Spokane Encounter with an Interviewer
7 August 1895
He Chats Pleasingly and Perpetuates a Few Original Jokes
Mark Twain, with his wife and daughter, Miss Clara Clemens, arrived last night from the east, accompanied by Major Pond and wife. At the Hotel Spokane he was requested to receive an introduction to a newspaper man.
"I will receive anything that Spokane has to offer," he replied, with an attempt to smile.
Samuel Clemens is approaching his 60th year. He has a full and ruddy face, adorned with an iron-gray moustache and wears a fluffy shock of grayish hair. In conversation he is deliberate, with only now and then a trace of humor bubbling to the surface. With reference to his financial reverses he said:
"I have started on this tour chiefly for the purpose of paying those debts. I did not contract them, but must pay them." For a summer tour, he said, his success had been surprising and gratifying. He intends to sail August 16 from Vancouver, visiting the Sandwich Islands, Australia, New Zealand and Ceylon, the cities of India and South Africa, and will return home by way of London. If he stops to lecture in Great Britain he will be absent about a year.
"Do the English people appreciate American humor?" the reporter inquired.
"Indeed they do," he answered with earnestness. "One has no trouble with an English audience."
Mark Twain's most successful books, he said, are "Roughing It," "Innocents Abroad" and "The Tramp Abroad." He still derives a revenue from those works and would be in reasonably comfortable circumstances were there no debts hanging over his head.
"Yes, my health is good," the humorist replied to a question, "with the exception of an abominable carbuncle, and that is improving. I wrote to my friend Carey of the Century, giving him a minute description of my affliction. He replied that he was an expert on buncles, and from my description he was convinced that this one did not belong to the ordinary or plebeian family, generally known as carbuncles. He said it must be an aristocratic Pullman car-buncle."
Mr. Clemens paid a high tribute to the steamers between Buffalo and Duluth.
"Twelve years ago," he said, "I was six days making that trip. This time it required only two days on the magnificent new boats, the Northland and the Northwest. I have never seen any European steamers inland that approached them for speed and comfort. In fact, the European steamers are cattle boats in comparison with these. Then the land travel. After suffering the discomforts and inconveniences for four years abroad I know how to value the home product."
Incidentally Mr. Clemens was told that some enthusiastic admirers of Dan De Quille believe that the Virginia City humorist invented the stories told in "Roughing It."
"They are cordially welcome to think so," he said. "William H. Wright is one of the noblest men in the world. He was born a newspaper man. I saw his nephew in Chicago a short time ago and he told me that Dan was still grinding away at Virginia City. I wish I could see him. We would have a great time."
"You know Will Visscher and Captain Jack Crawford, the poet scout?"
"I know John W. Crawford, but Visscher -- Visscher, did you say? The name is familiar."
"In polite circles he is known as Colonel Will L. Visscher."
"Does he move in polite circles?"
"Oh, yes, he does that."
"Then I guess I don't know him."
Discussing Mark Twain's books, the author was asked which of his sketches he deemed the funniest.
"I have no favorites," he answered. "What is your judgment?"
"The jaybird story, by all odds."
Laughing heartily for the first time during the conversation, he said:
"It was over three years after 'Roughing It' was published when I picked up a newspaper and read that sketch. I thought it was funny until I remembered that I had written it. A friend of mine suggested that this would be a good thing for the platform. I embodied it in one of my lectures and the audience fell asleep."
Mr. Clemens' lectures are not in the nature of "readings," but rather are original productions, interspersed with selections from his writings. During his absence abroad he will write another book, which his friend Carey has advised him to call "The New Innocents Abroad," but he is not entirely pleased with that title.
After the lecture at the Auditorium this evening Mr. Clemens will leave over the Northern Pacific for Portland.