
It is hard work to make a speech when you have listened to compliments
from the powers in authority. A compliment is a hard text to preach to.
When the chairman introduces me as a person of merit, and when he says
pleasant things about me, I always feel like answering simply that what
he says is true; that it is all right; that, as far as I am concerned,
the things he said can stand as they are. But you always have to say
something, and that is what frightens me.
I remember out in Sydney once having to respond to some complimentary
toast, and my one desire was to turn in my tracks like any other worm--
and run, for it. I was remembering that occasion at a later date when I
had to introduce a speaker. Hoping, then, to spur his speech by putting
him, in joke, on the defensive, I accused him in my introduction of
everything I thought it impossible for him to have committed. When I
finished there was an awful calm. I had been telling his life history by
One must keep up one's character. Earn a character first if you can, and
if you can't, then assume one. From the code of morals I have been
following and revising and revising for seventy-two years I remember one
detail. All my life I have been honest--comparatively honest. I could
never use money I had not made honestly--I could only lend it.
Last spring I met General Miles again, and he commented on the fact that
we had known each other thirty years. He said it was strange that we had
not met years before, when we had both been in Washington. At that point
I changed the subject, and I changed it with art. But the facts are
I was then under contract for my Innocents Abroad, but did not have a
cent to live on while I wrote it. So I went to Washington to do a little
journalism. There I met an equally poor friend, William Davidson, who
had not a single vice, unless you call it a vice in a Scot to love
Scotch. Together we devised the first and original newspaper syndicate,
selling two letters a week to twelve newspapers and getting $1 a letter.
That $24 a week would have been enough for us--if we had not had to
support the jug.
But there was a day when we felt that we must have $3 right away--$3 at
once. That was how I met the General. It doesn't matter now what we
wanted so much money at one time for, but that Scot and I did
occasionally want it. The Scot sent me out one day to get it. He had a
great belief in Providence, that Scottish friend of mine. He said: "The
Lord will provide."
I had given up trying to find the money lying about, and was in a hotel
lobby in despair, when I saw a beautiful unfriended dog. The dog saw me,
too, and at once we became acquainted. Then General Miles came in,
admired the dog, and asked me to price it. I priced it at $3. He
offered me an opportunity to reconsider the value of the beautiful
animal, but I refused to take more than Providence knew I needed. The
General carried the dog to his room.
Then came in a sweet little middle-aged man, who at once began looking
around the lobby.
"Did you lose a dog?" I asked. He said he had.
"I think I could find it," I volunteered, "for a small sum."
"'How much?'" he asked. And I told him $3.
He urged me to accept more, but I did not wish to outdo Providence. Then
I went to the General's room and asked for the dog back. He was very
angry, and wanted to know why I had sold him a dog that did not belong to
"That's a singular question to ask me, sir," I replied. "Didn't you ask
me to sell him? You started it." And he let me have him. I gave him
back his $3 and returned the dog, collect, to its owner. That second $3
I earned home to the Scot, and we enjoyed it, but the first $3, the money
I got from the General, I would have had to lend.
The General seemed not to remember my part in that adventure, and I never
had the heart to tell him about it.
WHEN IN DOUBT, TELL THE TRUTH
Mark Twain's speech at the dinner of the "Freundschaft
Society," March 9, 1906, had as a basis the words of
introduction used by Toastmaster Frank, who, referring to
Pudd'nhead Wilson, used the phrase, "When in doubt, tell the
MR. CHAIRMAN, Mr. PUTZEL, AND GENTLEMEN OF THE FREUNDSCHAFT,--That maxim
I did invent, but never expected it to be applied to me. I did say,
"When you are in doubt," but when I am in doubt myself I use more
Mr. Grout suggested that if I have anything to say against Mr. Putzel, or
any criticism of his career or his character, I am the last person to
come out on account of that maxim and tell the truth. That is altogether
I do think it is right for other people to be virtuous so that they can
be happy hereafter, but if I knew every impropriety that even Mr. Putzel
has committed in his life, I would not mention one of them. My judgment
has been maturing for seventy years, and I have got to that point where I
know better than that.
Mr. Putzel stands related to me in a very tender way (through the tax
office), and it does not behoove me to say anything which could by any
possibility militate against that condition of things.
Now, that word--taxes, taxes, taxes! I have heard it to-night. I have
heard it all night. I wish somebody would change that subject; that is a
very sore subject to me.
I was so relieved when judge Leventritt did find something that was not
taxable--when he said that the commissioner could not tax your patience.
And that comforted me. We've got so much taxation. I don't know of a
single foreign product that enters this country untaxed except the answer
On an occasion like this the proprieties require that you merely pay
compliments to the guest of the occasion, and I am merely here to pay
compliments to the guest of the occasion, not to criticise him in any
way, and I can say only complimentary things to him.
When I went down to the tax office some time ago, for the first time in
New York, I saw Mr. Putzel sitting in the "Seat of Perjury." I recognized
him right away. I warmed to him on the spot. I didn't know that I had
ever seen him before, but just as soon as I saw him I recognized him.
I had met him twenty-five years before, and at that time had achieved a
knowledge of his abilities and something more than that.
I thought: "Now, this is the man whom I saw twenty-five years ago."
On that occasion I not only went free at his hands, but carried off
something more than that. I hoped it would happen again.
It was twenty-five years ago when I saw a young clerk in Putnam's
bookstore. I went in there and asked for George Haven Putnam, and handed
him my card, and then the young man said Mr. Putnam was busy and I
couldn't see him. Well, I had merely called in a social way, and so it
I was going out when I saw a great big, fat, interesting-looking book
lying there, and I took it up. It was an account of the invasion of
England in the fourteenth century by the Preaching Friar, and it
I asked him the price of it, and he said four dollars.
"Well," I said, "what discount do you allow to publishers?"
He said: "Forty percent. off."
I said: "All right, I am a publisher."
He put down the figure, forty per cent. off, on a card.
Then I said: "What discount do you allow to authors?"
He said: "Forty per cent. off."
"Well," I said, "set me down as an author."
"Now," said I, "what discount do you allow to the clergy?"
He said: "Forty per cent. off."
I said to him that I was only on the road, and that I was studying for
the ministry. I asked him wouldn't he knock off twenty per cent. for
that. He set down the figure, and he never smiled once.
I was working off these humorous brilliancies on him and getting no
return--not a scintillation in his eye, not a spark of recognition of
what I was doing there. I was almost in despair.
I thought I might try him once more, so I said "Now, I am also a member
of the human race. Will you let me have the ten per cent. off for that?"
He set it down, and never smiled.
Well, I gave it up. I said: "There is my card with my address on it,
but I have not any money with me. Will you please send the bill to
Hartford?" I took up the book and was going away.
He said: "Wait a minute. There is forty cents coming to you."
When I met him in the tax office I thought maybe I could make something
again, but I could not. But I had not any idea I could when I came, and
as it turned out I did get off entirely free.
I put up my hand and made a statement. It gave me a good deal of pain to
do that. I was not used to it. I was born and reared in the higher
circles of Missouri, and there we don't do such things--didn't in my
time, but we have got that little matter settled--got a sort of tax
levied on me.
Then he touched me. Yes, he touched me this time, because he cried--
cried! He was moved to tears to see that I, a virtuous person only a
year before, after immersion for one year--during one year in the New
York morals--had no more conscience than a millionaire.
THE DAY WE CELEBRATE,
ADDRESS AT THE FOURTH-OF-JULY DINNER OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY,
I noticed in Ambassador Choate's speech that he said: "You may be
Americans or Englishmen, but you cannot be both at the same time."
You responded by applause.
Consider the effect of a short residence here. I find the Ambassador
rises first to speak to a toast, followed by a Senator, and I come third.
What a subtle tribute that to monarchial influence of the country when
you place rank above respectability!
I was born modest, and if I had not been things like this would force it
upon me. I understand it quite well. I am here to see that between them
they do justice to the day we celebrate, and in case they do not I must
do it myself. But I notice they have considered this day merely from one
side--its sentimental, patriotic, poetic side. But it has another side.
It has a commercial, a business side that needs reforming. It has a
I do not say "an" historical side, because I am speaking the American
language. I do not see why our cousins should continue to say "an"
hospital, "an" historical fact, "an" horse. It seems to me the Congress
of Women, now in session, should look to it. I think "an" is having a
little too much to do with it. It comes of habit, which accounts for
Yesterday, for example, I was at a luncheon party. At the end of the
party a great dignitary of the English Established Church went away half
an hour before anybody else and carried off my hat. Now, that was an
innocent act on his part. He went out first, and of course had the
choice of hats. As a rule I try to get out first myself. But I hold
that it was an innocent, unconscious act, due, perhaps, to heredity.
He was thinking about ecclesiastical matters, and when a man is in that
condition of mind he will take anybody's hat. The result was that the
whole afternoon I was under the influence of his clerical hat and could
not tell a lie. Of course, he was hard at it.
It is a compliment to both of us. His hat fitted me exactly; my hat
fitted him exactly. So I judge I was born to rise to high dignity in the
Church some how or other, but I do not know what he was born for. That
is an illustration of the influence of habit, and it is perceptible here
when they say "an" hospital, "an" European, "an" historical.
The business aspects of the Fourth of July is not perfect as it stands.
See what it costs us every year with loss of life, the crippling of
thousands with its fireworks, and the burning down of property. It is
not only sacred to patriotism sand universal freedom, but to the surgeon,
the undertaker, the insurance offices--and they are working, it for all
it is worth.
I am pleased to see that we have a cessation of war for the time. This
coming from me, a soldier, you will appreciate. I was a soldier in the
Southern war for two weeks, and when gentlemen get up to speak of the
great deeds our army and navy have recently done, why, it goes all
through me and fires up the old war spirit. I had in my first engagement
three horses shot under me. The next ones went over my head, the next
hit me in the back. Then I retired to meet an engagement.
I thank you, gentlemen, for making even a slight reference to the war
profession, in which I distinguished myself, short as my career was.
The American Society in London gave a banquet, July 4, 1907, at
the Hotel Cecil. Ambassador Choate called on Mr. Clemens to
respond to the toast "The Day We Celebrate."
MR. CHAIRMAN, MY LORD, AND GENTLEMEN,--Once more it happens, as it has
happened so often since I arrived in England a week or two ago, that
instead of celebrating the Fourth of July properly as has been indicated,
I have to first take care of my personal character. Sir Mortimer Durand
still remains unconvinced. Well, I tried to convince these people from
the beginning that I did not take the Ascot Cup; and as I have failed to
convince anybody that I did not take the cup, I might as well confess I
did take it and be done with it. I don't see why this uncharitable
feeling should follow me everywhere, and why I should have that crime
thrown up to me on all occasions. The tears that I have wept over it
ought to have created a different feeling than this--and, besides,
I don't think it is very right or fair that, considering England has been
trying to take a cup of ours for forty years--I don't see why they should
take so much trouble when I tried to go into the business myself.
Sir Mortimer Durand, too, has had trouble from going to a dinner here,
and he has told you what he suffered in consequence. But what did he
suffer? He only missed his train, and one night of discomfort, and he
remembers it to this day. Oh! if you could only think what I have
suffered from a similar circumstance. Two or three years ago, in New
York, with that Society there which is made up of people from all British
Colonies, and from Great Britain generally, who were educated in British
colleges and. British schools, I was there to respond to a toast of some
kind or other, and I did then what I have been in the habit of doing,
from a selfish motive, for a long time, and that is, I got myself placed
No, 3 in the list of speakers--then you get home early.
I had to go five miles up-river, and had to catch a, particular train or
not get there. But see the magnanimity which is born in me, which I have
cultivated all my life. A very famous and very great British clergyman
came to me presently, and he said: "I am away down in the list; I have
got to catch a certain train this Saturday night; if I don't catch that
train I shall be carried beyond midnight and break the Sabbath. Won't
you change places with me?" I said: "Certainly I will." I did it at
once. Now, see what happened.
Talk about Sir Mortimer Durand's sufferings for a single night! I have
suffered ever since because I saved that gentleman from breaking the
Sabbath-yes, saved him. I took his place, but I lost my train, and it
was I who broke the Sabbath. Up to that time I never had broken the
Sabbath in my life, and from that day to this I never have kept it.
Oh! I am learning much here to-night. I find I didn't know anything
about the American Society--that is, I didn't know its chief virtue.
I didn't know its chief virtue until his Excellency our Ambassador
revealed it--I may say, exposed it. I was intending to go home on the
13th of this month, but I look upon that in a different light now. I am
going to stay here until the American Society pays my passage.
Our Ambassador has spoken of our Fourth of July and the noise it makes.
We have got a double Fourth of July--a daylight Fourth and a midnight
Fourth. During the day in America, as our Ambassador has indicated, we
keep the Fourth of July properly in a reverent spirit. We devote it to
teaching our children patriotic things--reverence for the Declaration of
Independence. We honor the day all through the daylight hours, and when
night comes we dishonor it. Presently--before long--they are getting
nearly ready to begin now--on the Atlantic coast, when night shuts down,
that pandemonium will begin, and there will be noise, and noise, and
noise--all night long--and there will be more than noise there will be
people crippled, there will be people killed, there will be people who
will lose their eyes, and all through that permission which we give to
irresponsible boys to play with firearms and fire-crackers, and all sorts
of dangerous things: We turn that Fourth of July, alas! over to rowdies
to drink and get drunk and make the night hideous, and we cripple and
kill more people than you would imagine.
We probably began to celebrate our Fourth-of-July night in that way one
hundred and twenty-five years ago, and on every Fourth-of-July night
since these horrors have grown and grown, until now, in our five thousand
towns of America, somebody gets killed or crippled on every Fourth-of-
July night, besides those cases of sick persons whom we never hear of,
who die as the result of the noise or the shock. They cripple and kill
more people on the Fourth of July in, America than they kill and cripple
in our wars nowadays, and there are no pensions for these folk. And,
too, we burn houses. Really we destroy more property on every Fourth-of-
July night than the whole of the United States was worth one hundred and
twenty-five years ago. Really our Fourth of July is our day of mourning,
our day of sorrow. Fifty thousand people who have lost friends, or who
have had friends crippled, receive that Fourth of July, when it comes, as
a day of mourning for the losses they have sustained in their families.
I have suffered in that way myself. I have had relatives killed in that
way. One was in Chicago years ago--an uncle of mine, just as good an
uncle as I have ever had, and I had lots of them--yes, uncles to burn,
uncles to spare. This poor uncle, full of patriotism, opened his mouth
to hurrah, and a rocket went down his throat. Before that man could ask
for a drink of water to quench that thing, it blew up and scattered him
all, over the forty-five States, and--really, now, this is true--I know
about it myself--twenty-four hours after that it was raining buttons,
recognizable as his, on the Atlantic seaboard. A person cannot have a
disaster like that and be entirely cheerful the rest of his life. I had
another uncle, on an entirely different Fourth of July, who was blown up
that way, and really it trimmed him as it would a tree. He had hardly a
limb left on him anywhere. All we have left now is an expurgated edition
of that uncle. But never mind about these things; they are merely
passing matters. Don't let me make you sad.
Sir Mortimer Durand said that you, the English people, gave up your
colonies over there--got tired of them--and did it with reluctance.
Now I wish you just to consider that he was right about that, and that he
had his reasons for saying that England did not look upon our Revolution
as a foreign war, but as a civil war fought by Englishmen.
Our Fourth of July which we honor so much, and which we love so much, and
which we take so much pride in, is an English institution, not an
American one, and it comes of a great ancestry. The first Fourth of July
in that noble genealogy dates back seven centuries lacking eight years.
That is the day of the Great Charter--the Magna Charta--which was born at
Runnymede in the next to the last year of King John, and portions of the
liberties secured thus by those hardy Barons from that reluctant King
John are a part of our Declaration of Independence, of our Fourth of
July, of our American liberties. And the second of those Fourths of July
was not born, until four centuries later, in, Charles the First's time,
in the Bill of Rights, and that is ours, that is part of our liberties.
The next one was still English, in New England, where they established
that principle which remains with us to this day, and will continue to
remain with us--no taxation without representation. That is always going
to stand, and that the English Colonies in New England gave us.
The Fourth of July, and the one which you are celebrating now, born, in
Philadelphia on the 4th of July, 1776--that is English, too. It is not
American. Those were English colonists, subjects of King George III.,
Englishmen at heart, who protested against the oppressions of the Home
Government. Though they proposed to cure those oppressions and remove
them, still remaining under the Crown, they were not intending a
revolution. The revolution was brought about by circumstances which they
could not control. The Declaration of Independence was written by a
British subject, every name signed to it was the name of a British
subject. There was not the name of a single American attached to the
Declaration of Independence--in fact, there was not an American in the
country in that day except the Indians out on the plains. They were
Englishmen, all Englishmen--Americans did not begin until seven, years
later, when that Fourth of July had become seven years old, and then, the
American Republic was established. Since then, there have been
Americans. So you see what we owe to England in the matter of liberties.
We have, however, one Fourth of July which is absolutely our own, and
that is that great proclamation issued forty years ago by that great
American to whom Sir Mortimer Durand paid that just and beautiful
tribute--Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's proclamation, which not only set the
black slaves free, but set the white man free also. The owner was set
free from the burden and offence, that sad condition of things where he
was in so many instances a master and owner of slaves when he did not
want to be. That proclamation set them all free. But even in this
matter England suggested it, for England had set her slaves free thirty
years before, and we followed her example. We always followed her
example, whether it was good or bad.
And it was an English judge that issued that other great proclamation,
and established that great principle that, when a slave, let him belong
to whom he may, and let him come whence he may, sets his foot upon
English soil, his fetters by that act fall away and he is a free man
before the world. We followed the example of 1833, and we freed our
slaves as I have said.
It is true, then, that all our Fourths of July, and we have five of them,
England gave to us, except that one that I have mentioned--the
Emancipation Proclamation, and, lest we forget, let us all remember that
we owe these things to England. Let us be able to say to Old England,
this great-hearted, venerable old mother of the race, you gave us our
Fourths of July that we love and that we honor and revere, you gave us
the Declaration of Independence, which is the Charter of our rights, you,
the venerable Mother of Liberties, the Protector of Anglo-Saxon Freedom-
you gave us these things, and we do most honestly thank you for them.
AMERICANS AND THE ENGLISH
ADDRESS AT A GATHERING OF AMERICANS IN LONDON, JULY 4, 1872
MR. CHAIRMAN AND LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--I thank you for the compliment
which has just been tendered me, and to show my appreciation of it I will
not afflict you with many words. It is pleasant to celebrate in this
peaceful way, upon this old mother soil, the anniversary of an experiment
which was born of war with this same land so long ago, and wrought out to
a successful issue by the devotion of our ancestors. It has taken nearly
a hundred years to bring the English and Americans into kindly and
mutually appreciative relations, but I believe it has been accomplished
at last. It was a great step when the two last misunderstandings were
settled by arbitration instead of cannon. It is another great step when
England adopts our sewing-machines without claiming the invention--as
usual. It was another when they imported one of our sleeping-cars the
other day. And it warmed my heart more than, I can tell, yesterday, when
I witnessed the spectacle of an Englishman, ordering an American sherry
cobbler of his own free will and accord--and not only that but with a
great brain and a level head reminding the barkeeper not to forget the
strawberries. With a common origin, a common language, a common
literature, a common religion, and--common drinks, what is longer needful
to the cementing of the two nations together in a permanent bond of
This is an age of progress, and ours is a progressive land. A great and
glorious land, too--a land which has developed a Washington, a Franklin,
a Wm. M. Tweed, a Longfellow, a Motley, a Jay Gould, a Samuel C.
Pomeroy, a recent Congress which has never had its equal (in some
respects), and a United States Army which conquered sixty Indians in
eight months by tiring them out which is much better than uncivilized
slaughter, God knows. We have a criminal jury system which is superior
to any in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty
of finding twelve men every day who don't know anything and can't read.
And I may observe that we have an insanity plea that would have saved
Cain. I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some
legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world.
I refer with effusion to our railway system, which consents to let us
live, though it might do the opposite, being our owners. It only
destroyed three thousand and seventy lives last year by collisions, and
twenty-seven thousand two hundred and sixty by running over heedless and
unnecessary people at crossings. The companies seriously regretted the
killing of these thirty thousand people, and went so far as to pay for
some of them--voluntarily, of course, for the meanest of us would not
claim that we possess a court treacherous enough to enforce a law against
a railway company. But, thank Heaven, the railway companies are
generally disposed to do the right and kindly thing without--compulsion.
I know of an instance which greatly touched me at the time. After an
accident the company sent home the remains of a dear distant old relative
of mine in a basket, with the remark, "Please state what figure you hold
him at--and return the basket." Now there couldn't be anything
friendlier than that.
But I must not stand here and brag all night. However, you won't mind a
body bragging a little about his country on the Fourth of July. It is a
fair and legitimate time to fly the eagle. I will say only one more word
of brag--and a hopeful one. It is this. We have a form of government
which gives each man a fair chance and no favor. With us no individual
is born with a right to look down upon his neighbor and hold him in
contempt. Let such of us as are not dukes find our consolation in that.
And we may find hope for the future in the fact that as unhappy as is the
condition of our political morality to-day, England has risen up out of a
far fouler since the days when Charles I. ennobled courtesans and all
political place was a matter of bargain and sale. There is hope for us
*At least the above is the speech which I was going to make,
but our minister, General Schenck, presided, and after the
blessing, got up and made a great, long, inconceivably dull
harangue, and wound up by saying that inasmuch as speech-making
did not seem to exhilarate the guests much, all further oratory
would be dispensed with during the evening, and we could just
sit and talk privately to our elbow-neighbors and have a good,
sociable time. It is known that in consequence of that remark
forty-four perfected speeches died in the womb. The
depression, the gloom, the solemnity that reigned over the
banquet from that time forth will be a lasting memory with many
that were there. By that one thoughtless remark General
Schenck lost forty-four of the best friends he had in England.
More than one said that night: "And this is the sort of person
that is sent to represent us in a great sister empire!"
ADDRESS AT A DINNER GIVEN BY THE SAVAGE CLUB,
LONDON, SEPTEMBER 28, 1872.
Reported by Moncure D. Conway in the Cincinnati Commercial.
It affords me sincere pleasure to meet this distinguished club, a club
which has extended its hospitalities and its cordial welcome to so many
of my countrymen. I hope [and here the speaker's voice became low and
fluttering] you will excuse these clothes. I am going to the theatre;
that will explain these clothes. I have other clothes than these.
Judging human nature by what I have seen of it, I suppose that the
customary thing for a stranger to do when he stands here is to make a pun
on the name of this club, under the impression, of course, that he is the
first man that that idea has occurred to. It is a credit to our human
nature, not a blemish upon it; for it shows that underlying all our
depravity (and God knows and you know we are depraved enough) and all our
sophistication, and untarnished by them, there is a sweet germ of
innocence and simplicity still. When a stranger says to me, with a glow
of inspiration in his eye, some gentle, innocuous little thing about
"Twain and one flesh," and all that sort of thing, I don't try to crush
that man into the earth--no. I feel like saying: "Let me take you by the
hand, sir; let me embrace you; I have not heard that pun for weeks."
We will deal in palpable puns. We will call parties named King "Your
Majesty," and we will say to the Smiths that we think we have heard that
name before somewhere. Such is human nature. We cannot alter this.
It is God that made us so for some good and wise purpose. Let us not
repine. But though I may seem strange, may seem eccentric, I mean to
refrain from punning upon the name of this club, though I could make a
very good one if I had time to think about it--a week.
I cannot express to you what entire enjoyment I find in this first visit
to this prodigious metropolis of yours. Its wonders seem to me to be
limitless. I go about as in a dream--as in a realm of enchantment--where
many things are rare and beautiful, and all things are strange and
marvellous. Hour after hour I stand--I stand spellbound, as it were--and
gaze upon the statuary in Leicester Square. [Leicester Square being a
horrible chaos, with the relic of an equestrian statue in the centre, the
king being headless and limbless, and the horse in little better
condition.] I visit the mortuary effigies of noble old Henry VIII., and
Judge Jeffreys, and the preserved gorilla, and try to make up my mind
which of my ancestors I admire the most. I go to that matchless Hyde
Park and drive all around it, and then I start to enter it at the Marble
Arch---and--am induced to "change my mind." [Cabs are not permitted in
Hyde Park--nothing less aristocratic than a private carriage.] It is a
great benefaction--is Hyde Park. There, in his hansom cab, the invalid
can go--the poor, sad child of misfortune--and insert his nose between
the railings, and breathe the pure, health--giving air of the country and
of heaven. And if he is a swell invalid, who isn't obliged to depend
upon parks for his country air, he can drive inside--if he owns his
vehicle. I drive round and round Hyde Park, and the more I see of the
edges of it the more grateful I am that the margin is extensive.
And I have been to the Zoological Gardens. What a wonderful place that
is! I never have seen such a curious and interesting variety of wild
animals in any garden before--except "Mabilie." I never believed before
there were so many different kinds of animals in the world as you can
find there--and I don't believe it yet. I have been to the British
Museum. I would advise you to drop in there some time when you have
nothing to do for--five minutes--if you have never been there: It seems
to me the noblest monument that this nation has yet erected to her
greatness. I say to her, our greatness--as a nation. True, she has
built other monuments, and stately ones, as well; but these she has
uplifted in honor of two or three colossal demigods who have stalked
across the world's stage, destroying tyrants and delivering nations, and
whose prodigies will still live in the memories of men ages after their
monuments shall have crumbled to dust--I refer to the Wellington and
Nelson monuments, and--the Albert memorial. [Sarcasm. The Albert
memorial is the finest monument in the world, and celebrates the
existence of as commonplace a person as good luck ever lifted out of
The library at the British Museum I find particularly astounding.
I have read there hours together, and hardly made an impression on it.
I revere that library. It is the author's friend. I don't care how mean
a book is, it always takes one copy. [A copy of every book printed in
Great Britain must by law be sent to the British Museum, a law much
complained of by publishers.] And then every day that author goes there
to gaze at that book, and is encouraged to go on in the good work.
And what a touching sight it is of a Saturday afternoon to see the poor,
careworn clergymen gathered together in that vast reading--room cabbaging
sermons for Sunday. You will pardon my referring to these things.
Everything in this monster city interests me, and I cannot keep from
talking, even at the risk of being instructive. People here seem always
to express distances by parables. To a stranger it is just a little
confusing to be so parabolic--so to speak. I collar a citizen, and I
think I am going to get some valuable information out of him. I ask him
how far it is to Birmingham, and he says it is twenty-one shillings and
sixpence. Now we know that doesn't help a man who is trying to learn.
I find myself down-town somewhere, and I want to get some sort of idea
where I am--being usually lost when alone--and I stop a citizen and say:
"How far is it to Charing Cross?" "Shilling fare in a cab," and off he
goes. I suppose if I were to ask a Londoner how far it, is from the
sublime to the ridiculous, he would try to express it in coin. But I am
trespassing upon your time with these geological statistics and
historical reflections. I will not longer keep you from your orgies.
'Tis a real pleasure for me to be here, and I thank you for it. The name
of the Savage Club is associated in my mind with the kindly interest and
the friendly offices which you lavished upon an old friend of mine who
came among you a stranger, and you opened your English hearts to him and
gave him welcome and a home--Artemus Ward. Asking that you will join me,
I give you his memory.
Mr. Clemens spent several days in May, 1901, in Princeton, New
Jersey, as the guest of Lawrence Hutton. He gave a reading one
evening before a large audience composed of university students
and professors. Before the reading Mr. Clemens said:
I feel exceedingly surreptitious in coming down here without an
announcement of any kind. I do not want to see any advertisements
around, for the reason that I'm not a lecturer any longer. I reformed
long ago, and I break over and commit this sin only just one time this
year: and that is moderate, I think, for a person of my disposition. It
is not my purpose to lecture any more as long as I live. I never intend
to stand up on a platform any more--unless by the request of a sheriff or
something like that.
THE ST. LOUIS HARBOR-BOAT "MARK TWAIN"
The Countess de Rochambeau christened the St. Louis harbor-boat
'Mark Twain' in honor of Mr. Clemens, June 6, 1902. Just
before the luncheon he acted as pilot.
"Lower away lead!" boomed out the voice of the pilot.
"Mark twain, quarter five and one-half-six feet!" replied the
"You are all dead safe as long as I have the wheel--but this is
my last time at the wheel."
At the luncheon Mr. Clemens made a short address.
First of all, no--second of all--I wish to offer my thanks for the honor
done me by naming this last rose of summer of the Mississippi Valley for
me, this boat which represents a perished interest, which I fortified
long ago, but did not save its life. And, in the first place, I wish to
thank the Countess de Rochambeau for the honor she has done me in
presiding at this christening.
I believe that it is peculiarly appropriate that I should be allowed the
privilege of joining my voice with the general voice of St. Louis and
Missouri in welcoming to the Mississippi Valley and this part of the
continent these illustrious visitors from France.
When La Salle came down this river a century and a quarter ago there was
nothing on its banks but savages. He opened up this great river, and by
his simple act was gathered in this great Louisiana territory. I would
have done it myself for half the money.
ADDRESS AT A DINNER GIVEN BY COLONEL GEORGE HARVEY AT
DELMONICO'S, DECEMBER 5, 1905, TO CELEBRATE THE SEVENTIETH
ANNIVERSARY OF MR. CLEMENS' BIRTH
Mr. Howells introduced Mr. Clemens:
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, and Colonel Harvey, I will try not
to be greedy on your behalf in wishing the health of our
honored and, in view of his great age, our revered guest. I
will not say, 'Oh King, live forever!' but 'Oh King, live as
long as you like!'" [Amid great applause and waving of napkins
all rise and drink to Mark Twain.]
Well, if I made that joke, it is the best one I ever made, and it is in
the prettiest language, too.--I never can get quite to that height. But
I appreciate that joke, and I shall remember it--and I shall use it when
I have had a great many birthdays in my time. I remember the first one
very well, and I always think of it with indignation; everything was so
crude, unaesthetic, primeval. Nothing like this at all. No proper
appreciative preparation made; nothing really ready. Now, for a person
born with high and delicate instincts--why, even the cradle wasn't
whitewashed--nothing ready at all. I hadn't any hair, I hadn't any
teeth, I hadn't any clothes, I had to go to my first banquet just like
that. Well, everybody came swarming in. It was the merest little bit of
a village--hardly that, just a little hamlet, in the backwoods of
Missouri, where nothing ever happened, and the people were all
interested, and they all came; they looked me over to see if there was
anything fresh in my line. Why, nothing ever happened in that village--
I--why, I was the only thing that had really happened there for months
and months and months; and although I say it myself that shouldn't, I
came the nearest to being a real event that had happened in that village
in more than, two years. Well, those people came, they came with that
curiosity which is so provincial, with that frankness which also is so
provincial, and they examined me all around and gave their opinion.
Nobody asked them, and I shouldn't have minded if anybody had paid me a
compliment, but nobody did. Their opinions were all just green with
prejudice, and I feel those opinions to this day. Well, I stood that as
long as--well, you know I was born courteous, and I stood it to the
limit. I stood it an hour, and then the worm turned. I was the warm; it
was my turn to turn, and I turned. I knew very well the strength of my
position; I knew that I was the only spotlessly pure and innocent person
in that whole town, and I came out and said so: And they could not say a
word. It was so true: They blushed; they were embarrassed. Well, that
was the first after-dinner speech I ever made: I think it was after
It's a long stretch between that first birthday speech and this one.
That was my cradle-song; and this is my swan-song, I suppose. I am used
to swan-songs; I have sung them several, times.
This is my seventieth birthday, and I wonder if you all rise to the size
of that proposition, realizing all the significance of that phrase,
The seventieth birthday! It is the time of life when you arrive at a new
and awful dignity; when you may throw aside the decent reserves which
have oppressed you for a generation and stand unafraid and unabashed upon
your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach--unrebuked. You can
tell the world how you got there. It is what they all do. You shall
never get tired of telling by what delicate arts and deep moralities you
climbed up to that great place. You will explain the process and dwell
on the particulars with senile rapture. I have been anxious to explain
my own system this long time, and now at last I have the right.
I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way: by sticking strictly
to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else. It sounds like an
exaggeration, but that is really the common rule for attaining to old
age. When we examine the programme of any of these garrulous old people
we always find that the habits which have preserved them would have
decayed us; that the way of life which enabled them to live upon the
property of their heirs so long, as Mr. Choate says, would have put us
out of commission ahead of time. I will offer here, as a sound maxim,
this: That we can't reach old age by another man's road.
I will now teach, offering my way of life to whomsoever desires to commit
suicide by the scheme which has enabled me to beat the doctor and the
hangman for seventy years. Some of the details may sound untrue, but
they are not. I am not here to deceive; I am here to teach.
We have no permanent habits until we are forty. Then they begin to
harden, presently they petrify, then business begins. Since forty I have
been regular about going to bed and getting up--and that is one of the
main things. I have made it a rule to go to bed when there wasn't
anybody left to sit up with; and I have made it a rule to get up when I
had to. This has resulted in an unswerving regularity of irregularity.
It has saved me sound, but it would injure another person.
In the matter of diet--which is another main thing--I have been
persistently strict in sticking to the things which didn't agree with me
until one or the other of us got the best of it. Until lately I got the
best of it myself. But last spring I stopped frolicking with mince-pie
after midnight; up to then I had always believed it wasn't loaded. For
thirty years I have taken coffee and bread at eight in the morning, and
no bite nor sup until seven-thirty in the evening. Eleven hours. That
is all right for me, and is wholesome, because I have never had a
headache in my life, but headachy people would not reach seventy
comfortably by that road, and they would be foolish to try it. And I
wish to urge upon you this--which I think is wisdom--that if you find you
can't make seventy by any but an uncomfortable road, don't you go. When
they take off the Pullman and retire you to the rancid smoker, put on
your things, count your checks, and get out at the first way station
where there's a cemetery.
I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time.
I have no other restriction as regards smoking. I do not know just when
I began to smoke, I only know that it was in my father's lifetime, and
that I was discreet. He passed from this life early in 1847, when I was
a shade past eleven; ever since then I have smoked publicly. As an
example to others, and--not that I care for moderation myself, it has
always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when
awake. It is a good rule. I mean, for me; but some of you know quite
well that it wouldn't answer for everybody that's trying to get to be
I smoke in bed until I have to go to sleep; I wake up in the night,
sometimes once, sometimes twice; sometimes three times, and I never waste
any of these opportunities to smoke. This habit is so old and dear and
precious to me that I would feel as you, sir, would feel if you should
lose the only moral you've got--meaning the chairman--if you've got one:
I am making no charges: I will grant, here, that I have stopped smoking
now and then, for a few months at a time, but it was not on principle, it
was only to show off; it was to pulverize those critics who said I was a
slave to my habits and couldn't break my bonds.
To-day it is all of sixty years since I began to smoke the limit. I have
never bought cigars with life-belts around them. I early found that
those were too expensive for me: I have always bought cheap cigars--
reasonably cheap, at any rate. Sixty years ago they cost me four dollars
a barrel, but my taste has improved, latterly, and I pay seven, now. Six
or seven. Seven, I think. Yes; it's seven. But that includes the
barrel. I often have smoking-parties at my house; but the people that
come have always just taken the pledge. I wonder why that is?
As for drinking, I have no rule about that. When the others drink I
like to help; otherwise I remain dry, by habit and preference. This
dryness does not hurt me, but it could easily hurt you, because you are
different. You let it alone.
Since I was seven years old I have seldom take, a dose of medicine, and
have still seldomer needed one. But up to seven I lived exclusively on
allopathic medicines. Not that I needed them, for I don't think I did;
it was for economy; my father took a drug-store for a debt, and it made
cod-liver oil cheaper than the other breakfast foods. We had nine
barrels of it, and it lasted me seven years. Then I was weaned. The
rest of the family had to get along with rhubarb and ipecac and such
things, because I was the pet. I was the first Standard Oil Trust.
I had it all. By the time the drugstore was exhausted my health was
established, and there has never been much the matter with me since.
But you know very well it would be foolish for the average child to start
for seventy on that basis. It happened to be just the thing for me,
but that was merely an accident; it couldn't happen again in a century.
I have never taken any exercise, except sleeping and resting, and I never
intend to take any. Exercise is loathsome. And it cannot be any benefit
when you are tired; and I was always tired. But let another person try
my way, and see where he will come out. I desire now to repeat and
emphasise that maxim: We can't reach old age by another man's road. My
habits protect my life, but they would assassinate you.
I have lived a severely moral life. But it would be a mistake for other
people to try that, or for me to recommend it. Very few would succeed:
you have to have a perfectly colossal stock of morals; and you can't get
them on a margin; you have to have the whole thing, and put them in your
box. Morals are an acquirement--like music, like a foreign language,
like piety, poker, paralysis--no man is born with them. I wasn't myself,
I started poor. I hadn't a single moral. There is hardly a man in this
house that is poorer than I was then. Yes, I started like that--the
world before me, not a moral in the slot. Not even an insurance moral.
I can remember the first one I ever got. I can remember the landscape,
the weather, the--I can remember how everything looked. It was an old
moral, an old second-hand moral, all out of repair, and didn't fit,
anyway. But if you are careful with a thing like that, and keep it in a
dry place, and save it for processions, and Chautauquas, and World's
Fairs, and so on, and disinfect it now and then, and give it a fresh coat
of whitewash once in a while, you will be surprised to see how well she
will last and how long she will keep sweet, or at least inoffensive.
When I got that mouldy old moral, she had stopped growing, because she
hadn't any exercise; but I worked her hard, I worked her Sundays and all.
Under this cultivation she waxed in might and stature beyond belief, and
served me well and was my pride and joy for sixty-three years; then she
got to associating with insurance presidents, and lost flesh and
character, and was a sorrow to look at and no longer competent for
business. She was a great loss to me. Yet not all loss. I sold her--
ah, pathetic skeleton, as she was--I sold her to Leopold, the pirate King
of Belgium; he sold her to our Metropolitan Museum, and it was very glad
to get her, for without a rag on, she stands 57 feet long and 16 feet
high, and they think she's a brontosaur. Well, she looks it. They
believe it will take nineteen geological periods to breed her match.
Morals are of inestimable value, for every man is born crammed with sin
microbes, and the only thing that can extirpate these sin microbes is
morals. Now you take a sterilized Christian--I mean, you take the
sterilized Christian, for there's only one. Dear sir, I wish you
wouldn't look at me like that.
Threescore years and ten!
It is the Scriptural statute of limitations. After that, you owe no
active duties; for you the strenuous life is over. You are a time-
expired man, to use Kipling's military phrase: You have served your term,
well or less well, and you are mustered out. You are become an honorary
member of the republic, you are emancipated, compulsions are not for you,
nor any bugle-tail but "lights out." You pay the time-worn duty bills if
you choose, or decline if you prefer--and without prejudice--for they are
not legally collectable.
The previous-engagement plea, which in forty years has cost you so many
tinges, you cam lay aside forever; on this side of the grave you will
never need it again. If you shrink at thought of night, and winter, and
the late home-coming from the banquet and the lights and the laughter
through the deserted streets--a desolation which would not remind you
now, as for a generation it did, that your friends are sleeping, and you
must creep in a-tiptoe and not disturb them, but would only remind you
that you need not tiptoe, you can never disturb them more--if you shrink
at thought of these things, you need only reply, "Your invitation honors
me, and pleases me because you still keep me in your remembrance, but I
am seventy; seventy, and would nestle in the chimney-corner, and smoke my
pipe, and read my book, and take my rest, wishing you well in all
affection; and that when you in your return shall arrive at pier No. 70
you may step aboard your waiting ship with a reconciled spirit, and lay
your course toward the sinking sun with a contented heart."