The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1871: November 22

His Lecture on Artemus Ward -- A Quaint Affair -- What One American Humorist Thinks of Another.

At eight o'clock last night Plymouth Church was full of the usual Beecher people, all ready for smiling enjoyment, and all convinced that the greatest intellectual treat of the season was forthcoming. A little after eight the Intellectual Treat appeared casually in the shape of a young man with reddish hair and a reddish mustache. The young man was attired in evening dress. His swallow tales were of orthodox fashion, but well sat upon. His pantaloons had the gloss of respectable middle age. His linen looked as neat as that of Mr. Beecher himself.

Entering upon the stage with a careless slouch, as much as to say, "Here I am, by the Grace of God and the American people, humorist," he was greeted by terrific applause. The audience recognized their Intellectual Treat at once, and they went for him.

"My, what a handsome young man to be a lecturer!"

"He's married over three millions of money, and lectures for fun."

"So he ought, if he's a funny lecturer."

"He isn't a bit funny now he's married."

"He's got a baby and that takes all the humor out of him."

Volleys of missiles such as these were discharged against Mr. Twain, sotto voce last night.

By and by he launched himself in the current of his discourse and slowly paddled his facetious canoe from eight o'clock till ten, or thereabouts. The voyage was chiefly one of anecdote, Mr. Twain premising that though he had promised to talk of


he would under the circumstances confine himself to Artemus Ward whom he pronounced America's greatest humorist. He stated that he would forego criticism upon the subject, but would confine himself to Artemus Ward's biography. His description of Charles F. Browne was not very complimentary inasmuch as he described his hair as a divided flame and his nose as a cowcatcher.

He alluded to the Pilgrim Fathers, from whom Ward descended, with marked disrespect and intimated that one of these ancestors of his own had taken three sides in the Battle of Bunker Hill -- or words to that effect. He promised to enter upon a long and minute description of his own family, but on witnessing the restiveness of the audience under this threatened infliction, he changed his mind and heroically forbore from doing so. His biography of Artemus Ward was perhaps remarkable rather for unaccuracy and inventive power than for strict historical truth, but he fibbed with such unction that the congregation -- beg pardon audience -- listened to the sermon with their sweetest Sabbath smile.

The anecdotes were some of them old and some of them new, one or two having evidently a more ultimate relation to Mr. Samuel L. Clements than to Mr. Charles Farrar Browne. They were all good, however, and the man who went empty and rueful away must have a very diminutive sense of the ridiculous.

In conclusion, Mark Twain pathetically alluded to the death of Artemus Ward, expressing himself with exquisite taste. This portion of his lecture bore evidence of the ripe scholarship and genuine feeling which underlie the humorous surface of Mark Twain's character. The lines, quoted, we believe, from Punch, in testimony to the geniality of his deceased fellow spirit, were rendered with remarkable power.

On the whole, the lecture, which was actually nothing but a discursive and pleasant bundle of stories, bound together by a cord of quaint fancy, heartily pleased the audience, who frequently testified, by their applause and their laughter, the satisfation he had occasioned.

The Brooklyn Daily Union

1871: November 22


Plymouth Church was crowded last evening, on the occasion of Mark Twain's lecture, by an audience who from the first manifested that they had come with the determination of being amused, and who at the close went away with the happy consciousness of having effected their object very satisfactorily. Mr. Clemens made his appearance on the platform shortly after 8 o'clock, and was received with enthusiastic applause, which was renewed at brief intervals throughout the evening. The subject of the lecture was "Artemus Ward," a genius whom Mr. Clemens evidently appreciated and admired. There was much in the style and manner of Mr. Brown as described and illustrated last evening that could be distinctly observed in the lecturer himself, whose own genius appears to be very closely akin to that of his lamented subject, while at the same time it is entirely original and genuine.

Mr. Clemens' lecture, so far as it can be produced without the important accessories of his quaint, apparently unconcerned manner and comical drawling tone, was substantially as follows:

My lecture is about Artemus Ward. When I first started out on this missionary tour it was my intention to touch in my lecture upon a number of the other uncommonplace characters that I have met -- Bunyan, Martin Luther, Milton and a few others; but I find that to mention all these old fellows, the companions of my childish hours, takes a great deal too much time, and, therefore, I confine myself to the single great man whom I have named.

It is my purpose to show that Artemus Ward was America's greatest humorist, and I will give you a skeleton outline -- I have not time for more -- of his life. In this outline I shall not load you down with historic facts to such an extent that you will be unable to get home, nor will I even make for you any of my philosophical deductions. This last promise is, on my part, a sacrifice, for I admire my philosophic deductions as I admire few other things on earth. Strange as it may seem, I have always found that the effect produced by them upon an audience was that of intense and utter exasperation! [Laughter.]

Artemus Ward's real name, as most of you are probably aware, was Charles F. Brown. He was born in Waterford, Me., in 1834. His personal appearance was not like that of most Maine men. He looked like a glove-stretcher. His hair, red and brushed well forward at the sides, reminded one of a divided flame. His nose rambled on aggressively before him, with all the strength and determination of a cow-catcher, while his red moustache -- to follow out the simile -- seemed not unlike the unfortunate cow. He was of Puritan descent, and prided himself not a little on being derived from that stern old stock of people, who had left their country and home for the sake of having freedom on a foreign shore, to enjoy their own religion, and, at the same time, to prevent other folks from enjoying theirs. [Laughter.]

I don't know whether it is treasonable to speak in this way about those reverend old chaps, the Pilgrim Fathers. I am a Puritan Father myself, at least I am descended from one. One of my ancestors cut a conspicuous figure in the "Boston massacre," fighting first on one side and then on the other. He wasn't a man to stand foolin' round while a massacre was goin' on. Why, to hear our family talk you'd think that not a man named anything but Twain was in that massacre -- and when you came to hear all about it you'd wish that such was the case. [Laughter.] Then I had another ancestor in the battle of Bunker Hill. He was everything, that ancestor of mine was -- killed, wounded, and missing. He was a prompt, business-like fellow, and to make sure of being the last of the three he did it first of all -- did it well, too, before a shot was fired. [Laughter.]

Why, I could stand here for a week and tell you of my distinguished ancestors, and I think I'll do it. On second thoughts I think I won't, but go back to my subject.

Ward never had any regular schooling: he was too poor to afford it, for one thing, and too lazy to care for it, for another. He had an intense ingrained dislike for work of any kind; he even objected to see other people work, and on one occasion went so far as to submit to the authorities of a certain town an invention to run a tread-mill by steam. Such a notion could not have originated with a hard-hearted man. Ward was a dutiful son, and his first act when money began to come in on him from his lectures, was to free from incumbrance the old homestead in his native town, and settle it upon his aged mother.

His first literary venture was type-setting, in the office of the old Boston Carpet-Bagger, and for that paper he wrote his first squib. He tried every branch of writing, even going so far as to send to the Smithsonian Institute -- at least so he himself said -- an essay entitled "Is Cats to be Trusted?" He soon tired of settled life and poor pay in Boston, and wandered off over the country to better his fortune, obtaining a position in Cleveland as a reporter at $12 per week. It was while in Cleveland that he wrote his first badly spelled article, signing it "Artemus Ward." He did not think much of it at the time of writing it, but it gave him a start that speedily sent him to the top of the ladder without touching a single rung.

He soon left Cleveland, and, going to New York, assumed the editorship of Vanity Fair. Settled employment, however, did not suit him, and he soon started out on his first lecture tour. The success of this new employment, although not great at first, soon exceeded his most sanguine expectations, and he adopted it as a permanent profession. When he went to England, his reception was of the nature of an ovation. It is said that for each of his articles contributed to Punch he received $600. His panoramic exhibitions in Egyptian Hall were grand successes, drawing night after night immense crowds to witness them.

The English climate of cold and fog seemed to have the effect of eating away his life, and although he struggled hard he had to relinquish his avocation. When he knew that he must die his only desire was to get home, but this was denied him. He got as far as Southampton, but his physician peremptorily forbid his attempting the sea voyage, and at Southampton, in the thirty-fourth year of his age, he died.

In conclusion, Mr. Clemens siad: Ladies and gentlemen, my subject made it necessary for me to allude to death, at all times solemn, and never to be approached with levity. As this is the case, I think it more conducive to your and my own self-respect to stop here than to end my remarks by a flippant and ill-timed jest or jibe. Thanking you all very kindly for your presence and marks of approbation, I bid you a good night.