The Exeter (New Hampshire) News-Letter

1871: November 13

"MARK WARD ON ARTEMUS TWAIN."-- Such was a Washington correspondent's decriptive term of the lecture delivered in our town hall by Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), Thursday evening of last week, and it would seem that the correspondent was more just than generous in thus confounding the names of the two humorists; for in this lecture Mark Twain is merely acting as a mouth-piece for the recital of Artemus Ward's jokes.

Before the clock struck eight, the lecturer dragged himself upon the platform, stepped to the front and stood looking over the audience for the space of a minute, at the same time rubbing his hands and turning his head from side to side in a manner which set the audience in a titter. He then opened his mouth and in his peculiar drawling manner let out 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. I have always been opposed to the ceremonious forms of introduction to an audience, after a lecture has been properly advertised, because I think they are superfluous. Superfluous is a good word. I had rather introduce myself, because then I can rely on getting in all the facts."

This humorous thrust at one of the follies of the rostrum produced a hearty laugh, and led us to anticipate an enjoyable hour in the presence of the "prince of American humorists;" but we were to be sadly numbered among the victims of disappointed expectations; for almost the entire humor of the whole lecture was simply a rehash of the oft-printed jokes of the lamented Artemus Ward, whose curiously checkered career was made the subject of the lecture, -- being "Reminiscences of but one of the Uncommonplace Characters I Have Chanced to Meet, -- since it was found impossible to crowd more than one character into the space of an hour. The lecture contained nothing new, or that was not already known to all the reading people in the audience, -- concluding with a laughable story, such as the newspapers and magazines give us with their every issue. But, as we have said, about all the wit and humor of the lecture consisted of Artemus Ward's jokes, which have been afloat in the newspapers for years, and though quite well told, they appeared like faces of familiar friends.

Judged by his book -- "Innocents Abroad" -- which is a perfect treasury of the highest and happiest humor, and his other writings, Mark Twain has deservedly earned a leading place among the first humorists of the age; but, judged by his present lecture, he lacks almost every element of humor, and is lamentably deficient in originality; and it passes our comprehension how any man with such a reputation as he has acquired should barter it away on the lecture platform for, comparitively, a mere pittance.

We hoped for, and repeatedly prophecied better things, and we believe our criticism, as here expressed, is the popular verdict; and we further hope that the press everywhere may be so severe in its censures as to force this plagiaristic lecture off the platform; for we believe that Mark Twain is capable of better things, and he owes it to himself and the public to produce them.