The Worcester (Massachusetts) Gazette

1871: 10 November

Mark Twain in the Lyceum Course.

Mr. Samuel L. Clemens, better known to the public as Mark Twain, gave the second lecture in the Lyceum course, last evening. The reputation of the speaker as a humorist drew a large audience, who were in a mood to accept and appreciate any effort in that direction. Mr. Clemens is a slenderly built man, of about thirty five years, with a sad, almost sorrowful face, overshadowed by a mass of strong black hair, and to look at him as he came forward on the platform and leaned upon the desk, looking intently from point to point in the hall, as if searching for some one, and occasionally shading his eyes with his hand to assist his vision, he seemed much more like a melancholy searcher for that which was lost, than a funny man. He silently held his position and attitude of intense interest for some minutes, and then he said in a slow, hesitating, measured manner, and a monotonous tone, "Ladies and Gentlemen: I have the honor to introduce to you as the lecturer of the evening, Mr. Clemens, otherwise 'Mark Twain,' whose varied accomplishments, extensive learning, and historical accuracy, are equalled only by the modesty of his demeanor, and the sweetness of his disposition. He said he was the lecturer, and he chose to introduce himself rather than to leave it to another, if it must be done at all, because then he was sure to get in all the facts. The effect of the introduction was more in its manner than its matter. It was entirely characteristic, and no one who heard it and had read "The Innocents Abroad," and could appreciate them, could doubt that they came from the same author.

He proceeded to say that he intended to speak of half a dozen people, but had found the time too short; so that in fact he could get one person into the hour only by "crowding him some," and the introduced the one he had selected, "Artemus Ward," Mr. Charles F. Browne. He gave an interesting sketch of his boyhood and education, of his sudden success before the public, piecing out the rather meagre array of facts with anecdotes of different eras in Mr. Browne's life, told in an inimitable manner, just like the speaker's story of his visit to the relics of Christopher Columbo and the grave of Adam, and delivered in so deliberate a manner that every hearer could take in every point.

He said the first indication of the wit of Artemus was manifested at an early age. He with a young companion had acquired a passion for playing euchre, and indulged in the pastime in secret out of the way places, in fear of the strict and pious people with whom they lived. They had difficulty in hiding their cards, and at length put them in the pocket of a long black gown which hung in a closet, and appeared to them never to be used. But unfortunately it was the baptizing gown of a Baptist minister, and the next Sunday, in the presence of a large audience, he went into the water to immerse a convert. As the two walked out into the stream some of the cards floated out of the pocket and rose to the surface, face upwards -- two bowers and three aces. The lads got well switched for their part in the affair, but an old lady tried to touch their hearts by pointing out the mortification and shame of the minister at such things being found in his pocket. "Why, boys," said she, "I should think he would have fainted and drowned; I can't imagine how he ever got out." "I don't see how he could help going out, on such a hand as that," was the quick and ready reply of the embryo humorist. This was his first witticism, but Browne didn't see in it the foundation of the fame which the future had in store for him. At 16 years of age he went to Boston, to set type on the "Carpet Bag," to which "Mrs. Partington," "Miles O'Reilley," and John G. Saxe were contributors, and here he began to write. The speaker related the leading points in his career from this point, with which the public are familiar, and also gave an analysis of "Artemus Ward," the man of the "moral wax works," the creation of Mr. Browne's genius which gave him the name by which he is most familiarly known. At every point there was apparent the unintentional mirth of the speaker, not in his manner, for that was as sad and grave as could be, but in the odd groupings of ideas, and in the singular form of expression which fell from his lips. He told a pathetic story of the long struggle with disease, the physician standing behind the scenes with remedies to ward off a mortal stroke, while Mr. Browne made fun for the people of London, and of his death and burial. Here, said he, his lecture might well stop, but he would tell a story of a friend of his own who had much of the same humor which had made Mr. Browne so famous, and which might as well perhaps be told of him, as many that are generally received as genuine.

This friend's strong point was an aptness of quotation, which seldom left him at fault. On one occasion a colored woman employed next door to where the speaker and his friend boarded, who had served the same family long and well, fell upon the stove while getting an early breakfast, and was roasted to a cinder. The landlady of the two friends was a woman of large sympathies, and at the breakfast table told the story, how the old servant had been so faithful and serviceable, and how sad it was that she should die in so terrible a manner. She said that she, herself, would like to erect a monument over her remains, and asked the man of quotations for an appropriate line for an inscription, and without a moment's hesitation he replied, "well done, good and faithful servant."

This closed the lecture, and the audience dispersed, the greater number sadly in doubt whether they liked it or not. They thought it was rather thin, but then, it would not have been funny if it had been thick, and on the whole, calling to mind one after another the bright points which had found a lodgment in their memories they concluded that they did like it.