From St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat,|
26 March 1867
MARK TWAIN'S LECTURE.--The lecture to be delivered to-night in Library Hall by "Mark Twain," for
the benefit of South St. Louis Mission Sunday School, has attracted much attention. The lecture
will be on the Sandwich Islands, where the lecturer has spent several months time.
A gentleman stepped on the stage and announced that wisdom would commence to flow precisely at eight o'clock. To while away the time till then, he said he "would treat them with a whistling, which some called foolish," and a song, "The moon shines bright," both of which won loud and prolonged applause. Precisely at eight o'clock, at previously announced, the veritable Mark Twain himself appeared, to the great delight of the audience. As he informed the audience, he had been residing in the Sandwich Islands. Being one of the wandering Bohemians, he had devoted his time to obtaining information to let the public know of the result of his travels. After his residence there, he was well-qualified to deliver an interesting, instructive and amusing lecture. He certainly succeeded in making it all three. His remarks were witty and humorous. He kept his audience in a roar of laughter and a perpetual chuckle. His wit was not of the evanescent kind. One was not obliged to be always on the qui vive to catch the brilliant flashes of wit that he dealt with so much ease. Neither was it of that kind which Douglas Jerrold defines dogmatism, "puppyism come to maturity."
He was decidedly humorous also. He did not cut the audience short. His humor was tangible, and the laugh raised at the first hearing of his remarks died not away with the conclusion of the sentence. One seemed to be chuckling incessantly, and with faces wreathed in smiles, the audience listened for the next remarks, which increased the chuckles to a hearty laugh.
He commenced his lecture on the Sandwich Islands by stating: "That when at Julesberg, which is about four hundred miles west of St. Louis, he heard a little anecdote of Horace Greeley, going to lecture at Carson, from a man who said he was afraid that he would be too late to hear him. Further westward still, he heard the same anecdote, or a pleasing incident about the mail service, in connection with Horace Greeley, and again he heard it in Nevada, or was about to hear it, when he stopped the story teller, and inquired of him, if the anecdote was about Horace Greeley, the mail service, the lecture and Carson City. On being told it was, he declined hearing it. On coming east, he had seen that anecdote in almost every newspaper, but he had not heard it in St. Louis, and therefore he thought he would tell it, as a pleasing incident about the mail service, in connection with Horace Greeley going to lecture at Carson City.
Ladies and gentlemen, I suppose you are all interested in the Sandwich Islands; of course you must be, because it is the center of missionary labor. And you all know that hymn which so aptly refers to it; (he repeats)
As no one was going to lead the singing, he would leave it where it was.
Sandwich Islands are situated about 2100 miles west of San Francisco. I wonder why they were placed in the middle of the ocean; as it is none of our business we won't talk any more about it. It is a splendid sugar country, better than the best of Louisiana land, can get from 5,000 to 13,000 pounds of sugar raised to the acre, but I own no acre there.
The islands are twelve in number, and have volcanoes, the largest dead volcanoes in the world. Eighty years ago, there was a population of 400,000 people. The white men came, brought civilization and several other diseases, and now the race is fast dying out, and will be extinct in about fifty years hence. They got consumptive when civilization got there, and they will shortly retire from business. When they pack up and leave, we will take possession as lawful heirs. There are 3000 whites there, mostly Americans, and they are still increasing. They own all the money, control all the commerce, and own all the ships. They have a constitutional monarchy, but they have no constitution, and the monarchy is only an empty name. A Kanaka or native is nobody unless he has a princely income of $75 annually, or a splendid estate worth $100. The country is full of office-holders and office-seekers; there are plenty of such noble patriots. Of almost any party of three men, two would be office-holders and one an office-seeker. In a little island, half the size of one of the wards of St. Louis, there are lots of noblemen, princes, and men of high degree, with grand titles, holding big offices, receiving immense salaries--such as ministers of war, secretaries of the navy, secretaries of state and ministers of justice. They make a fine display of uniforms, and are very imposing at a funeral. That's the country for a petty hero to go to, he would soon have the conceit taken out of him. There are so many of them, that a noble from any other country would be nobody. They only lionize their own people, and therefore they lionize everybody. In education, refinement, and culture, the sons and daughters of our missionaries there need not be ashamed to compare themselves with their brothers and sisters in the United States. And there has never been a stain upon any of their names. The first thing a stranger does, on arriving at the Islands, is to collect shinbones of dead Kanakas, fossils and coral, but he never succeeds in carrying any of them away, because he soon gets tired of it--the novelty wears off. A stranger going there now need not be looking for curiosities, for in the back-yard of every house he will see piles of shinbones of dead Kanakas, heaps of fossils and stacks of coral. He will also, as a first experiment, pick up about a dozen Kanaka words; he won't talk English; he won't say good morning, like a Christian; he will say all-ay-ho. One man had been there three weeks, and he came to breakfast with me. I asked him how he would have his beefsteak--rare or well-done. He replied, "Muckee--muckee--guckee," &c. Well, said I, you can muckee, muckee, guckee yourself out of this. I won't have anything to do with you. We can have any climate we want on the Sandwich Islands. On the summits, which are 16,000 feet above the level of the valley, whose tops are whitened by perpetual snow, we can have everlasting winter, and near the sea shore everlasting summer. A single glance of the eye takes in all the climates on the earth. It was so cold on the tops of the mountains that I could not speak the truth, but on level ground, I can speak the truth as well--as any other man.
The climate is wonderfully healthy, for white people in particular, so healthy that white people venture on the most reckless imprudence. They get up too early; you can see them as early as half past seven in the morning, and they attend to all their business, and keep it up till sundown. It don't hurt 'em, it don't kill 'em, and yet it ought to do so. I have seen it so hot in California that greenbacks went up 142 in the shade.
The volcano of Kee-law-ay-oh is 17,000 feet in diameter, and from 700 to 800 feet deep. Vesuvius is nowhere. It is the largest dead volcano in the world. You witness a scene of unrivaled sublimity, and witness the most astonishing sights. When the volcano of Kee-law-ay-oh broke through a few years ago, lava flowed out of it for twenty days and twenty nights, and made a stream forty miles in length, till it reached the sea, tearing up forests in its awful fiery path, swallowing up huts, destroying all vegetation, rioting through shady dells and sinuous canyons. Amidst this carnival of destruction, majestic columns of smoke ascended, and formed a cloudy murky pall overhead. Sheets of green, blue, lambent flame were shot upwards and pierced this vast gloom, making all sublimely grand. [After this burst of eloquence, he clapped his hands and the audience joined, making the vaulted roof of the Library hall reverberate with the sounds of enthusiastic applause.]
I once knew a great, tall gawky country editor, near Sacramento,to whom I sent an ode of the sea, starting with "The long, green swell of the Pacific." The country editor sent back a letter and stated that I couldn't fool him, and he didn't want any base insinuations from me. He knew who I meant when I wrote "the long, green swell of the Pacific."
There is one thing characteristic of the tropics that a stranger must have, whether he likes it or not, and that is the boo-hoo fever. Its symptoms are nausea of the stomach, severe headache, backache and bellyache, and a general utter indifference whether the school keeps or not. You can't be a full citizen of the Sandwich Island unless you have had the boo-hoo fever. You will never forget it. I remember a little boy who had it once there. A New Yorker asked him if he was afraid to die. He said, no; I am not afraid to die of anything, except the boo-hoo fever. The moral force used by the missionaries, in the Sandwich Islands, is not much. But they are the right kind of men there--they have just the grit, to hold on like grim death. Bishop Staley of the English Missionary church is not very popular. The societies in London have ceased to support him, and his mission has a dull, unhealthy look. The King belongs to the church, but he never goes there, and he still adheres to the pagan form of worship. The king is a gentleman, but the American missionaries made him so. The bishop's church is making some progress, and there is plenty of room for it; but they will never succeed in ousting the American missionaries. [After another burst of eloquence about some perennial flower, he applauds himself; would repeat it again if requested to by the audience; the audience requests him to proceed, but the lecturer declines with such a comical gesture, that it sends the audience into convulsions.]
In Honolulu, merchants go to their business at nine A.M., and cease business at four P.M. They will have nothing to do with business till next morning. Why cannot we do so? But I did not come here to preach a sermon to you, although I would as soon do it as not. A street fight keeps the people excited for about two weeks; an elopement gives them something to converse about for one year, but a murder they will never get over talking about it. The whites of Honolulu have no jokes to indulge in. They are not imbued with the spirit of joking. I told some jokes to a quiet, sober-looking, grave, and demure missionary, and I believe he is exercised over some of the subtler ones to this day. The missionaries do not know one third the names of sins which figure in the sin calendar. Pity we are not more like them. The people do not get often drunk in that country; the duties are too high. But I saw some of the wild ranchmen of Hawaii drink kerosene and aquafortis, and I saw some of them get drunk on a whole barrel of Mustang Liniment. When the natives eat, they all eat socially, from the same calabash, one after the other, with their fingers. They are not very particular or careful whether these hands are washed or not. It is not absolutely necessary that they should wash their hands. They have a fish called poy which they eat. Eating poy will cure a drunkard. In order to like the poy you must get used to it. It smells a good deal worse than it tastes, and it tastes a good deal worse than it looks. I am sending all my friends there.
The natives are of a rich, dark brown color, lazy, perhaps, but not vicious, nor very virtuous. The women wear a long, loose calico garment, but the men don't. [Loud and continued applause.] Guess I won't continue that subject any longer. In former times the King's person was sacred, he was the supreme head of the Church and State, he was the captain over all, the arbiter of fate, the Lord of life. There was a law that if a man came to the king with a wet head, he should die; if any man's shadow fell on the king he had to die. If the king put his taboo on anyone, there was no hope for him (by the bye, from there we got our word tabooed). In former times the women were abject slaves of the whole party. By the ancient taboo, (law of the land,) death was the punishment of a woman who dared to sit at the same table as a man. If she ate choice fruit, she was to suffer the death penalty. The poor degraded savages of these islands found out somehow that a woman ate some fruit in the Garden of Eden, and the whole human race were suffering from that thing ever since, and therefore they were not willing to take the chance of some other evil overtaking them, by letting women eat any fruit. But the American missionaries came, broke off the shackles from the whole race, broke the power of the King, the State and the clergy, and elevated the women to be the equal of the men. To-day, it is the best educated nation in the world, of its size. Our missionaries did it all. Every Kanaka has a dozen mothers. If they like a woman, they call her mother. A Los Angelos man got there once, and being boss over a party of Kanakas, one day one of them came to him, and asked leave of absence to go and bury his mother. Of course the leave was granted. In about a month he came to ask for another leave of absence, for the same purpose, he got that also. For several times he obtained leave of absence to go and bury a mother. On the fifth demand, the Los Angelos man asked him how many mothers he had. He answered--twelve--well, go and bury them all, but don't let me see you again.
Those natives are strange folk. They are not afraid of death, no, no more than a jilted Frenchman. If they take a notion to die, nothing will stop them, you can't argue it out of them. They are also fond of dogs. Such dogs that a white man would condemn at first right on general principles. They are not large dogs, neither; neither are they useful ones, but ugly curs. They love the pups, better than any of their own family. They will take care of a pup--pet him--feed him--caress him--fondle him, and when he has become fat, they kill him--cook him--and then eat him. The natives are very fond of raw fish, they will bite into a living fish, and then eat him up. There used to be some cannibals, but they are almost played out. One cannibal once, after eating several specimens of his own race, caught a missionary--killed him--and served him up, but he could not digest the old missionary, no more than he could a keg of nails; he died--miserably died. They are also very fond of horses. These are probably worth about seven dollars and a half--the scrubbiest lot of horses in the world. They have eleven distinct styles of gallop. When one of them gallops he mixes them all up at once, making it rather uncomfortable. The women all ride like men. I wish to introduce that reform in this country. Our ladies ought, by all means to ride like men, these side saddles are so dangerous. When women meet each other on the road, they run and kiss and hug each other, and they don't blackguard each other behind each other's backs. I would like to introduce that reform, also. I am not married, myself, but yet I have no right to advertise myself this way publicly. Still I am not married. In former times, when a great noble died, they bit pieces of their own bodies off--knocked two or three teeth out. They would also kill now and then an infant--bury him alive sometimes. But the missionaries have annihilated infanticide. The American missionaries are opposed to infanticide--for my part, I can't see why. It is an old adage, be virtuous and you will be happy. The nation are not virtuous and yet they are happy. When a woman cries, a dozen others will congregate around and they will whine, blubber, bawl and sniffle for an hour together. Rare sympathizing crowd. I will end this chapter and the lecture by stating that they do everything wrong end foremost, dismount from a horse the wrong side, and mounting a horse on the wrong side. The same word stands for good-bye and how do you do. In the noble American game of high-low-jack or seven-up, they deal the cards to the left instead of the right. They bathe in the middle of the day, and are liable to kill themselves. When inviting a person to approach, they make a sign, that with us is considered a repulsive motion. The duck, a water bird, lives 5000 feet above the level of the water. They dance at funerals, and spit on a spoon when they want to clean it. They wash their shirts with a club, and iron them with a brick-bat.
The talented young lecturer closed his flow of wisdom, by stating that by an inadvertence, he had forgotten to inform his appreciative audience "that the Reverend Robert Colyer was lecturing at the Philharmonic hall, and it seemed by that omission he had swindled the reverend gentleman out of a crowd." Everyone retired highly delighted with the irrepressible Californian.