Chicago Tribune

1885: January 17

Amusements. The Cable-Twain Readings.

The 800 persons who braved last night's storm to listen to the "Mark Twain"-Cable readings, so-called, were more than repaid for their fortitude. The entertainment was a novel one in that the selections rendered by Messrs. Clemens and Cable were confined entirely to their own writings. The public familiarity with the literary productions of both authors made the readings very enjoyable, however. There is a wide diversity in the manners, methods, and styles of the two men, but a contrast only brings out in stronger relief the merits of both. Mark Twain is funny in every movement, word, and, it may be truly said, thought. The very awkwardness of his gait and the homeliness of the words he uses create a laugh, while the drolleries that persist in rolling from his lips set his auditors off into uncontrollable roars. The muscles of his face and mouth are rigid while he relates an anecdote, but his little, twinkling eyes have a power of expression that is wonderful, making his fun irresistible. He draws his words out in a strong, resonant voice, and has a habit of making comparisons with a sort of negative simile that is simply delicious.

Mr. Cable's humor--for he is humorous--is of a deeper quality, and last night was greatly appreciated. He is quiet in demeanor on the stage and always dignified, except when delineating some ridiculous character. Being a Southerner, he has mastered all the Southern dialects from that of the planter to the creole and common negro. He is not deficient in Irish and Italian dialects. He has a pliable countenance that is powerful in the expression of the different emotions; and, having made a careful study of fireside scenes and conversations in every-day life, he is especially fitted to portray the actions, mannerisms, and expressions of the characters in his "Dr. Sevier," from which he read entirely last night. His first selection did not seem to awake his hearers, but his second--a love scene between a coy Irish widow and a phlegmatic Italian (the first phlegmatic Italian ever discovered)--was so true to life that he earned a well-merited encore, to which he responded with a simple bow. His third number consisted of Creole-negro songs in the French patois used by that race in their weird dances and incantations. "Pauvre Petite Mam'zelle Zizi" was so full of sweet, appealing, touching music, and was sung so well the audience asked for a repetition, which was not given because of a lack of time. Mr. Cable's qualities as a reader came out in the rendition of "Mary's Night Ride," a beautiful but strong poem in prose, and he was hardly permitted to leave the stage. He had achieved a triumph over the audience that had greeted him so coldly on his first appearance.

Mr. Clemens was recalled after every recitation. He kept his hearers in a perpetual roar, and he did his best undoubtedly, as during the evening he took occasion to thank his audience for their attendance upon such a blustering night. He unwittingly created a great deal of merriment by failing to find the proper exit leading to the waiting-room, where he sat during his associate's recitations. He crossed the stage twice, tried every door, and was amazed at the great number of wrong doors he could find. He appeared to be as greatly amused as the laughing lookers-on, and finally dove through a doorway after murmuring "Guess I rehearsed with the wrong door." "I admire this elegant building," said Mr. Cable, laughing heartily at the other's discomfiture, "but I do think a guide should be provided for strangers." All of Mark Twain's selections were from his "Innocents Abroad," except one from the advance sheets of his latest production, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."