The Cohoes Cataract|
[MT lectured in Cohoes, N.Y, Friday evening, 7 January 1870. The local paper was a weekly that came on Saturdays, and gave only this brief notice of the lecture the next day, January 8th:
MARK TWAIN'S LECTURE.--Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) lectured in Egberts Hall, last evening, to a slim audience. Those present were much pleased with his remarks, which were a mixture of history and information with quaint humor. We regret that the Sons of Temperance had so poor a return for their enterprise.
In its next issue the paper offered a full review.]
Mark Twain's Lecture.
We had not opportunity last week of speaking particularly of the entertainment furnished by Mr. Twain in his lecture at Egberts' Hall on Friday evening. It was altogether a novel production, so different, in fact, from what people usually hear from the platform, that the audience was somewhat disappointed; but quite agreeably so, however, for all complained that the lecture was too short, notwithstanding the speaker occupied a full hour in the delivery of his queer, quaint and quizzical remarks. His introduction of himself was remarkably Twain-ish and placed him and his hearers upon good terms at once. He gave many interesting facts concerning the Sandwich Islands, as well as funny incidents, and droll experiences which were all jumbled together in a promiscuous manner that was quite fascinating. From some of his best stories we select the following which "brought down the house":
He said that there was a sort of tradition or belief in the Sandwich Islands, that every great and noted liar always brings up there, in some time of his life. Of course, they stayed there for good and did not come back delivering lectures. One of the greatest of these was a man by the name of Morgan. After he died the natives venerated his memory and recollected him with affection. Once when he was asked if he had ever heard of the Natural Bridge of Virginia, he answered. "Of course, didn't my father help to build it?" Another time, when he was telling about a fast horse he once owned, he said that, "In a thunder storm one day, he rode eighteen miles without getting a drop of water on him, while his dog was swimming along behind!"
One day, while the company were telling stories of mean men, this Morgan capped the climax by telling about a corporation of mean men. "This corporation were having some blasting done, and one day, while one of the men was drilling away, he by chance struck a spark, and the result was a premature blast which blew the man up straight in the air. For a little while he appeared as large as a man, then went up till he looked as large as a boy, then higher till he looked like a doll, then till he looked as large as a bee, and then out of sight. He soon came back again looking as large as a bee, then down till he looked as large as a doll, nearer, till he looked like a boy, then a man again, and came down with his crowbar in precisely the same spot as before, and began drilling away. Now this man was not gone more than fifteen minutes, and this corporation of mean men docked him for lost time!"
We regret that so few were present at this and other lectures given under the auspices of the Sons of Temperance and the "Grand Army of the Republic." The gentlemen composing these associations have, at great sacrifice of time and money, furnished our citizens with quite as good a course of lectures as have been given in our neighboring cities, yet we regret to say, they have as a whole, been poorly patronized, and in many cases found fault with. Some say, "why don't you get Beecher?" Others, "why don't you get Gough or George W. Curtis?" We will answer for them. Mr. Beecher would not come at any price, and the sum asked by Mr. Gough was entirely beyond the possibility of raising even if the hall were filled at fifty cents for each ticket, which, judging by past experience, could not be done; for only a few seasons since, that celebrated lecturer was advertised to speak in the M. E. Church, in behalf of the temperance cause, at twenty-five cents admission, and the house was not half filled,--a fact not at all creditable to our citizens. George W. Curtis might be obtained if the people would come out; but as in the case of Mr. Gough, the last time he appeared before a Cohoes audience, the receipts failed to pay expenses, and the association were compelled to make up the deficiency. This ought not to be, for there is a sufficient number of intelligent people in our large population to sustain one or even two courses of lectures creditably, if not profitably to those who take the trouble to secure them.
In closing, we will state that the Sons of temperance have engaged George Francis Train, and the G. A. R. have made an engagement with Dr. Hays, the celebrated Arctic explorer, and also with Mr. J. Mines the editor of the Troy Times, to lecture before our citizens in a short time, and we sincerely hope that they may have an audience, not only commensurate with their reputation and talents as lecturers, but that the associations under whose auspices they are to appear, may, to some extent, at least, be reimbursed for the losses they have sustained on former occasions.