Samuel L. Clemens otherwise Mark Twain, delivered the first lecture in the Army & Navy Union course at the City Hall last evening.
After the band concert Mr. Clemens came upon the stage unattended, and after gazing at the audience in a sort of serio-comic manner proceeded to introduce himself. He prefers to introduce himself, he says, because he is sure then of getting in all the facts. Whether he told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, people can judge for themselves by reading the following words which escaped from the speaker's lips in rather a languid manner: "Gentlemen and Ladies, I have the pleasure of introducing to you Mr. Samuel L. Clemens, a gentleman whose numerous accomplishments, I may say, whose historical accuracy and high moral character are only surpassed by his natural modesty and the sweetness of his disposition!" Adding in parenthesis, "I refer in these general terms to myself, for I am the party." Throughout this model introduction he seemed to be in the most serene state of mind imaginable. He talked and moved like a man extremely tired or extremely lazy and his words seemed rather to drop than to be uttered. After he had concluded his introduction he proceeded to speak of Artemus Ward. Of course he selected this subject because it opened a field of humor, and afforded him a chance to relate a string of witty sayings and anecdotes. Few if any of them were new, but they were told in such a droll way that they never failed to excite laughter. Mr. Clemens' manner was much more potent than his matter, and his style of telling a story is much more amusing than the story itself. Throughout the evening his audience were highly entertained if frequent bursts of laughter are to be taken as indications of pleasure.
ARTEMUS WARD.-- Mark Twain must have a wonderful hold upon the people. It was dismal, uncomfortable, and stormy last night, but nevertheless an immense audience turned out to listen to Mr. Samuel L. Clemens. Over two thousand people crowded into City Hall to see the man who wrote "The Innocents Abroad," and to listen to what he had to say of our own great humorist, the lamented "Artemus Ward." The Portland Army and Navy Union were fortunate in securing so popular a man to speak for them.
There was a personal magnetism about Twain that seemed at once to capture the sympathy of his audience. He came upon the stage alone and gazed at the audience so seriously as to raise a laugh without opening his lips. He then spoke in his peculiar drawling manner a few introductory sentences, which ran similar to the following:-- "Ladies and gentlemen, I have the pleasure of introducing to you Mr. Clemens, a gentleman whose numerous accomplishments, I may say, whose historical accuracy and high moral character are only surpassed by his natural modesty and the sweetness of his disposition. [Laughter.] I refer in these general terms to myself, for I am the party. I had rather introduce myself, because then I can rely on getting in all the facts."
He then announced that he should speak of Artemus Ward, the humorist, and occupied about an hour and a half in doing so. He sketched the curiously checkered career which fell to the lot of the subject of his lecture, which he filled with extracts from Artemus's writings and quaint sayings. The history of Mr. Charles F. Browne, better known as Artemus Ward, is too well known to require repetition here, and Mr. Clemens avoided many serious details, giving only what was absolutely necessary to complete the story. He said that Artemus's success and wonderful popularity, by which he achieved a sudden fortune, was as much a surprise to himself as any event of his life. His first letter signed Artemus Ward was written without any idea that it was unusually funny or taking. So great was the hit, however, that he was compelled to furnish more, received flattering pay for his writings, went to New York and took charge of the comical paper Vanity Fair, subsequently gave his lecture "Babes in the Wood," making some $40,000 by it. He was a born humorist, not a manufactured one. His good nature was so great that it almost amounted to talent. He seldom if ever lost his temper, and one of the best stories which Mr. Clemens told during the evening had reference to that point. A report of the lecture could not do it justice. No story told on paper is like the story told by the voice and the whole body. It was enough that Mr. Clemens made his hearers laugh, and laugh heartily and often, and that was what he came there for. Even the man who is not in the habit of laughing, and who thinks such things silly and undignified, was caught laughing several times, but stopped it when discovered. The latter portion of the lecture was serious rather than funny, portraying Mr. Browne's career after he left America never to return. His enormous success in London made him threaten at one time to compel the Royal Family to stay away. He was rumored to have received almost fabulous sums for his contributions to Punch and with his panorama at Egyptian Hall his success was wonderful. He lectured until his health was in such condition that he was nightly attended by his physician at the theatre and fell a victim to disease at the age of thirty-three. Speaking as a personal acquaintance Mr. Clemens declared Mr. Browne to have been a true gentleman.
He closed with a touching tribute to the memory of the diseased humorist, and quoted some beautiful and appropriate lines.
We never saw an audience enjoy itself more heartily than did Mark Twain's last evening.