The (San Francisco) Morning Call

1868: 20 May

MARK TWAIN AT CHURCH.--Mark Twain has been to church. He attended twice last Sunday. Since he returned from the Holy Land he has carefully avoided ministers, the promptings of a guilty conscience having admonished him to beware of them, lest they should "give him a blast," to use the language of the ungodly. He would dodge around the corner at the sight of a clergyman, as a dog runs from the pound-keeper. But last Sunday morning he was prevailed upon to attend church, and his mind was greatly relieved upon his being cordially received after service by the officiating clergyman, who, in warm terms, complimented his letters from the Holy Land. He left the church an altered man, and on his way home deviated from the shortest route, in order to pass boldly by numerous churches. He was suddenly seized with a church-going mania, and in the evening hurried to another house of worship. He entered boldly, walked up the aisle with head erect, and took a seat almost immediately "under the droppings of the divine sanctuary." The clergyman was a newcomer, of the Baptist persuasion, and his sermon was eloquent and impressive. He told of the visit of Onesimus to Rome, and the impression made upon the mind of the simple rustic at the sight of such splendor and magnificence, and when he inquired for Paul, how the crowd in that great city jeered and ridiculed him. "And what is ridicule?" asked the clergyman. "It is the argument of small minds on subjects far above their comprehension; it is the weapon of cowards." In short, he was particularly severe on the subject of ridicule; "and," said he, "there are the letters of this person, Mark Twain, who visits the Holy Land and ridicules sacred scenes and things. The letters are sought after and eagerly read, because of his puerile attempts at wit, and miserable puns upon subjects which are dear to every Christian heart. It is not right that he should take away the faith of a people without giving them something in return." In fact, he handled the funny traveller without gloves, and caused many eyes to be turned toward Mr. Twain, who manifested considerable signs of uneasiness. After the service had concluded, Mark advanced to the preacher, and, holding out his hand, said: "Sir, I never receive a good dressing-down which I deserve unless I thank the party for it. I am Mark Twain. I feel that I deserve everything which you have said about me, and I wish to heartily thank you." The minister was surprised and embarrassed. He had not intended to speak unkindly or unjustly. "Oh, of course not. I could easily see that, by your manner and tone," replied Mark. "I think you are wrong in the positions you have frequently taken in regard to the Holy Land," said the clergyman. "I know I am," replied Mark, "but not altogether." "Well, no; perhaps not altogether," replied the clergyman. After a few more remarks of a kindly nature, Mark retired gracefully, running the gauntlet of the eyes of the whole congregation, who had gathered on the church steps to witness his exit. The scene was witnessed, and the conversation overheard, by a number of the audience. Mark has been heard to say since, that he is aware that he went to great lengths in his Holy Land letters; but then, "those Pilgrims, you know," they so worried and annoyed the "missionary," that, in the heat of momentary passion, he has written many words which his cooler judgment did not approve, and which will not appear in his forthcoming book, which is being prepared in the quiet of his study, away from "Pilgrim" influences.