« PreviousContinue »
MR. CHAIRMAN, AND GENTLEMEN OF THE HIBERNIAN SOCIETY :I am very glad, indeed, to have the honor of being present in this Society once more; as it was my good fortune to enjoy a most pleasant visit here and an acquaintance with the members of your Society last year. My engagements were such to-day that I could not get here earlier; and just as I was coming in Governor Beaver was making his excuses because, as he said, he had to go to pick up a visitor whom he was to escort to the entertainment to be given this evening at the Academy of Music. I am the visitor whom Governor Beaver is looking for. He could not capture me during the war, but he has captured me now. I am a Virginian and used to ride a pretty fast horse, and he could not get close enough to me.
By the way, you have all heard of “George Washington and his little hatchet.” The other day I heard a story that was a little variation upon the original, and I am going to take up your time for a minute by repeating it to you. It was to this effect : Old Mr. Washington and Mrs. Washington, the parents of George, found on one occasion that their supply of soap for the use of the family at Westmoreland had been exhausted, and so they decided to make some family soap. They made the necessary arrangements and gave the requisite instructions to the family servant. After an hour or so the servant returned and reported to them that he could not make that soap. Why not,” he was asked, “haven't you all the materials ? " “Yes,” he replied, “but there is something wrong." The old folks proceeded to investigate, and they found they had actually got the ashes of the little cherry tree that George had cut down with his hatchet, and there was no lye in it.
Now, I assure you, there is no “lie” in what I say to you this afternoon, and that is, that I thank God for the sun of the Union which, once obscured, is now again in the full stage of its glory; and that its light is shining over Virginia as well as over the rest of the country. We have had our differences. I do not see, upon reading history, how they could well have been avoided, because they resulted from different constructions of the Constitution, which was the helm of the ship of the Republic. Virginia construed it one way, Pennsylvania construed it in an other, and they could not settle their differences ; so they went to war, and Pennsylvania, I think, probably got a little the best of it.
The sword, at any rate, settled the controversy. But that is behind
We have now a great and glorious future in front of us, and it is Virginia's duty to do all that she can to promote the honor and glory of this country. We fought to the best of our ability for four years; and it would be a great mistake to assume that you could bring men from their
cabins, from their ploughs, from their houses and from their families to make them fight as they fought in that contest unless they were fighting for a belief. Those men believed that they had the right construction of the Constitution, and that a State that voluntarily entered the Union could voluntarily withdraw from it. They did not fight for Confederate money. It was not worth ten cents a yard. They did not fight for Confederate rations ; you would have had to curtail the demands of your appetite to make it correspond with the size and quality of those rations. They fought for what they thought was a proper construction of the Constitution. They were defeated. They acknowledged their defeat. They came back to their father's house, and there they are going to stay. But if we are to continue prosperous, if this country, stretching from the Gulf to the lakes, and from ocean to ocean, is to be mindful of its best interests in the future, we will have to make concessions and compliances, we will have to bear with each other and to respect each other's opinions. Then we will find that that harmony will be secured which is as necessary for the welfare of the States as it is for the welfare of individuals.
I have become acquainted with Governor Beaver-I met him in Richmond. You could not make me fight him now. If I had known him before the war, perhaps we would not have got at it. If all the Governors had known each other, and if all the people of different sections had been known to each other, or had been thrown together in business or social communication, the fact would have been recognized at the outset, as it is to-day, that there are just as good men in Maine as there are in Texas, and just as good men in Texas as there are in Maine. Human nature is everywhere the same ; and when intestine strifes occur we shall doubtless always be able by a conservative, pacific course to pass smoothly over the rugged, rocky edges, and the old Ship of State will be brought into a safe, commodious, Constitutional harbor with the flag of the Union flying over her, and there it will remain.
SAMUEL L. CLEMENS (1835
THE ORATOR OF LAUGHTER
NY man who attempts to introduce “Mark Twain ” to an
American audience might as well write himself down as a
promising candidate for a lunatic asylum. Everybody knows the genial “Mark,”—that is, everybody who reads and has been blessed by mother Nature with an appreciative taste for humor. His books, from “The Innocents Abroad” to the latest contribution to the literature of mirth, lie on a myriad tables in our land, and have elicited enough laughter to lift the dome of the Capitol. Mr. Clemens, born in Missouri, was in his early life a printer, a Mississippi steamboat pilot, and secretary to his brother, who was Secretary of Nevada Territory. His later life has been passed in authorship, with intermissions devoted to lecturing, in which his ample vein of humor breaks prominently out. We append a brief example of his method.
UNCONSCIOUS PLAGIARISM [“ Mark Twain " has frequently made his mark as an after-dinner orator. One of his efforts was at a dinner given by the publishers of the Atlantic Monthly to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, in recognition of his seventieth birthday. The remarks of Mr. Clemens on this occasion formed a good example of his genial wit and humor, and are well worth reproducing.)
MR. CHAIRMAN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :- I would have traveled a much greater distance than I have come to witness the paying of honors to Dr. Holmes; for my feeling towards him has always been one of peculiar warmth. When one receives a letter from a great man for the first time in his life, it is a large event to him, as all of you know by your own experience. You never can receive letters enough from famous men afterward to obliterate that one, or dim the memory of the pleasant surprise it was, and the gratification it gave you. Lapse of time cannot make it commonplace or cheap.
Well, the first great man who ever wrote me a letter was our guestOliver Wendell Holmes. He was also the first great literary man I ever stole anything from, and that is how I came to write to him and he to me. When my first book was new, a friend of mine said to me, The dedication is very neat.” Yes, I said, I thought it was. My friend said: “I always admired it, even before I saw it in the ‘Innocents Abroad ’." I naturally said, “What do you mean?
“What do you mean? Where did you ever see it before ?" “Well, I saw it first some years ago as Dr. Holmes' dedication to his 'Songs in Many Keys.'” Of course, my first impulse was to prepare this man's remains for burial, but upon reflection I said I would reprieve him for a moment or two, and give him a chance to prove his assertion if he could. We stepped into a bookstore and he did prove it. I had really stolen that dedication, almost word for word. I could not imagine how this curious thing had happened ; for I knew one thing,—that a certain amount of pride always goes along with a teaspoonful of brains, and that this pride protects a man from deliberately stealing other people's ideas. That is what a teaspoonful of brains will do for a man;-and admirers had often told me I had nearly a basketful, though they were rather reserved as to the size of the basket.
However, I thought the thing out and solved the mystery. Two years before I had been laid up a couple of weeks in the Sandwich Islands, and had read and re-read Dr. Holmes' poems till my mental reservoir was filled up with them to the brim. The dedication lay on the top and handy, so, by and by, I unconsciously stole it. Perhaps I unconsciously stole the rest of the volume, too, for many people have told me that my book was pretty poetical, in one way or another. Well, of course, I wrote Dr. Holmes and told him I hadn't meant to steal, and he wrote back and said in the kindest way that it was all right and no harm done ; and added that he believed we all unconsciously worked over ideas gathered in reading and hearing, imagining they were original with ourselves. He stated a truth, and did it in such a pleasant way, and salved over my sore spot so gently and so healingly, that I was rather glad I had committed the crime, for the sake of the letter. I afterward called on him and told him to make perfectly free with any ideas of mine that struck him as being good protoplasm for poetry. He could see by that that there wasn't anything mean about me; so we got along right from the start. I have not met Dr. Holmes many times since; and lately he said -however, I am wandering wildly away from the one thing which I got on my feet to do; that is, to make my compliments to you, my fellowteachers of the great public, and likewise to say I am right glad to see that Dr. Holmes is still in his prime and full of generous life ; and as age
is not determined by years, but by trouble and infirmities of mind and body, I hope it may be a very long time yet before any one can truthfully say, "He is growing old."
THE DRESS OF CIVILIZED WOMAN A large part of the daughter of civilization is her dress--as it should be. Some civilized women would lose half their charm without dress ; and some would lose all of it. The daughter of modern civilization dressed at her utmost best is a marvel of exquisite and beautiful art and expense. All the lands, all the climes, and all the arts are laid under tribute to furnish her forth. Her linen is from Belfast, her robe is from Paris, her lace is from Venice, or Spain, or France, her feathers are from the remote regions of Southern Africa, her furs from the remoter region of the iceberg and the aurora, lier fan from Japan, her diamonds from Brazil, her bracelets from California, her pearls from Ceylon, her cameos from Rome. She has gems and trinkets from buried Pompeii, and others that graced comely Egyptian forms that have been dust and ashes now for forty centuries. Her watch is from Geneva, her card-case is from China, her hair is from—from—I don't know where her hair is from ; I never could find out. That is, her other hair-her public hair, her Sunday hair ; I don't mean the hair she goes to bed with ..
And that reminds me of a trifle; any time you want to, you can glance round the carpet of a Pullman car, and go and pick up a hairpin ; but not to save your life can you get any woman in that car to acknowledge that hairpin. Now, isn't that strange! But it's true. The woman who has never swerved from cast-iron veracity and fidelity in her whole life will, when confronted with this crucial test, deny her hairpin. She will deny that hairpin before a hundred witnesses. I have stupidly got into more trouble and more hot water trying to hunt up the owner of a hairpin in a Pullman than by any other indiscretion of my life.