The New York Times

1906: December 8

Advocates New Copyright Law and Dress Reform.
Says at 71 Dark Colors Depress Him--Talks Seriously of Authors' Right to Profits.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7--Mark Twain spent a busy afternoon at the Capitol today, and for half an hour entertained the newspaper correspondents with a characteristic talk. Despite the blustering wind which swept down Pennsylvania Avenue, the author wore a suit of white flannels. In the members' gallery, which he first visited to watch the proceedings of the House, he attracted general attention.

Later Mr. Clemens visited the Speaker's room, and, while awaiting the arrival of "Uncle Joe," entertained a dozen Congressmen, including Grosvenor, Payne, Dalzell, and Foster, who hastened to pay him their respects. With the Speaker Mr. Clemens discussed briefly the pending Copyright bill. With William Dean Howells and a party of other authors and publishers, Mr. Clemens came here to be present at the hearings on this bill, which are now being conducted in the Senate reading room at the Congressional Library by the Committee on Patents of the Senate and the House.

With Mr. Howells, Edward Everett Hale, Thomas Nelson Page, and a number of other authors, he appeared before the committee this afternoon. The new Copyright bill extends the authors' copyright for the term of his life and for fifty years thereafter. It is also for the benefit of artists, musicians, and others, but the authors did most of the talking. F.D. Millet made a speech for the artists, and John Philip Sousa for the musicians.

Committee Enjoys Twain's Speech

Mr. Clemens was the last speaker of the day, and its chief feature. He made a speech the serious parts of which created a strong impression, and the humorous parts set the Senators and Representatives in roars of laughter.

"I am interested particularly and especially in the part of the bill which concerns my trade. I like the extension of copyright life to the author's life and fifty years afterward. I think that would satisfy any reasonable author, because it would take care of his children. Let the grandchildren take care of themselves. That would take care of my daughters, and after that I am not particular. I shall then have long been out of this struggle, independent of it, indifferent to it.". . .

An Advocate of Dress Reform

While waiting to appear before the committee Mr. Clemens talked to the reporters.

"Why don't you ask why I am wearing such apparently unseasonable cloths? I'll tell you. I have found that when a man reaches the advanced age of 71 years as I have, the continual sight of dark clothing is likely to have a depressing effect upon him. Light-colored clothing is more pleasing to the eye and enlivens the spirit. Now, of course, I cannot compel every one to wear such clothing just for my especial benefit, so I do the next best thing and wear it myself.

"Of course, before a man reaches my years, the fear of criticism might prevent him from indulging his fancy. I am not afraid of that. I am decidedly for pleasing color combinations in dress. I like to see the women's clothes, say, at the opera. What can be more depressing than the sombre black which custom requires men to wear upon state occasions. A group of men in evening clothes looks like a flock of crows, and is just about as inspiring.

"After all, what is the purpose of clothing? Are not clothes intended primarily to preserve dignity and also to afford comfort to their wearer? Now I know of nothing more uncomfortable than the present day clothes of men. The finest clothing made is a person's own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.

"The best-dressed man I have ever seen, however, was a native of the Sandwich Islands, who attracted my attention thirty years ago. Now, when that man wanted to don especial dress to honor a public occasion or a holiday, why he occasionally put on a pair of spectacles. Otherwise the clothing with which God had provided him sufficed.

"Of course, I have ideas of dress reform. For one thing, why not adopt some of the women's styles? Goodness knows, they adopt enough of ours. Take the peek-a-boo waist, for instance. It has the obvious advantages of being cool and comfortable, and in addition it is almost always made up in pleasing colors, which cheer and do not depress.

"It is true that I dressed the Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court in a plug hat, but let's see, that was twenty-five years ago. Then no man was considered fully dressed until he donned a plug hat. Nowadays I think that no man is dressed until he leaves it home. Why, when I left home yesterday they trotted out a plug hat for me to wear.

" 'You must wear it,' they told me: 'why, just think of going to Washington without a plug hat!' But I said no; I would wear a derby or nothing. Why, I believe I could walk along the streets of New York--I never do--but still I think I could--and I should never see a well-dressed man wearing a plug hat. If I did I should suspect him of something. I don't know just what, but I would suspect him.

"Why, when I got up on the second story of that Pennsylvania ferryboat coming down here yesterday, I saw Howells coming along. He was the only man on the boat with a plug hat, and I tell you he felt ashamed of himself. He said he had been persuaded to wear it against his better sense, but just think of a man nearly 70 years old who has not a mind of his own on such matters!"

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