The (Grand Rapids) Daily Morning Democrat

1871: December 16

Mark Twain.

A finer audience has seldom been gathered in this city than assembled to hear "Mark Twain" in Luce's Hall last night. Not only were all the seats full, but every foot of standing room was occupied. All appeared anxious to see as well as hear the lecturer whose nom de plume has become so familiar. Mr. Clements is of medium height, slight but compact figure, with black hair, eyes and moustache. His oratorical efforts must be heard from his own lips to be appreciated. His manner is inimitably droll, and he speaks with a nasal twang that is of itself amusing. On coming forward he was greeted with a hearty round of applause, and stood for a minute or so gazing in an absurd, vacant sort of way at the audience, as if he had forgotten his "piece," or was expecting "music by the band." As soon as the laughter had subsided, however, he coughed a modest little cought, and began somewhat as follows:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I ask leave to introduce to you the lecturer of the evening, Mr. Samuel B. Clements, otherwise known as 'Mark Twain,' a gentleman, I may say, whose devotion to science, aptness in philosophy, historical accuracy and love of -- truth [laughter] are in perfect harmony with his majestic and imposing presence, I -- ah -- refer -- ah -- indirectly to -- to myself! It is not, I know, customary to introduce a lecturer after having the amount of advertising that I have had; but as the management desired that the introduction should be made, I preferred making it myself, being sure by this means of getting in all the facts!"

He then remarked that he got very weary of repeating the same lecturer night after night; he formerly had one that he liked first rate, but he had got tired of it; lately he had been using another one, but had also got tired of that. He thought he had a mission to go about lecturing and doing good and telling the truth -- at intervals. He had a new book in press -- a book of 600 pages, same style as "Innocents Abroad," splendidly illustrated, and costing only -- but he wasn't canvassing for the book. No; only, if they wished it, he could read them thirty or forty pages of it from memory, or indeed the whole 600 pages. Then, perhaps observing a slight shudder in the audience at such a dismal prospect, he said he believed he would tell them something about his trip across the continent, in wagons, through the rains, and snows, and snakes, and sage-brush, and alkali flats, and hardships, and over the mountains and down the valleys, nineteen hundred miles to California. His descriptions of the sage-brush plains and arid and sterile mountains of Nevada were very fine, and his experience with a "Mexican blood" horse -- "the best bucker in America" -- was ludicrous in the extreme. He described Lake Tahoe, in Nevada, as the noblest, loveliest inland sea in the whole world -- a master work of nature -- a hundred miles in circumference, six thousand feet above the sea -- an oval mirror framed by snow-capped mountains ten thousand feet high, and whose waters were so clear that the smallest pebbles were distinctly visible at the bottom, eighty feet from the surface. This lake, he said, never freezes, though Lake Donner, in the immediate vicinity, does; and that was a question for science -- not why Lake Donner does freeze, but why Lake Tahoe don't. He advised all invalids to go there; and he earnestly urged all sportsmen to shoulder their rifles and proceed to Tahoe at once, for it is "the best hunting ground in the world; you might hunt a year -- and never find anything. There's no game there, except mountain sheep and seven-up." The sheep are American chamois, have big horns, and you can see them -- with a spy-glass; but it's hard to shoot them -- with a spy-glass. He then gave his ideas of silver-mining before he tried it, and described the business as actually carried on; told several amusing anecdotes in connection with his failure at mining and adoption of a "literary career," and finally wound-up by asking the indulgence of the audience for changing the subject of his lecture, and made his bow amid mingled applause and laughter.

This, of course, is not at all a "report" of Mr. Clement's effort last evening, but our readers can judge of the whole from the brief specimen we give. Honestly, we think it was a failure, and as far as we could judge, the audience were pretty much of that opinion.