Providence Daily Journal

1884: November 10

Blackstone Hall.

Mr. Samuel L. Clemens and Mr. George W. Cable appeared at Blackstone Hall on Saturday before two audiences as interpreters of their own writings. Both these gentlemen have read in this city before, and their appearance and style of delivery are known. In the afternoon the audience filled about two-thirds of the sittings. Mr. Cable's selections were from "Dr. Sevier," and included scenes between Narcisse and Kate Riley, Narcisse and John Richling, when the Creole was mourning the death of Lady Byron and endeavoring to decide whether his obituary tribute should be poetic or prosaic in form, and the courtship of Kate Riley by the Italian Ristofalo. Mr. Cable was singularly successful, not only in tone and accent but in pose and gesture in depicting the widely different characters, the volatile Celtic widow, the sentimental Creole and the honest love of the pleading Italian of few plain words. Mary Richling's ride with the spy through both federal and confederate lines was Mr. Cable's closing reading. The selection is a strong one and it was read and acted with a force and realism seldom seen even on the dramatic stage with the accessories of scenery. It must certainly be regarded as a mark of talent little short of genius that a man of Mr. Cable's pursuits can so completely obliterate himself by conveying in rapid turns the whispers or hoarse commands of the spy, the husky croak of the negro guide, the terrified cry of the infant awakened by the shots of the sentries, and the agonizing wail of the mother riding for life and her husband's bedside, as to cause no rude shock in the listener. This selection may be deemed the author's supreme effort on the platform. It was thrillingly rendered. At its close he sang a Creole love song to ma belle p'tit' fille, without accompaniment. The contrast with the pathos of the preceding selection was too great, and the song fell flat. The author noted this, and the second verse was much better appreciated.

Mr. Clemens ran his hand through his hair, and with a few humorous remarks about the programme, calling for something he hadn't at hand, proceeded to ignore it. He read the story of a reporter's attempt to interview him, in which he solemnly stated that either he or his twin brother was drowned in the bathtub in infancy, which was never known, and also the account of his experience as temporary editor of an agricultural weekly. An old sea captain's story was well told, and in conclusion Mr. Clemens narrated a ghost story about the woman with the golden arm, a story similar to one of Uncle Remus's. It was like crooning a nursery tale to adults; but it was well told, and was so well received as to suggest that the Remus stories read by their author would find appreciative listeners.

The hall was nearly filled by a select and cultured audience at the evening entertainment. Mr. Cable appeared first, and rendered several peculiar airs, illustrative of the "Songs of the Place Congo." Mr. Clemens again took the liberty to change the selections which had been announced for him, for the double reason, as he stated in his characteristic manner, that he could not endure it to be always bound down to a fixed course of action, and he also knew that the audience would not endure to hear him read all that the programme had set out for him. It would take until after breakfast time next morning, and he was very particular about his breakfast. And so the humorist repeated "The Tragic Tale of the Fishwife," a suite upon the confounding of gender in German nouns. Mr. Clemens was very cordially applauded, both on his first appearance and at the end of each of his readings.

Mr. Cable gave selections from the familiar story of "Powson Jone'." As usual he did not appear at his best at the outset of his recitation, but gradually lost himself in the impersonations, and then displayed that brilliant versatility in the dramatic representation of entirely different characters, which is the remarkable feature of his readings and which makes so realistic the pictures he presents. The interview between that innocently artful sophist, Jules St. Ange, and the repenting parson so overcome by reflection on "My sins, Jools, my sins," in the calaboose, whither the young Frenchman goes to liberate the West Floridian, was given with consummate skill, and called forth hearty applause.

Mr. Clemens delighted the audience with some of the enthusiastic and visionary projects of the famous "Col. Mulberry Sellers," for the materialization of the waste human forces floating about in the atmosphere, and only awaiting such a scientific genius as that of Sellers to make them of incalculable benefit to the world at large, while accumulating untold millions for the inventor. The humorist introduced one variation for the occasion, which was greatly appreciated and warmly applauded, being the proposition of Col. Sellers to materialize voters and enter upon political life, because the dead voters capable of materialization would so outnumber the live ones that there would be no uncertainty as to the result, and no waiting four or five days before we could find out who was elected.

Mr. Clemens gave as his third selection "The Trying Situation," which was on the afternoon programme but was not read then, and closed with the repetition of the story of the Golden Arm, of which the startling denouement made a good share of the audience jump perceptibly from their seats.

It is to be said that the "Twain"-Cable combination affords a very agreeable and instructive entertainment. The distinguished Louisiana novelist has fully sustained the favorable impression which he made upon his Providence audiences, on the occasion of his first visit here, last Spring, and the opportunity of hearing Mr. Clemens, as the interpreter of his own humor, was highly appreciated by the hosts of readers of his "health-promoting" sketches. It was a matter of regret to the auditors that the enunciation of Mr. Clemens was not at all times as distinct as it might have been, but his manner and intonation in portraying the situations of his various characters added to the pictures an appreciation which printed pages along cannot afford.