Fellow-Workers in Fiction Dine
with Him at Delmonico's.
HEAR WHY HE LIVED SO LONG.
And How They, If They Resemble Him,
May Reach Seventy, Too--Roose-
velt Sends Congratulations.
Mark Twain, the greatest of living humorists and the uncrowned king of American letters, whose standing joke among his intimate friends is the pretension that his real name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, celebrated his seventiety birthday last night. Or perhaps it would be more proper to say that others did it for him, Mark Twain himself being too busy making a speech.
There were 170 of his friends and fellow-craftsmen in literature gathered in the Red Room at Delmonico's for the celebration. Barring a half dozen or so, all were guaranteed to be genuine creators of imaginative writings--or illustrators of such writings. The guarantee was furnished by Col. George Harvey, editor of The North American Review, who was the host of the evening as well as the Chairman.
Even the presence as the guest of honor of the world's foremost fun maker could not drive away the serious reflection that never before in the annals of this country had such a representative gathering of literary men and women been seen under one roof. They were representative in every conceivable respect--even geographically. There was no corner of this country that did not have at least one favorite son--or daughter--present. The Far North and the extreme South, the New England States, and the Pacific slope--all sent delegates.
A particular feature of the dinner was the strength of the feminine contingent. There were fully as many women there as men, and they were not present as mere appendages of their husbands, but as individuals representing the art of imaginative writing no less than the men. An observer looking over the host of diners, after having scanned the list of guests and noticed that every feminine name in it was familiar to all readers, could not but wonder that the women he found corresponding to those names were all young and pretty. The whole gathering did not seem to include half a dozen women with streaks of gray in their hair.
All--men as well as women--showed by word and manner and act that they looked upon the chief guest as the master. The greeting when he rose to speak was one which might have tickled the vanity of the vainest of political adventurers. No one thought of measuring the duration of the applause and the cheering, however, because everybody, including the reporters, were too busy swelling the volume of that ovation.
Unintroduced, as it seemed most befitting, Mr. Clemens rose to respond to the toast proposed to him by his fellow-veteran in the literary service, William Dean Howells. It would be difficult to pick a more critical audience--and yet, as the great humorist talked on in his characteristic, inimitable drawl, the men and women present laughed until their laughter turned into groans. Yet a strain of melancholy ran perceptibly through the speaker's sentences Toward the end it gained predominance, and the last words were spoken with a voice quivering with emotion.
To those who listened, the man appeared younger than ever, and when he pretended to look down upon really old men with scorn, his attitude was thought more than a clever conceit. The character of the occasion caused Mr. Clemens to hark back to other birthdays, of which he admitted having had a great many. And his reminiscences concerned, in particular, the first of them all. Between this and the last one, so far he drew an inferred comparison, the comparison was entirely in favor of the seventieth.
[Here the Times printed a transcript of MT's speech.]
The dinner began at 8 o'clock. Soon before that hour the guests began to gather in the parlor adjoining the Red Room. In the corridor outside, place had been prepared for an orchestra of forty directed by Nahan Franko. When the march, serving as a signal for the procession to the dining room, was played, Mr. Clemens led the way, with Mrs. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman on his arm.
The couples that followed would have attracted attention wherever they were seen and recognized. Col. Harvey led Princess Troubetzkov, who once was Amelie Rives and still writes under that name. Andrew Carnegie and Agnes Repplier, the essayist, followed side by side.
After them came John Burroughs and Mrs. Louise Chandler Moulton, who was the first author from whom Henry Mills Alden received a contribution after becoming editor of Harper's Monthly, more than forty years ago. The Rev. Dr. Henry Van Dyke escorted Mrs. Frances Hodgson Burnett, while Bliss Carman, the poet, led Mrs. Ruth McEmery Stuart.
While the dinner was in progress, the guests--one table at a time--went out into another room and had their pictures taken in groups. The pictures will form the most conspicuous feature of an album which is to be given to Mr. Clemens as a souvenir of the occasion.
The menu was printed within a circle of pen-and-ink sketches by Leon Barrit, showing the guest of honor at the successive stages of his long and varied career--as printer, as Mississippi pilot, as gold miner in the far West, as editor in the same adventurous region, as world traveller, and, finally, as a lecturer pronouncing to empty benches the maxim: "Be good and you will be lonesome."
Toward the end of the dinner the souvenirs were brought in. They were plaster of paris busts of Mark Twain, about a foot high and excellently modeled. When the distribution had been completed there were just 171 Mark Twains in the room, including the original.
Col. Harvey's first act as toastmaster of the evening was to call on Miss Cutting, President of the Vassar College Alumni Association, to read this letter which had been received from President Roosevelt:
My Dear Col. Harvey: I wish it were in my power to be at the dinner held to celebrate the seventieth birthday of Mark Twain--it is difficult to write of him by his real name instead of by that name which has become a household word wherever the English language is spoken. He is one of the citizens whom all Americans should delight to honor, for he has rendered a great and peculiar service to America, and his writings, though such as no one but an American could have written, yet emphatically come within that small list which are written for no particular country, but for all countries, and which are not merely written for the time being, but have an abiding and permanent value. May he live long, and year by year may he add to the sum of admirable work that he has done. Sincerely yours, THEODORE ROOSEVELT.
The reading of the letter was the cause of prolonged applause.