The Easton Daily Express

1871: November 24

MARK TWAIN.--This distinguished humorist lectured in the Court House, last evening, to an audience which, although not very large, fully appreciated the peculiar style of the speaker, and the many witty things said by him. Of course, some few were disappointed; but the majority of those present appeared to greatly enjoy the lecture. Mr. Twain 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.

I perhaps owe you an apology for not fulfilling my engagement before, but as accidents will happen in the best regulated families I should not be blamed, nor will I exasperate you by making an explanation.

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 others things on earth.

Artemus Ward's real name, as most of you are probably aware, was Charles F. Brown. He was born in Waterford, Me., 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.

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.

I don't know whether it is reasonable to speak in this way of those reverend old chaps, the Pilgrim Fathers. I am a Puritan Father myself, or 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 the massacre -- and, when you came to hear all about it, you'd wish that such was the case. 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.

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 for 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 notion 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 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 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 speedily sent him to the top of the ladder without touching a single round.

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 great 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 jest or jibe. Thanking you all very kindly for your presence and marks of approbation, I bid you a good night.