The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin
THE LECTURE delivered by "Mark Twain," last evening, attracted an enormous multitude to the Academy of Music, in spite of bad weather. The lecture was devoted to "Artemus Ward," and was full of illustrations of his humor. It kept the vast audience in a continual laugh, until the closing passage, which was full of pathos. "Mark Twain" is not an orator, but his manner is agreeable, and those who have enjoyed his writings were not disappointed either in his appearance or his lecture. The next lecture of the Star Course will be delivered on Thursday evening, by Hon. E. Jay Morris, his subject being "Turkey." There is probably no man living so well qualified to speak on this topic, Mr. Morris having lived nine years in the country, and informed himself concerning it thoroughly.
This formed the title of the lecture delivered last evening at the Academy of Music, by Mark Twain. Despite the inclemency of the weather the house was densely crammed; in fact, it contained the largest audience ever assembled within its walls to listen to a lecture.
Those present had evidently come to hear something good and quaint. In this they were not disappointed. Just before the lecturer was introduced, Mrs. Susan Galton Kelleher sang "The Skylark" sweetly, and received an encore. Upon the conclusion of this the lecturer came forward and said:--
Ladies and Gentlemen:--I ask leave to introduce to you the lecturer of the evening, Mr. Clemens, otherwise "Mark Twain," a gentleman whose great learning, whose accuracy of language, whose devotion to science, whose veneration for the truth and infelicitious harmonies are equal to his high moral character and the majesty of his benign presence. I refer in these vague general terms to myself. It is not the custom here, I believe, for lecturers to introduce themselves to the audience. I thought, perhaps, that it would be better for me to do this myself and then I could get in all the facts.
Well, this lecture is about Artemus Ward. Before I come to the heavier part of my subject I will make a little skeleton of it, an outline of the history of Mr. Ward. I do not propose to load you down with important information, so that you can go home with it. It would weigh you down. I rather illustrate the character of the man by personal examination than by didactics.
When I first started out to make this lecture I thought that I would put three or four persons into it, but as I got on I found I could not get them all into the compass of one lecture. Consequently, three or four were left out. There is no place for John Bunyan, Martin Luther and John Knox. Before I got the lecture done I could hardly squeeze Artemus Ward in so small a compass. I tried to get all of Artemus in, but I couldn't do it. Well, Artemus was perhaps the greatest showman and humorist of the time, but his sudden elevation was due more to his matter than to his manner. His speeches in print were flat, but his talk was interesting. It was unkind to report him. There was more in his pauses than in his words, and so no reporter's pen could do him justice.
Artemus had one favorite device in his speeches, and that was a sudden transition in the statement of sublime facts to a rehearsal of something decidedly ridiculous. The climax was spoiled, but the laugh came in, and that was just what was needed.
The wit of Mr. Ward was very lively. He was a great humorist, nevertheless. True, he must not be compared with Holmes or Lowell. These men have a refinement that he did not possess; but this does not detract from the great showman's ability to create fun for the million.
In his youthful days Artemus Ward hated work. It grieved his heart to see others work. He did not like to see convicts work upon a tread-mill. One time he proposed to the authorities a plan to run the tread-mill by steam. The father of Artemus had a farm, and tried to make the son scare the crows away by firing a shot-gun at them; but the boy was too indolent for this; he loaded the gun and the father fired it. The report was like a young earthquake.
Old Mr. Ward was laid up for a week. The senile gentleman, upon recovering, asked his son to come forward. He questioned him about the loading of the fowling piece -- why he didn't make a report. The precocious youth replied that he supposed the gun would make a report for itself, and so it did. That was enough.
Artemus' health was never good. He never had that strong constitution peculiar to those hardy men of his native state -- Maine.
The lecturer traced at length the career of the great showman and lecturer through America and England, relating a number of his favorite and amusing anecdotes. A beautiful tribute was paid to the deceased humorist.
Throughout the entire lecture the audience was kept in a continuous roar of laughter; and, if Artemus Ward could create fun for the million, as stated by the lecturer, the latter certainly demonstrated his ability to do the same.
Despite the inclement weather an immense audience assembled last evening, at the Academy of Music, to hear America's humorist par excellence, Mark Twain, deliver his new and peculiarly delicious lecture, entitled "Reminiscences of some uncommonplace characters that I have chanced to meet." Not only was every available seat -- clear up to Paradise -- occupied, but benches and chairs placed upon the stage gave accommodation to more than a hundred enthusiastic individuals, who had consented to adopt the theatrical profession, and "appear upon the boards," for the sake of hearing the great lecturer. As usual, the music for the evening, "The Skylark," Benedict, was sung by Mrs. Kelleher, accompanied on the piano by Mr. Pearce, and was excellent. As an encore the talented songstress gave a very effective rendering of "Charlie is me Darlin'."
At the conclusion of the singing, the lecturer appeared, being greeted with rounds of applause. Mr. Clements stood quite still for a few moments, gazing vacantly around the house, much as if he expected to see a long-lost grandmother amidst the audience. Apparently not finding the ancient relative, he coughed modestly, and said in a nasal voice which from its twang was of itself amusing:
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: I ask leave to introduce to you the lecturer of the evening, Mr. Samuel B. Clements, otherwise known as "Mark Twain," a gentleman, I may say, whose devotion to science, aptness in philosophy, historical accuracy, and love of -- truth [laughter] are in perfect harmony with his majestic and imposing presence. I -- ah -- refer -- ah -- indirectly to -- to myself! [Shouts of laughter and applause.] It is not, I know, customary to introduce a lecturer after having the amount of advertising that I have had; but as the management desired that the introduction should be made, I preferred making it myself, being sure by this means of getting in all the -- fact! [Laughter.]
My lecture is about Artemus Ward. When I first started out on this missionary tour it was my intention to touch in my lecture upon a number of the other uncommonplace characters that I have met -- Bunyan, Martin Luther, Milton, and a few others; but I find that to mention all these old fellows, the companions of my childish hours, takes a great deal too much time, and, therefore, I confine myself to the single great man whom I have named.
It is my purpose to show that Artemus Ward was America's greatest humorist, and I will give you a skeleton outline -- I have not time for more -- of his life. In this outline I shall not load you down with historic fact to such an extent that you will be unable to get home, nor will I even make for you any of my philosophical deductions. This last promise is, on my part, a sacrifice, for I admire my philosophical deductions as I admire few other things on earth. Strange as it may seem, I have always found that the effect produced by them upon an audience was that of intense and utter exasperation! [Laughter.]
Artemus Ward's real name, as most of you are probably aware, was Charles F. Brown. He was born in Waterford, Maine, in 1834. His personal appearance was not like that of most Maine men. He looked like a glove-stretcher. His hair, red, and brushed well forward at the sides, reminded one of a divided flame. His nose rambled on aggressively before him, with all the strength and determination of a cow-catcher, while his red moustache -- to follow out the simile -- seemed not unlike the unfortunate cow.
He was of Puritan descent, and prided himself not a little on being derived from that stern old stock of people, who had left their country and home for the sake of having freedom on a foreign shore to enjoy their own religion, and, at the same time, to prevent other folks from enjoying theirs. [Laughter.]
I don't know whether it is treasonable to speak in this way about those reverend old chaps, the Pilgrim Fathers. I am a Puritan Father myself, at least I am descended from one. One of my ancestors cut a conspicuous figure in the "Boston massacre," fighting first on one side and then on the other. He wasn't a man to stand foolin' round while a massacre was goin' on. Why, to hear our family talk you'd think that not a man named anything but Twain was in that massacre -- and when you came to hear all about it you'd wish that such was the case. [Laughter.] Then I had another ancestor in the battle of Bunker Hill. He was everything, that ancestor of mine was -- killed, wounded, and missing. He was a prompt, business-like fellow, and to make sure of being the last of the three he did it first of all -- did it well, too, before a shot was fired. [Laughter.]
Why I could stand here for a week and tell you of my distinguished ancestors, and I think I'll do it. On second thoughts I think I won't, but go back to my subject.
Ward never had any regular schooling; he was too poor to afford it for one thing, and too lazy to care for it for another. He had an intense ingrained dislike of work of any kind; he even objected to see other people work, and on one occasion went so far as to submit to the authorities of a certain town an invention to run a tread-mill by steam. Such a motion could not have originated with a hard-hearted man! Ward was a dutiful son, and his first act, when money began to come in on him from his lectures, was to free from incumbrance the old homestead in his native town and settle it upon his aged mother.
His first literary venture was a type-setting in the office of the old Boston Carpet-Bagger, and for that paper he wrote his first squib. He tried every branch of writing, even going so far as to send to the Smithsonian Institute -- at least so he himself said -- an essay entitled "Is Cats to be Trusted?" He soon tired of settled life and poor pay in Boston, and wandered off over the country to better his fortune, obtaining a position in Cleveland as a reporter at $12 per week. It was while in Cleveland that he wrote his first badly spelled article, signing it "Artemus Ward." He did not think much of it at the time of writing it, but it gave him a start that sent him to the top of the ladder without touching a single rung.
He soon left Cleveland, and going to New York assumed the editorship of Vanity Fair. Settled employment, however, did not suit him, and he soon started out on his first lecture tour. The success of this new employment, although not great at first, soon exceeded his most sanguine expectations, and he adopted it as a permanent profession. When he went to England his reception was of the nature of an ovation. It is said that for each of his articles contributed to Punch he received $600. His panoramic exhibitions in Egyptian Hall were a grand success, drawing night after night immense crowds to witness them.
The English climate of cold and fog seemed to have the effect of eating away his life, and, although he struggled hard, he had to relinquish his avocation. When he knew that he must die his only desire was to get home, but this was denied him. He got as far as Southampton, but his physician peremptorily forbid his attempting the sea voyage, and at Southampton, in the thirty-fourth year of his age, he died.
In conclusion Mr. Clements said: Ladies and gentlemen, my subject made it necessary for me to allude to death, at all times solemn, and never to be approached with levity. As this is the case, I think it more conducive to your and my own self-respect to stop here than to end my remarks by a flippant and ill-timed jest or jibe. Thanking you all very kindly for your presence and marks of approbation, I bid you a good night.