AMERICA'S GREATEST HUMORIST HEARD BY A PACKED HOUSE
The Audience Asked to Follow the Speaker Through Various Experiences -- Stories Told Reflecting the Humorous and the Pathetic Phases of Numerous Instances -- Many Recognize Old Friends as Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Runaway Jim Are Brought Before Them by Matchless Mimicry -- Reception to Clemens at the Commercial Club After the Lecture -- The Present Lecture Series Proving Very Successful.
Mark Twain tried an experiment last night. His subject was one of the most brilliant audiences that ever crowded into the Metropolitan and sweltered in the heat of mid-summer. His experiment was upon the arrangement of the stories for their entertainment. The programs distributed were consequently entirely misleading, but the story telling was up to par, and as most of the audience had read Twain it made very little difference.
He started off with that moral lecture on courage, in which he makes the wise observation that every man's courage has a limit, and then told how his limit was reached when he discovered a dead man in his father's office at midnight, after one of his truancies. The famous "Jumping Frog," that proved Twain a humorist and is still regarded as one of his greatest stories, followed. The rambling "Story of the Ram" was particularly humorous and brought out more laughter than any other, but it was not more lifelike than Tom Sawyer's conversation with Huckleberry Finn and himself on starting a crusade. In this Mr. Twain seemed to point an innocent idea at the socialistic idea of property which half-hidden, half-revealed, formed the basis of his tale.
Then came the "First Theft" of the watermelon, but without doubt the best story, and the one which the audience listened to with hushed attention, was the pathetic struggle with his conscience over his aiding to liberty runaway Darky Jim. Huck Finn and Jim on the raft, both running away from harsh treatment, is one of the prettiest pictures of anti[ante?]-emancipation life on the Mississippi that has ever been penned. Mark hit the educated conscience theory a pretty hard rap and then, just to show that he could tell a story that was not located in the Mississippi valley or in the far West, he gave the story of the christening. In this Mr. Twain showed himself not only a story writer but a mimic. He copied the Scotch-Irish preacher to perfection, and bowed the large audience out well pleased to have seen and heard America's greatest humorist.
After the lecture came the reception to Clemens at the Commercial Club. It was fairly well attended, but no doubt hundreds of people would have paid their respects to the veteran fun-maker if it could have been known that no special invitation was expected. Mr. Clemens was accompanied by Maj. and Mrs. Pond, but Mrs. Clemens begged to be excused, as she was tired out with the journey. The affair was simple and informal. Mayor and Mrs. Pratt, President Calderwood, of the Commercial Club, and several other gentlemen presented the callers to the guest of honor and he had his hands full to chat with the many that crowded about to see the humorist as a man.
Mr. Clemens had been in bed all day, and his lecture took nearly all his conserved energy, but he chatted pleasantly and kept everyone at ease with his droll observations. A light refreshment followed the reception in the parlors, and about 11 o'clock Maj. Pond and President Calderwood escorted Mark Twain to his hotel.
Among those at the reception were Mayor and Mrs. Robert Pratt, C.H. Pryor and ladies, Mr. and Mrs. Charles P. Preston, Dr. and Mrs. Charles M. Jordan, Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Edsten, Mr. and Mrs. J.S. McLain, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Gregory, Mr. and Mrs. James Pye, Dr. W.E. Leonard, C.R. Cameron, M.D. Shutter, E.W. Herrick, Rev. and Mrs. Dr. Sneed, George Strong, F.V. Brown, W.M. Hopkins, A.B. Choat, W.O. Stout, W.B. Stout, D. Willard, Harry Wheeler, W.C. Corbett, W.H. Randall, Al. Warner and Frederick Clarke.
This is the fifth of the series of lectures to be given by Mr. Clemens in a trip around the world. Maj. Pond says that it has been successful far beyond his highest expectation. He claims to have made money enough to take the party around the world and $1,000 to spare up to this point. Twain will give his readings in St. Paul this evening, thence go to Winnipeg and subsequently to Butte and Helena, Mont.
A dinner is to be given to Mr. Clemens and Maj. Pond at the Minneapolis Club this noon.
If there has ever been any question in the mind of Mark Twain as to the regard in which by that portion of the reading public which claims Minneapolis as its home, it must have been settled, and in a most satisfactory manner, too, when he stepped upon the stage at the Metropolitan last night, and confronted the sea of faces in the big auditorium. With the possible exception of the night when Ysaye made his appearance, the theater never has held a more brilliant audience, and the warmth of welcome which greeted the distinguished humorist was an index to the place he occupies in the affections of those whom for the past three decades he has been endeavoring to amuse. Time has dealt kindly with Mr. Clemens. There are signs of age in the whitening hair, but there is the old-time twinkle in the deep blue eyes, the same funny drawl about the speech, the wonderful lighting up of the mobile, expressive face and the inimitable charm to his story-telling that has made his efforts on the rostrum so acceptable in the past.
The program last night was not one calculated to bring out boisterous merriment. The selections were permeated by a quiet humor that made them entertaining, but in all of them was an underlying vein of philosophy pointing to some moral -- a moral not always strictly orthodox. Perhaps this was something of a disappointment to many of those who attended, expecting to be convulsed with laughter, but it was not for that reason less enjoyable. As given, it was a judicious blending of the pathetic and homely with those occasional scintillations of wit that flashed like dew drops in the morning sun, and in obedience to the law of contrasts each bringing out the other in stronger and more pronounced relief. There is no gainsaying the fact that the big audience was delightfully entertained during the short hour and a half and that it quitted the theater reluctantly when the end of the program was announced.
Including in the selections given last night were the famous "Story of the Jumping Frog," "My First Theft" and the rambling story of "Granther's Ram," a tale with a beginning that promised well but which was never finished. The story of finding a corpse in his father's office was a weird and uncanny bit of recital -- a thing in which Mark Twain particularly excels. Possibly the best of all was the story of Huck Finn helping the negro Jim to escape from slavery. There was a humorously pathetic tone to the story of Huck Finn's struggles with his conscience which would not let him rest easy either when he was endeavoring to hide or betray the slave whom he was aiding to escape to freedom. The one in which Tom Sawyer proposes to Huck Finn and Jim that they organize a crusade and rescue the "Holy Land" from the grasp of the infidels was a delightful bit of boy nature and boyish aspiration, and was thoroughly enjoyable. The program closed with a sketch of a Scotch-Irish christening in which the pompous preacher was pictured perfectly.
As Mr. Clemens turned to leave the stage, there was a storm of applause and in obedience to the demand for another story, he gave the "Whistling Story," which no one can tell so well as he. When he had finished, he remained standing on the stage and bowed the large audience out -- an audience that was well pleased to have met the most genial humorist of the present age.
The reception given to the distinguished humorist at the Commercial Club by the members of the club and the newspaper men of the city was a most informal affair, but none the less pleasant on that account. The gathering was not nearly so large as expected, and for this Mr. Clemens was, no doubt, thankful, as he was not in condition to enjoy a crush. Mayor and Mrs. Robert Pratt, Maj. and Mrs. Pond, and President Calderwood attended to the introductions and saw that all had an opportunity of a few moments' conversation with the celebrated humorist, who is as affable off the stage as he is enjoyable on it. Mrs. Clemens was indisposed and could not attend.
A simple lunch was served about 11 o'clock, after which the celebrated funmaker was escorted to his hotel by Mr. Calderwood.