The Boston Daily Evening Transcript

1871: November 2

MARK TWAIN'S LECTURE ON ARTEMUS WARD in the Boston Lyceum Course at Music Hall, last evening, was listened to with pleasure by a very large audience. He sketched the career of the great humorist graphically, and recalled many of his strongest hits, which were readily recognized. The lecturer's manner of delivery and his illustration of his faithful theme caused much merriment, and from his eccentric assumption of the duties of chairman at the beginning, to the close of the entertainment, he kept his hearers' undivided attention.

The Boston Daily Evening Journal

1871: November 2

Artemus Ward, The Humorist.

The regular lecture in the Boston Lyceum Course was delivered in Music Hall last evening, to an audience of over two thousand people, by Mr. Samuel L. Clemens of Buffalo, N.Y., better known as "Mark Twain." Mr. Clemens had a cordial reception as he appeared upon the platform. Without pausing to be seated in the usual lecture platform style, he stepped forward to the desk, laid his notes upon it, stood rubbing his hands about a minute, and gazing toward an imaginary chandelier about the centre of the ceiling, and then introduced himself in about these words: "Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honor to introduce to you the lecturer of the evening, Mr. Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, of New York. (Laughter) A gentleman whose literary attainments, historical researches, and the purity of his moral character, have made him known to us all, &c., &c." It was not simply the "cheekiness" of the thing itself in what was said, but the manner of the speaker, which started a shout of laughter from the audience, many of whom were ready to laugh at anything, and came there for that purpose. The lecturer explained that he had of late been in the habit of dispensing with the aid of a chairman in his introduction, and preferred to do the job himself, since he was then sure of getting all the facts in just right. He then announced that he should speak of Artemus Ward, the humorist, and occupied about an hour and a half in doing so. He sketched the curiously checkered career which fell to the lot of the subject of his lecture, which he filled with extracts from Artemus's writings and quaint sayings. The history of Mr. Charles F. Browne, better known as Artemus Ward, it too well known to require repetition here, and Mr. Clemens avoided many serious details, giving only what was absolutely necessary to complete the story. He said that Artemus's success and wonderful popularity, by which he achieved a sudden fortune, was as much a surprise to himself as any event of his life. His first letter signed Artemus Ward was written without any idea that is was unusually funny or taking. So great was the hit, however, that he was compelled to furnish more, received flattering pay for his writings, went to New York and took charge of the comical paper Vanity Fair, subsequently gave his lecture "Babes in the Wood," making $40,000 a year by it, went to England, where he lectured and wrote for Punch, making money very fast and spending it equally fast, and at last succombed to the disease which had been lurking in his system all his life. He was a born humorist, not a manufactured one. His good nature was so great that it almost amounted to talent. He seldom if ever lost his temper, and one of the best stories Mr. Clemens told during the evening had reference to that point. A report of the lecture could not do it justice. No story told on paper is like the story told by the voice and the whole body. It was enough that Mr. Clemens made his hearers laugh, and laugh heartily and often, and that was what he came there for. Even the man who is not in the habit of laughing, and who thinks such things silly and undignified, was caught laughing several times, but stopped it when discovered.

Taken as a whole the lecture served its purpose admirably. It afforded a pleasant evening to two thousand people, some of whom might otherwise have had a touch of the blues, and it served to keep green the memory of one to whom were are all indebted for quaint sayings without number, which have often driven away dull care and made us light-hearted and cheery for the time.

The Boston Daily Advertiser

1871: November 2


The tall, well-made man, with a serious and almost severe cast of countenance, who appeared before the large audience in the Music Hall last evening, after gazing at his hearers in an anxious, inquiring sort of way, until they seemed driven into applauding, stated that he should have the pleasure of introducing Mr. Samuel Clemmens, -- a gentleman renowned for his varied accomplishments, his historical accuracy and his extreme modesty. He added, "I am the party." This custom of introducing himself he prefers, because he is so much more likely than another to get in all the facts.

A Washington correspondent in noticing this lecture, despaired of separating Twain's wit from Ward's, expressed his ideas under the heading of "Mark Ward on Artemus Twain," and we should hardly like to charge him with unusual lack of discrimination. Starting with the assertion that Ward was a humorous baby and that his sudden notoriety and fortune prevented his gradual development into the polished wit he might under other circumstances have become, Mr. Clemmens related a series of jokes and anecdotes and connected them by a rambling history of the life of Artemus Ward, who, it would seem, began to be funny while a printer and unknown to fame. It was while laboring under these disadvantages that he conceived the idea of running tread-mills by steam, and explained to a board of railroad directors that if they would run their trains so slowly they ought to put their cow-catchers on the rear end lest some wandering cow should overtake the train and attack the passengers.

In a sort of interlude Mr. Clemmens stated that Artemus Ward had been credited with a good many jokes that didn't really belong to him, and with an air of mock modesty said that other folks had said some good things attributed to A. W. It is constantly being discovered that good things have been thought of by other people than those claiming them, and when one of Mark Twain's best essays had been carefully prepared for the press, some one discovered that the same ideas had been better set forth some years before by a Jewish writer named Joseph. Although as a general rule we admire what we are most attached to, yet a horse who had for years been attached to a drag despised the drag; and two wits who contended for the honor of having first thought of this fact, blushed at the reflection that the horse thought of it before either of them.

It was while a reporter at Cleveland that Artemus, then known only as Charles F. Browne, in an idle hour penned an ill-spelled letter chiefly for his own entertainment, and signed it "Artemus Ward." It achieved unprecendented popularity, and raised its author to fame in much the same way that "THe Heathen Chinee" raised Bret Harte. There was something in Artemus Ward that took the country by storm and the American showman who was ready to turn an honest penny by exhibiting an eclipse from a tent with an open top, immediately had the whole world running to his show. A digression on the character of the showman as a character showed a coarse, illiterate American always endeavoring to suit his conversation to his company, always keeping an eye on the "Almighty Dollar," always mingling the ricidulous with the sublime and never losing a joke. Soon after acquiring his popularity as the author of the Ward letters, Mr. Browne was called on to revive, if possible, "Vanity Fair," already entered upon that quick decline which every American comic paper seems destined to enter in its early youth. Mr. Clemmens is one authority for saying that "Mr. Browne, who always hated work, watched the paper in its death agonies, saw it expire, and said above its grave that he had always been of the opinion that an occasional joke improved a comic paper."

"Vanity Fair" having passed away, the idea of lecturing occurred to Browne. Encouraged in this by his friends and associates, he strung together a series of jokes and stories, under the heading of "My Seven Grandmothers," but at the suggestion of a friend substituted the equally appropriate title of "The Babes in the Wood," and went forth to new triumphs. For an entire winter he delivered his lecture to crowded houses in New York, and his profits for that season were estimated at from thirty to forty thousand dollars -- then considered a large amount, now moderate for a gas-fitter in the New York court-house.

Many of the jokes quoted seemed to come back to the audience like old friends. For instance, the once familiar question of the California manager -- "What'll you take for one hundred nights?" and Artemus's reply of "Brandy and water." But what shall we say of a man who lectures on Artemus Ward and mutilates that dear old joke about "sacrificing all my wife's relations," so that it was hardly to be recognized. The latter portion of the lecture was serious rather than funny, portraying Mr. Browne's career after he left American never to return. His enormous success in London made him threaten at one time to compel the Royal Family to stay away. He was rumored to have received almost fabulous sums for his contributions to Punch and with his panorama at Egyptian Hall his success was wonderful. He lectured until his health was in such condition that he was nightly attended by his physician at the theatre and fell a victim to disease at the age of thirty-three. Speaking as a personal acquaintance Mr. Clemmens declared Mr. Browne to have been a true gentleman.