The (Sacramento) Daily Union

1868: April 18

MARK TWAIN'S LECTURE.--The Metropolitan Theater was crowded last night with a fashionable and intellectual audience to hear Mark Twain's lecture. The speak began about half past eight o'clock and continued till ten. He began by correcting a misstatement of the subject of the lecture as published in the papers. He said he did not intend to speak much about the Holy Land, but mostly about the voyage of the Quaker City and the company aboard of her. This part of the discourse was characterized throughout by the speaker's peculiar humor and wit; for Clemens is a wit as well as a humorist, and either as wit or humorist, much superior to Artemus Ward. A remarkable peculiarity of his style is the angularity of his contrasts, sharp turns from the ridiculous to the sublime, and comparisons which bring astonishment and laughter in touching distance. His use of adjectives is something marvelous, especially in piling up invective. The listener fears at first that the sentence is going to be weakened or lost in the confusion of polysyllablics, but to his amazement out plumps the exact fitting substantive at last which requires the force of every expletive used. The same thing is observable in his writing. No modern letter writer has so well succeeded in the use of long sentences or their proper relief by the right sort of proceeding and succeeding short ones. The first five minutes of the lecture sounded extremely frivolous, and reminded us of Artemus Ward's "Babes in the Wood." The next fifteen minutes brought the speaker and his audience to a mutually good understanding, and was something more than mere humor. The last hour was a decidedly rich treat and at times held the crowd with the deepest attention, eliciting applause. The applause and close attention were in every case compliments to the substance and not the style of Mr. Clemens' lecture, for his address is not very good and his voice is low and sometimes aggravating to listeners. He draws upon rhetoric, history, fancy and the poetic, just often enough to show that he appreciates these qualities, but not so much as to weary those who appreciate them less than the humorous traits of his mind. His allusions to the ruined historical grandeurs along the shores of the Mediterrean was an eloquent and concise summary wrought up with skill to its climax and not continued a minute beyond the point where good taste and good sense, which is only another name for good taste, demanded its dismissal. The picture of Palestine did not disappoint the expectations of those who had read his letters from there; but it was greatly at variance with the customary sentimentalities and grandiloguent musings of the popular travelers who have within the last half century written on that subject. No two men are alike impressed with any scene. What inspires one with sublime fervor sometimes excites ridicule in another. Renan dressed out some of his finest thoughts on the sad shores of the Sea of Gallilee, and Lamartine took some of his loftiest flights in Judea. Twain did not behold these scenes through the same glasses. He saw them only with the eyes of a practical American, keenly alive to progress and the present, and prepared for ridicule in spite of the gloss of romance and the eld of history. Yet they are mistaken who deem that he has no fancy or poetic feeling. Voltaire had this none the less because he ridiculed time-honored custom and things held sacred by great names. We confess to a partiality for this California humorist. At the bottom of his intellectual character there seems to us to lie a vast deal of good sense, which his humor is only used to dress up in such presentable style as will hardly fail to please any audience. He lectures to-night in Marysville, and goes thence to Nevada county, and thence of Virginia City.

The Reese River Revielle (Austin, Nevada)

1868: April 23

Mark Twain's Lecture.

        SACRAMENTO, April 18th '68.

Last Evening, "Mark Twain" delivered his lecture on the Holy Land, in the K street theatre. The parquet and dress circle were well filled with the elite of the city, and the lecture from beginning to close was listened to with unflagging attention. The lecturer introduced his discourse by an apology, being compelled to deliver the lecture in person; that his partner, Elder Knapp, who had prepared the lecture for him, was necessarily absent(!); that the Union had inadvertantly made a mistake (all mistakes were made inadvertently) in announcing that he was going to lecture on the Holy Land--such was not his intention; he had been abused enough for writing about it, and would not attempt to lecture on it, but would make a few suggestions, as far as his audience would allow him to go. But before proceeding he wished to give expression to a feeling of sadness that depressed him. The fact was, that he was in love! With a Russian girl--she was a white girl! He did not suppose the matter interested his audience, but having said that much he supposed they would like to know more about that girl. He met her in Russia, at a ball; was introduced to her; that [s]he understood one language as well as another, except the English--he couldn't talk to her and she couldn't talk to him, but being in a foreign country, representing the Government of the United States of America, he felt it incumbent upon him to ask her to dance, and did so. She accepted the invitation. It was a gay and lively dance--lasted one hour! He felt a good many times like stopping, but as he was representing the Government of the United States of America, in a foreign country, he felt it incumbent on him to see the dance out; he did so, and then and there fell in love. He regretted to be compelled to introduce this matter to his audience, but he felt compelled to make an effort to get this Russian girl off his mind before proceeding with his lecture--if she was on his conscience, although her weight was 252 pounds, he could rest easy; his conscience was used to carrying heavy burdens! Mr. Clements then proceeded in humorous strains to describe his identification with the Holy Land Excursion. He spoke of the qualifications required to gain admission into the party and the references he gave. The requirements of the circular issued, were, that each person should be young, handsome and possessed of a good moral character! He considered that he filled the bill. He gave as references, General Grant, President Johnson, Emperor Norton and a few others who knew nothing against him. He described the sailing out from New York and the sea sickness of the party, in such forcible language, and so life-like as frequently brought down the house. He spoke of the breakfasting of the party by the Emperor of Russia, and when he stated, in half serious mood, that the Emperor told them that he felt a good, kind, friendly feeling for the United States, and that they stated to the Emperor that the people of the United States entertained a similar feeling for Russia, the demonstrations of applause showed that he struck the true vein of sentiment, of Americans for Russia. He spoke in serious tone and in most eloquent language of the ancient cities which he had visited--and the places, once inhabited by busy, toiling millions of human beings, now a desert waste, uninhabited, save by the wild beasts, the cunning prowling fox and the ashes of the unknown dead. Jerusalem, with her temple that shamed the rising, and lent brilliancy to the setting sun, is now an insignificant unincorporated village--her temple walls leveled, and nothing but her immense foundation left to tell the store of her former greatness, and where, daily at the hour of four o'clock in the afternoon, a few faithful Jews gathered, to bewail their present fate, or pray for the return of Israel's power and greatness. Of the Turks he spoke in terms of extreme loathing and disgust. After taking his audience with him hurriedly through Europe, Asia and Africa, visiting Egypt and the Holy Land, he brought them back again to our own America, with the remark that in no country had he found a capitol in architectural beauty and design, equal to the capitol at Washington. No country had he visited which was so desirable to live in as our own, and no government had he found equal to our government; that he and all the party were glad to get back to a country where there was freedom of speech and of the press, and where the politicians were honest and incorruptible! The lecture was a great success, and while his comic sarcasm amused, his eloquent descriptions of Nobles, cities and ruins, particularly those of Pompeii, were received with demonstrations of merited applause. It is not easy to give a correct report of this lecture; to be properly appreciated it must be heard, and the distinguished lecturer himself, instead of Elder Knapp, his partner, or any other man, must deliver it. It does not seem to have been written out in full, but simply prepared with headings and notes. During its delivery, Mr. Clements is seen occasionally sliding small slips of paper before him, but does not read much at a time, from manuscript. He walks backward and forward in front of the stage, halting at his desk long enough only to get sight of his notes and keep in the current of his story. He speaks after the style of one relating in a conversational style, the store of his sight-seeing and adventures to a friend. Persons and objects of his dislike are clothed in habiliaments the most ridiculous, and when attired to suit his purposes, held up to the gaze of his audience, who cannot fail to see, and be provoked to laughter, and in this, he excels all other speakers to whom I have ever listened. Inasmuch as I was representing Austin away from home, to borrow one of his own expressions, I extended to him an invitation to deliver his lecture to the people of Lander county, and guaranteed him a full house, but, while acknowledging the compliment, he felt compelled to decline the invitation on account of the time necessarily consumed in traveling from Virginia and back again, and it is for this reason that your readers will not have the privilege of hearing the lecture that I have endeavored at some length to give a report of.