The (New York) Sun

1884: November 19

Dramatic Recitals Out of "Dr. Sevier"--The Thrilling and Truly
Pathetic Ghost Story of the Woman with the Golden Arm

  Mark Twain and George W. Cable gave readings last evening in Chickering Hall to an audience which filled every seat. It was difficult to surmise from a glance over the sea of faces who had paid to laugh and who to listen to Mr. Cable's descriptions. Mr. Cable's four readings were from his novel of "Dr. Sevier."

  Instead of readings, his performances were recitations, delivered with intensity that apparently made the author oblivious to everything save his effort to body forth the pictures in his mind. An elocutionist would find small praise for his gestures, and frequently the wrong word was used by mistake. Yet Mr. Cable was cheered heartily at the close of his first recitation, in which he had assumed the characters of Narcisse and John and Mary Richling.

  When Mark Twain walked on the stage, with his chin recently shaved and perceptibly powdered for the occasion, his unruly hair like a halo around his head, and his discouraged expression of countenance, he was welcomed with a prolonged clapping of hands. Without apparently recovering his spirits, he sauntered to the reading desk, felt for it with his right hand, found it, and began.

  It is eight or nine years since I bade good-by forever to the lecture platform in this very hall. Since that time some things sad and some things joyous have happened to us all, to the country, and to all the nations of the earth. I will not stop now to enumerate them. They say lecturers and burglars never reform. I don't know how it is with burglars--it is now so long since I had intimate relations with those people--but it is quite true of lecturers. They never reform. Lecturers and readers say they are going to leave the platform never to return. They mean it, they mean it. But there comes in time an overpowering temptation to come out on the platform and give truth and morality one more lift. You can't resist.
  I got permanently through eight or nine years ago. I may quit again. I never knew but one lecturer to refuse persistently to return to the platform. "I shall leave you now forever," this remarkable man said with emotion. "This is my last appearance, positively my last." It was his last appearance, but it was no merit for him. Such merit as there was belonged entirely to the Sheriff.
  Mr. Twain has the habit of looking down sidewise into the middle of the desk on which he is leaning, while laughter in the audience continues. The bored and somewhat lugubrious expression he wears was slightly shaken by a twitching under his moustache, while only the profile of his face was presented to the audience. Then he turned and added:

  Well, there's no telling. I'll make no more promises. Now I'll begin business and give a short chapter from my new novel, "Huckleberry Finn."
  His left hand sought the old familiar pantaloons pocket and stayed there, while he leaned against the reading desk with his other arm on it, and proceeded in his conversational, slow, nasal drawl. It was in the Mississippi Valley. Huck Finn, a white boy, and Nigger Jim ran away from the plantation and camped out, and they got to talking about kings one evening. Jim being told what fine clothes they wear, had his curiosity aroused, and he asked if there were many of 'em. Oh, yes, Huck replied. There was Sollymun. Jim had heard of him, but he wanted to know more about kings generally. How much did they get? What! $1,000 a month? Wasn't that gay, and what did they do for it? Huck said they did nothing but lay around. Sometimes they went to war, but as a general thing they just hung around the harem.

  "'Round de what?" asked Jim.

  "The harem," rejoined Huck.

  "What's dat?"

  "Don't you know Sollymun had one? He had a million wives."

  Nigger Jim had never thought of that before, and he proceeded to argue that Solomon could not have been a wise man, because he would have had to build himself a room of boiler iron and shut himself in occasionally, where he could get a little rest.

  At his next appearing Twain pitched into the German language again. He has had a standing quarrel with it since he went to Germany. While in Heidelburg he met with a fellow sufferer, an American student, who cursed the intricacies of the declension of German adjectives as heartily as he did. He was a dissipated chap, and he always would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective. Then Twain read an anecdote he had constructed in English to show the nonsense of mixing up the genders, and concluded with the remark that when the fellow who made the German language tried again, he should invent a language with one good, square, responsible sex--a language that wouldn't call the fish "he," the scales "she," and the fishwife "it."

  Mr. Cable for a recall sang "Brave Boys Are They" in a light baritone voice.

  Mr. Twain appeared surprised when he appeared for the last event on the programme. "I didn't expect," he said reproachfully, "to see you here yet. Perhaps you don't know how late it's growing."

  Then he told a ghost story, first advising the nervous people to go home. The story was about a woman with a golden arm who died and was buried, but whose husband concluded afterward to save the arm, and dug it up. In a night of tempest which followed a low steam-whistle whisper chased the man around inquiring: "Who-o-o-o-'s got my go-o-o-olden arm?" He locked himself in his room and went to bed. Pat, pat, came a light foot up the stairs and through the locked door and up to the bed and the soft steam-whistle whisper sighed in his ear: "Who-o-o-o-'s got my go-o-o-olden arm?"

  Mr. Twain at this point jumped up two feet in the air and came down with a bang shouting "Nobody!" Everybody else jumped too.

New York Times

1884: November 19

Genius and Versatility. Mr. Cable Exhibits Both and Mark Twain Something Else.

A numerous and enthusiastic audience assembled in Chickering Hall last evening to listen to readings from the writings of Mr. Samuel L. Clemens--who prefers to be known as "Mark Twain"--and Mr. George W. Cable. The gentlemen who read were the gentlemen who had written. The management, in its newspaper advertisements, spoke of the entertainment as a "combination of genius and versatility," but neglected to say which of the gentlemen had the genius and which the versatility. Some of those who were present last evening may have felt justified in coming to the conclusion that Mr. Cable represented both these elements, while Mr. Clemens was simply man, after the fashion of that famous hunting animal one-half of which was pure Irish setter and the other half "just plain dog." Mr. Cable was humorous, pathetic, weird, grotesque, tender, and melodramatic by turns, while Mr. Clemens confined his efforts to the ridicule of such ridiculous matters as aged colored gentlemen, the German language, and himself.

It became evident early in the evening that the gentlemen who conceived the plan of bringing these two readers together had a marvelous faculty for grasping the sublimest possibilities of contrast. The audience appeared, however, to enjoy the sensation of dropping abruptly downward from such delightful people as Narcisse, Ristofalo, and Kate Riley to such earthy creatures as Huckleberry Finn.

The first section was from "Dr. Sevier," the interesting scene in which Narcisse thinks she can "baw that fifty dollar" himself. Then Mr. Clemens recited a selection from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," which will be continued in Mr. Clemens's next book. Mr. Cable followed with the scene from "Dr. Sevier," in which Kate Riley yields her hand so eagerly to Ristofalo. The audience appeared to enjoy hugely the Italian's complacent "Da's all right." Mr. Clemens then read his "Tragic Tale of a Fishwife," which contained some remarkable linguistic contortions produced by adapting the German genders to the English language. Mr. Clemens was recalled after this effort and ladled out another section of the "Huckleberry Finn" advance sheets.

Then Mr. Cable read "A Sound of Drums," from "Dr. Sevier." This masterly bit of word-painting was recited with fine elocutionary art, and held the audience spellbound to the close, when a burst of enthusiastic applause recalled Mr. Cable to the stage and compelled him to sing one of the old Confederate war songs that he learned by the camp fire. Mr. Clemens recited "A Trying Situation," one of those peculiar productions which attributes to its author much idiocy, and suggests the thought that it was written in the hope that it would make men deem the writer a very different kind of man. Mr. Cable's last selection from "Dr. Sevier" was "Mary's Night Ride," in which weirdness, tenderness, and melodramatic force were joined with a rare skill that evoked hearty and continued applause.

Mr. Clemens concluded the entertainment with "A Ghost Story," which had no merit beyond the reader's suggestion that it was a queer story to tell children at bedtime. This afternoon the same programme will be given, and this evening this combination of contrasts will present a fresh batch of readings.

New York Tribune

1884: November 20


Chickering Hall was well filled yesterday afternoon, in spite of the rain, for the readings of Mark Twain and George W. Cable. The audience consisted principally of ladies and, if not enthusiastic, showed a full appreciation of the performance. Mr. Cable presented four selections from "Dr. Sevier." His comic selections roused little more than languid laughter. "Mary's Night Ride," however, the last piece which he gave, was of a serious character, and met with considerable applause. Mr. Clemens gave only humorous pieces. "A Trying Situation" seemed to be specially acceptable to the audience.

Despite the rainy weather, a great many people heard the readings in the evening. Mr. Clemens' stories were punctuated with laughter at every few words. Mr. Cable generally received his applause all in a lump at the end.