Remembering the Tour


Near the end of his long career as theatrical agent and impresario, Major Pond published Eccentricities of Genius: Memories of Famous Men and Women of the Platform and Stage. The stars of that account were John B. Gough, Wendell Phillips and Henry Ward Beecher -- according to Pond, the three most popular orators of the second half of the nineteenth century. MT is a major figure in the book, however, and the first selection below reprints Pond's account of MT's tour with Cable, along with a few passages from the MS of Eccentricities of Genius that were excluded from the book. In the memoir Pond says that he advertised MT and Cable as "the 'twins of genius.'" Based on Pond's account most commentators -- including me in pre-2020 versions of this archive -- used that phrase to identify the tour. But in 2015 research by Benjamin Griffin, of the Mark Twain Project, conclusively showed that Pond's memory was mistaken. In 1889 Pond did manage a lecture tour featuring James Whitcomb Riley and Bill Nye, whom he did advertise as the Twins of Genius, but there's no evidence from the period that that phrase was ever applied to MT and Cable.

MT's "reminiscences" are from one of his autobiographical dictations. As with so many of the tales MT told, especially the ones that purported to be about himself, the account is not completely trustworthy. But it does a good job of locating the tour with Cable in the larger context of MT's platform career.

Cable "remembered" the Tour several times. The example here is from the Memorial Service held for MT in New York in the fall of 1910. It was presumably at that occasion, perhaps as a way of elaborating on what he says in his speech about MT's occasional discomfiture with the public role of funnyman, that Cable told Albert Bigelow Paine the more explicit account of MT's disgust that appears in Paine's biography, where it quotes MT as telling his partner:

"Oh, Cable, I am demeaning myself. I am allowing myself to be a mere buffoon. It's ghastly. I can't endure it any longer."

This story, or at least the depth of disgust it points to, has been doubted by many Twain scholars, but Cable told a version of the anecdote at MT's Seventieth Birthday Dinner, where MT himself was present.

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