The Buffalo Times

1884: December 11

A Large and Fashionable Audience Listen to the Readings of a Humorist and a Novelist

[Transcribed from Pond's broadside poster.]

A very large and fashionable audience assembled in Concert Hall last night to hear that prince of humor, Mark Twain (Samuel M. Clemens), and that celebrated novelist, George W. Cable, in their joint readings. They went expecting a treat and they got decidedly more than they bargained for. A more delighted, amused, thoroughly satisfied audience never filled the auditorium of any building in Buffalo. Mark Twain, like old wine, or old friends, seems to improve with age, and his dry, unconscious, apparently spontaneous humor kept the audience in convulsions of laughter. With the exception of his first reading, given in the program below, most of the great humorist's admirers have heard or read the selections he gave last night, but they are of the kind that never grow "stale, flat or unprofitable" by repetition.

Mr. Cable's readings were not one whit less appreciated than were Twain's. His style of rendition is different, of course; his genius for description and natural intuition of the exact phases and character of all men are wonderful, and when his own writings are given with the exactitude and faithfulness he would have them, his genius and power stand out, and one can easily perceive the living images molded and shaped by his artist hands and master brain. Those who have read Mr. Cable's novels of Southern life, and have fancied they have struck the exact chord, even to the peculiar Creole patois and Creole life, need to hear the man who conceived the works to find that, no matter how careful may have been their study, they are somewhat mistaken.

As the two distinguished men of letters came upon the stage a volley of rattling applause greeted their ears. Bowing low, Mark Twain introduced his friend and brother lecturer with a few remarks that tickled the risibilities of the audience into immediate good humor. "Allow me to introduce to you, ladies and gentlemen," said Mark, "one whom I regard, the world regards, and you regard, as the greatest modern writer of ancient fiction, and likewise the greatest ancient writer of modern fiction the world has ever known. One who has all the talent, all virtues and all vices blended together to make the perfect man -- Mr. Geo. W. Cable," and Mark bowed himself off the stage amidst prolonged laughter.

"I am very glad he mentioned my name at the last minute," said Mr. Cable, "or you might have supposed it was the other man!" He then gave with all the power of the consummate elocutionist and the author a selection from Dr. Sevier. Presuming that Mr. Cable's life among the people of Louisiana, and more particularly among the Creoles, has given him a thorough acquaintance with their peculiar life and dialect, his rendering of the conversation of Narcisse, the Creole, was admirable and true. Mr. Cable makes a fine appearance on the stage, has a very clear, musical voice, and never fails for an instant to keep his audience absorbed in his word painting processes; so absorbved that they too can see as he saw with his genius when he brought them before life with his pen and ink, his characters and the scenes surrounding them; see them arise before their eyes and live and move and talk until he finishes his recital.

When the applause had died away somewhat, Mr. Cable introduced Mark Twain with a few felicitously chosen words. Said Mark (half the humor is lost in the cold type): "I notice many changes in the city in the last fourteen or fifteen years since I was here. I miss many old friends. Some have gone to the tomb, some to the gallows, and some to the White House. [Laughter.] Thus far," he continued, with a long-drawn sigh, "the rest are spared. Over us all, my friends, hangs the same awful, uncertain fate; let us be secure against error, and prepare for the worst. I remember a certain circumstance of that by-gone time which I shall never forget. I arrived here after dark one night in 1870, with my wife. We were met by several friends, and I asked Mr. Slee to get us a cheap boarding-house, because it's always a good thing to practise economy. Then they drove us around through all the back streets of Buffalo for about four hours. It seems that my friends kept up a joke on me, and a real good joke it was, too. My father-in-law, Mr. Jarvis Langdon, had clandestinely bought a house on Delaware Avenue and furnished it up for us. It was a great secret -- so secret that I guess every man this side of Niagara Falls knew about it, except myself. They drove us up to the house, and when the door was opened by the supposed landlady, and I saw the elegant furniture, my opinion of Mr. Slee, and his ideas of a cheap boarding-house, went way down to zero. I told Mrs. Thompson, or Mrs. Jenkins, or whatever the landlady's name was, that we could only stay a week: I had lots of talent, but not enough money to stay at such a palatial residence. My friends, who had assembled there before I had arrived, then explained the joke. Now," continued the speaker, "that was really a fine joke; but those kind are all too scarce nowadays. It was an admirable joke, admirably conceived, admirably conveyed, and admirably carried out. The house doesn't belong to us now, but the coachman we still have. He has been lavishly endowed by fortune; why, that man has a wife and nine children!" He then read a short chapter from the "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," which was sufficient proof to show that in this, Mark Twain's latest literary effort, his fund of humor has not yet left him.

In place of No. 5 on the programme, Mr. Cable gave a Creole song, which was so admirable and beautiful that he was obliged to answer the encore by giving another. Besides having proven himself an author, elocutionist, and man of great genius, he proved himself a splendid singer, with a soft, clear, beautiful voice. "Mary's Night Ride" was grand. Mr. Cable painted with his author's brush the thrilling incident of that ride through the Confederate lines, as found in Dr. Sevier.

Mark Twain concluded with one of his ghost stories. He said it was growing late, and he would have to tell a short one, and not the one a morning paper (it was the Times, by the way) said he would give about the North Street burying-ground. It is needless to say it was told in his usual inimitable style.

Those who want a good laugh, and have a literary turn of mind, should go to-night.

The Buffalo Express

1884: December 11


The audience that greeted "Mark Twain" and George W. Cable at Concert Hall last evening was as fine a one as the most fastidious could desire, and that it was appreciative the spontaneous applause and constant bursts of laughter that greeted each alternate speaker fully testified. When everybody was well seated the two made their appearance together, and as Mr. Cable was down for the first reading, it devolved on Mr. Clemens to introduce him, which he did in his own peculiar style. He began in much the usual fashion, but soon ran into an erratic eulogy of Mr. Cable, characterizing him as one that "I regard, you regard, the world regards as the most gifted ancient writer of modern fiction, the most gifted modern writer of ancient fiction, in whom all talent, all viture, all vice is blended to form the perfect man."

Mr. Cable's readings were from his latest novel, "Dr. Sevier," except in the third appearance when he varied the printed programme by an African Creole song, which he rendered very finely. It was a peculiar bit of plaintive minor music, and the light soft voice of the novelist was well adapted to it. Responding to the encore he sang a short bit representing the wail of a Creole mother for her lost child.

"Mark Twain," as an old resident of Buffalo, felt it necessary to renew former acquaintances. He scanned the audience from beneath those heavy brows and said that he missed many faces that he knew so well here fourteen or fifteen years ago. They had gone, gone to the tomb, to the gallows -- or to the White House. All of us must at last go to one or another of these destinations, and he advised his audience to be wise and prepare for them all.

The lecturer closed this grave introduction of himself by wishing his audience the same prosperity his coachman enjoyed and then plunged into "Huck Finn," relating his original notions of "King Sollermun" to Negro Jim.

Had a search been made for two men of letters more unlike in appearance that "Twain" and Cable the result would have been a total failure. The Southern novelist is the precise, alert, brisk man of style, keenly alive dto his part in the entertainment, his voice full of quavers and graceful turns of enunciation, his rendering as dramatic as he could make it, which came near the tragic in his rendering of "Mary's Night Ride." On the other hand, "Mark Twain" is the man from way back who has sat down by the stove at the corner grocery, gathered his cronies about him, and is telling a story as only he can tell it. Grim, slow, solemn, not a smile or an apparent attempt to dress up his lines, yet doubtless as keenly alive to the effect as the other. The one is of the dapper sort, as polite as a dancing master, and the other is ponderous and heavy, who for an obeisance merely works his head to a certain noticeable angle.

The two in this way form a splendid contrast and relieve each other very acceptably. If the applause and amused smiles aroused by Mr. Cable and the hearty laughter given in response to "Mark Twain" humor measure the enjoyment of the audience, that enjoyment was very great.