|[At the end of these reviews is a publicity article describing the "Twins" arrival in St. Louis, and the trouble on the new bridge across the Mississippi that almost kept them from getting there.]|
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A brilliant audience gathered last evening at Mercantile Library Hall to hear "Mark Twain" and George W. Cable read selections from their own writings. Mr. Cable cleverly opened the entertainment by introducing himself in an off-hand way and by giving a passage from Dr. Sevier, which introduced the creole Narcisse and John and Mary Richling. Mr. Cable made a fine impression at the start, and it increased throughout the performance until it became warm enthusiasm at the close. He gave altogether three readings from Dr. Sevier and several songs illustrating the music of the creole negroes in New Orleans, which were very fine and gained him immense applause. "Mark Twain" gained the audience over at the start. His recitals of selections from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Tragic Tale of the Fishwife," in which he comically illustrated the vagaries of the genders in the German tongue, "A Lying Situation" and his "Ghost Story" were inimitable. His quiet, deliberate, solemn manner, and the humor, not only of the readings but of his delivery, kept the house in roars of laughter. Every point was made to tell and not one was missed. As a whole, it was the most enjoyable entertainment of the kind ever given here. The same program was repeated this afternoon, but a new one will be given to-night.
St. Louis Daily Globe Democrat
Mark Twain and George W. Cable
Mark Twain and George W. Cable entertained about 700 of their admirers in Mercantile Library Hall last night. They gave recitals of selections from their respective work, Mark Twain having four pieces on the programme and Mr. Cable the same number. Cable chose passages from his novel Dr. Sevier, in which he aimed to illustrate the characters of Narcisse, the Creole, Kate Riley and Mary Richley. All his recitals were successful in pleasing the audience, and before the evening was at an end the author of Creole Days was a strong favorite with all present. Mark Twain did not fail, however, to hold his own. He kept the assemblage in excellent humor with his literary surprises, and in the "King Sollemun" passage from Huckleberry Finn, the "Tragic Tale of a Fishwife," he which he illustrated the reckless distribution of genders among the nouns of the German language, and in the other selections he tickled the risibles of the audience to an extent that satisfactorily established the popular quality of his humor at least. Mr. Cable is quietly dramatic in his manner, and has a pleasant, pliable voice. His dialectic efforts, too, are very fair. Twain's voice has the resonance of a cracked steamboat whistle. He enunciates slowly, gesticulates with his head, and keeps either hand in a pants pocket during his stay on the stage. Last night's programme will be repeated this afternoon, and tonight new selections will be given.
"This literary conspiracy," as Mark Twain describes the entertainment given by Mr. George W. Cable and himself, is really a very novel and agreeable affair. The idea of an author reading selections from his own works is not a new one, to be sure; Dickens introduced it many year ago, with pronounced success, and others have since adopted it from time to time, with results of various kinds. But this is the first case, we believe, in which two authors have "joined teams" for reading purposes; and certainly no two more widely-read and popular current writers, and yet two writers more distinctly unlike in their literary methods and their personal characteristics, could easily be brought together as a platform attraction. One is blunt, audacious and strongly individualized; the other is delicate, decorous, and not at all self-assertive except in the sense of aiming to do well what is put before him. They appeal to an audience in ways entirely different, just as they are known to write from entirely different points of view; and not the least interesting feature of the entertainment is the chance it affords for noting the shifting and denoting manner in which their recitations--for they recite almost all their "readings"--are received in turn by their hearers. One compels outright laugher, while the other seldom achieves more than smiles and a light murmur of gratification. Those who applaud the one do not always applaud the other; and yet it is hard to tell at the end which has seemed to make the surer impression, so much depends upon the fact that they must be judged together to be judged definitely.
The first thing, perhaps, which strikes the observer as to Mr. Cable is his small stature. There is an impression somehow that a man who writes big book should be physically commanding, though there is no logic in such a thought; and Mr. Cable is remarkable rather for being diminutive than surpassing in that respect. He does not come up to the ordinary standard either in height or bulk, but is noticeably short, thin and light in movement, and at first glance just a trifle disappointing. It does not appear quite reasonable that a man so daintily constructed can be the author of those vigorous and powerful stories of Creole life. His head is a good one, however, and his face radiant and assuring. It is not what would be called a handsome face; it is too pallid, and it is whiskered out of proper proportion, and the long mustache has a tendency to twitch after a fashion that makes it too obviously superfluous. Mr. Cable is a Southern man, but he does not show it in any way. He looks more like a Jerseyman, and still more like an average New Yorker of sedentary employment and severe social tastes. Even his voice is not Southern; but it is very clear and pleasant, and his enunciation is more than usually distinct. He goes about his work with a relish that is infectious, as if he really believed in the characters and scenes which he portrays; and it is quite evident that he has carefully studies all the means by which character is to be specified and picturesque circumstances made vivid and impressive.
Mark Twain, on the other hand, very nearly realizes the idea one would form of him from reading his book. That is to say, he is robust, unconcerned, careless in gait and gesture, and ludicrously solemn of visage--a peculiarity which there is reason to believe he cultivates for business purposes. His voice is harsh, and his habit of nasal drawling is disagreeable, and there are moments when one wishes he did not find it necessary to do so much hesitating between words and phrases. It is to be inferred, of course, that he thinks his stories good or he would not stand up and tell them night after night in preference to those of anybody else; but it is impossible to avoid wondering now and then if his disinterested and stolid manner is entirely assumed. When Cable is talking it is easy to see that he is not only anxious to be entertaining, but that it is an enjoyment to him at the same time; but nothing of that kind is perceptible in the great humorist's case. His general air is that of a man who is fundamentally tired, and who would gladly skip the performance if he could. But it may be that in this very appearance of being bored with his own grotesque yarns lies the secret of persuading other people to laugh at them. We should not like to say that such a thing is out of the range of reasonable probability. And still we have a notion that some, at least, of the stories he tells would be more certain to hit the mark if the audience could be made to feel that he is himself convinced that they are actually and sufficiently funny.
It is to be regretted, we think that Mr. Cable chooses to make most of his selections from "Dr. Sevier." It is not generally regarded as his best work, whatever he may think of it, and his admirers would be more pleased, we must believe, if he would present scenes and characters from those of his stories that are both more familiar and more satisfactory. We venture to say, further, that even if he must make "Dr. Sevier" the basis of his readings, he should not give preference to the merely minor persons and incidents. The widow Riley is well enough in her way, and he mimics her acceptably, but she is of little consequence at best. And so of the suave and deceptive Narcisse, for whom Mr. Cable seems to have a special partiality, but which is shared, we can warrant him, by very few of his readers. There is room to suspect that he has conceived the idea that it is amusement which the people mostly expect, and that it is therefore incumbent upon him to choose in the main such scenes and characters as can be turned to account in that one respect. If so, then he is mistaken, and the mistake is one that is calculated to disparage his standing as an author. He is not in an exact sense a humorist. His reputation has been won in a wholly different field, and through gifts of a wholly different nature. His strength is in the line of the dramatic, the picturesque, the pathetic; and these qualities, we can not help thinking, should appear more conspicuously in his readings--for other wise the value of his work is not properly shown, nor his books fitly recommended.
The order of Mark Twain's humor, unlike that of Mr. Cable's, is such that it can be readily adapted to platform uses. It is bold, distinct, imperative, and deals in quick and sharp surprises. Mr. Cable's method, on the contrary, is groping, artificial, and entirely lacking in the element of suddenness, so to speak. Humor of that sort serves an excellent purpose in lightening the pages of a work of serious fiction, and is useful also in the respect of emphasizing certain forms of character, but when it is subjected to the test of public reading or recitation its want of inherent force and genuineness is at once manifest. Mark Twain's processes of thought lead inevitably to absurd conclusions; he could not avoid such results if he tried. This is not saying that everything he does is bound to be thoroughly laughable and deserving of high praise. He frequently writes trash, and it is necessary to discriminate in passing judgment upon his various contributions to the literature of the period. The fact remains, however, that he is essentially and at all times a humorist, and a very broad and aggressive one. He does not simply reproduce amusing things that he has seen, and report personal peculiarities with which he has come in contract; [sic] he originates and invents, and extracts drollery from things not in themselves of humorous quality. Mr. Cable has no power of that kind; and therefore his humorous efforts suffer by comparison with those of his fellow-reader, and he is obliged to resort to expedients for making his points that are a confession of weakness.
Neither Mark Twain nor Mr. Cable could take a prize in an oratorical contest. The former is particularly not such an orator as Brutus was. He has defects that are natural and ineradicable not only, but also permits himself to indulge many faults that he might correct. It would hardly be possible for a man to handle himself more ungracefully than he does.....
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Author and the Humorist Arrive in the City To-Day.
While Mr. J. B. Pond was this morning standing in the rotunda of the Southern Hotel with Samuel C. Clemens (Mark Twain) standing upon one side of him and George W. Cable upon the other, the POST-DISPATCH reporter present was struck by the touching likeness which the group bore to that beautiful legend which provides a human being with two attendant spirits, one of them of diabolical mien always urging them on to commit felonies and misdemeanors, the other, of angelic aspect, constantly coaxing him to give up his criminal ways. Mark Twain's features, familiarized to the public by several brands of chewing tobacco, cigars and cigarettes, are so well known that it only becomes necessary to describe the appearance of his less Mephistophelian companion. Mr. Cable is, or rather, if he were to be a woman, he would be what the society editors describe as a petite brunette. He is short and slender and dark of complexion, and, dressing in black, presents very much the appearance of a clerical gentleman of absolutely orthodox views. His most remarkable features are his eyes and his forehead, the former being very large, and dark, and intelligent, while the latter is high and broad, and gifted with an intellectual bulge which makes him a much more imposing person when he takes his hat off than he previously appears. A long black beard, and a still longer moustache which would be a phenomenal beauty were the beard not permitted to take the wind out of its sails, complete a very interesting, though not particularly strong, face. After the tableau vivant had signed their names in the hotel register they were accompanied by the POST-DISPATCH reporter to Mr. Clemens' room, where the conversation at once turned upon an accident which had happened to the train which they were on just as it entered upon the first of the arches coming from the Illinois shore. Mr. Clemens undertook to supply the descriptive work and at once began as follows in his peculiar drone which, being a difficult matter to reproduce with the ordinary, copper-faced type as commonly in use among the higher class of American newspapers, must be left for the imagination of the reader to supply:
"We had," he said, "just reached that portion of the bridge which overhangs the crystal waters of the Mississippi River when
between the forward and rear portions of the train. The engine conceived the intention of leaving the track upon which the rest of the train was and moving upon another one, while the remainder of the train decided to remain where it was. The result was that one of the forward passenger cars was switched diagonally across the track. If we had not been going very slowly at the time, the whole train would have left the track.
"Personally, I suppose, you had no fears, being familiar with the river currents?"
"Not in the slightest. It would not have discommoded me in the least to have been tossed into the Mississippi. I know the river thoroughly. It was the other people I was thinking of."
"I noticed you seemed very anxious about the other people," Mr. Cable remarked with a quiet smile.
"It's not wonder," Mr. Clemens resumed. "There was a continuous kind of jolting which became more and more ominous and suggestive as the train advanced. A sense of crumbling--something crumbling beneath us, where stability was of the highest importance to us all personally, became very prominent. I fully expected the bridge to break down--I always have done so when I crossed it--and my anxiety for the safety of the other passengers led me to leap quite hastilty from my seat and make a rush for the nearest exit. I wanted to get out and see what was the matter so that I could intelligently supply the required relief."
"And you got there?" the reporter asked.
"Yes, but unfortunately, too late to be of any service. The train had stopped of its own accord. There were not many people hurt in the accident."
"How were they injured?"
"They happened to be in front when I was going out. I went out in a good deal of a hurry and they were in the way. I'm sorry I can not furnish you with a list of the wounded and a statement of where they came from and the nature of their injuries. I did think of getting up such a list and giving the names of prominent men, but it don't do, after all, to play a practical joke on a newspaper. There are so many people who don't understand a joke, however plain it may be, that the possibility of serious results stands in the way of their perpetration."
Turning the subject the reporter offered to sympathize with Mr. Clemens upon the atrocious character of the cuts which are being published of himself and Mr. Cable.
"They're bad; yes, they're very bad," he said, "but I am glad of it. I would rather have that kind of a picture in the newspapers, because, when people look at us after seeing the picture we make a favorable impression by contrast. This is a new idea in pictorial advertising and it works admirably. Take the average theatrical chromo; it flatters the subject, and when the latter comes under the gaze of an audience the result is a certain amount of disappointment. If the people we go to see on the stage were as handsome as their portraits they could charge double prices. I think Cable's picture flatters him, but mine does not begin to do me justice."
So much time had already been wasted
that the reporter informed Mr. Twain that he had been intrusted to secure an interview and that if he had no objections----
"Not in the least," Mr. Clemens remarked, as he groped nervously through his pockets and finally looked at his visitor with a glance of blank amazement. Then he called out to his partner in the next room: "Cable, have we entirely run out of our Friday interviews?"
"Completely," Mr. Cable answered.
"Too bad," Mr. Clemens remarked.
"Give me a Wednesday or a Saturday one," the reporter suggested.
"'Twouldn't do," Mr. Clemens said with a decisive shake of the head. "We can interchange the other days' interviews among themselves, but none of them with the Friday one. They are too lively. Our Friday interview is staid, sober, calm. Cable wrote it and we've had a run on them. They're all gone. Never mind, I'll hunt through my trunk and if I find one I'll bring it round to the office."
The reporter left, but up to the time of going to press neither the humorist nor the interview had arrived at the office.