Mark Twain\'s Speeches

Марк Твен
Mark Twain's Speeches

 
“He lit our life with shafts of sun
And vanquished pain.
Thus two great nations stand as one
In honoring Twain.”
 

I am very glad to have those verses. I am very glad and very grateful for what Mr. Birrell said in that connection. I have received since I have been here, in this one week, hundreds of letters from all conditions of people in England – men, women, and children – and there is in them compliment, praise, and, above all and better than all, there is in them a note of affection. Praise is well, compliment is well, but affection – that is the last and final and most precious reward that any man can win, whether by character or achievement, and I am very grateful to have that reward. All these letters make me feel that here in England – as in America – when I stand under the English flag, I am not a stranger. I am not an alien, but at home.

Dedication Speech

At the dedication of the college of the city of New York, may 16, 1908 Mr. Clemens wore his gown as Doctor of Laws, Oxford University. Ambassador Bryce and Mr. Choate had made the formal addresses.

How difficult, indeed, is the higher education. Mr. Choate needs a little of it. He is not only short as a statistician of New York, but he is off, far off, in his mathematics. The four thousand citizens of Greater New York, indeed!

But I don’t think it was wise or judicious on the part of Mr. Choate to show this higher education he has obtained. He sat in the lap of that great education (I was there at the time), and see the result – the lamentable result. Maybe if he had had a sandwich here to sustain him the result would not have been so serious.

For seventy-two years I have been striving to acquire that higher education which stands for modesty and diffidence, and it doesn’t work.

And then look at Ambassador Bryce, who referred to his alma mater, Oxford. He might just as well have included me. Well, I am a later production.

If I am the latest graduate, I really and sincerely hope I am not the final flower of its seven centuries; I hope it may go on for seven ages longer.

The Horrors Of The German Language

Address to the Vienna press club, November 21, 1897, delivered in German [A literal translation]

It has me deeply touched, my gentlemen, here so hospitably received to be. From colleagues out of my own profession, in this from my own home so far distant land. My heart is full of gratitude, but my poverty of German words forces me to greater economy of expression. Excuse you, my gentlemen, that I read off, what I you say will. [But he didn’t read].

The German language speak I not good, but have numerous connoisseurs me assured that I her write like an angel. Maybe – maybe – I know not. Have till now no acquaintance with the angels had. That comes later – when it the dear God please – it has no hurry.

Since long, my gentlemen, have I the passionate longing nursed a speech on German to hold, but one has me not permitted. Men, who no feeling for the art had, laid me ever hindrance in the way and made naught my desire – sometimes by excuses, often by force. Always said these men to me: “Keep you still, your Highness! Silence! For God’s sake seek another way and means yourself obnoxious to make.”

In the present case, as usual it is me difficult become, for me the permission to obtain. The committee sorrowed deeply, but could me the permission not grant on account of a law which from the Concordia demands she shall the German language protect. Du liebe Zeit! How so had one to me this say could – might – dared – should? I am indeed the truest friend of the German language – and not only now, but from long since – yes, before twenty years already. And never have I the desire had the noble language to hurt; to the contrary, only wished she to improve – I would her only reform. It is the dream of my life been. I have already visits by the various German governments paid and for contracts prayed. I am now to Austria in the same task come. I would only some changes effect. I would only the language method – the luxurious, elaborate construction compress, the eternal parenthesis suppress, do away with, annihilate; the introduction of more than thirteen subjects in one sentence forbid; the verb so far to the front pull that one it without a telescope discover can. With one word, my gentlemen, I would your beloved language simplify so that, my gentlemen, when you her for prayer need, One her yonder-up understands.

I beseech you, from me yourself counsel to let, execute these mentioned reforms. Then will you an elegant language possess, and afterward, when you some thing say will, will you at least yourself understand what you said had. But often nowadays, when you a mile-long sentence from you given and you yourself somewhat have rested, then must you have a touching inquisitiveness have yourself to determine what you actually spoken have. Before several days has the correspondent of a local paper a sentence constructed which hundred and twelve words contain, and therein were seven parentheses smuggled in, and the subject seven times changed. Think you only, my gentlemen, in the course of the voyage of a single sentence must the poor, persecuted, fatigued subject seven times change position!

Now, when we the mentioned reforms execute, will it no longer so bad be. Doch noch eins. I might gladly the separable verb also a little bit reform. I might none do let what Schiller did: he has the whole history of the Thirty Years’ War between the two members of a separable verb in-pushed. That has even Germany itself aroused, and one has Schiller the permission refused the History of the Hundred Years’ War to compose – God be it thanked! After all these reforms established be will, will the German language the noblest and the prettiest on the world be.

Since to you now, my gentlemen, the character of my mission known is, beseech I you so friendly to be and to me your valuable help grant. Mr. Potzl has the public believed make would that I to Vienna come am in order the bridges to clog up and the traffic to hinder, while I observations gather and note. Allow you yourselves but not from him deceived. My frequent presence on the bridges has an entirely innocent ground. Yonder gives it the necessary space, yonder can one a noble long German sentence elaborate, the bridge-railing along, and his whole contents with one glance overlook. On the one end of the railing pasted I the first member of a separable verb and the final member cleave I to the other end – then spread the body of the sentence between it out! Usually are for my purposes the bridges of the city long enough; when I but Potzl’s writings study will I ride out and use the glorious endless imperial bridge. But this is a calumny; Potzl writes the prettiest German. Perhaps not so pliable as the mine, but in many details much better. Excuse you these flatteries. These are well deserved.

Now I my speech execute – no, I would say I bring her to the close. I am a foreigner – but here, under you, have I it entirely forgotten. And so again and yet again proffer I you my heartiest thanks.

German For The Hungarians

Address at the Jubilee celebration of the emancipation of the Hungarian press, march 26, 1899

The Ministry and members of Parliament were present. The subject was the “Ausgleich”—i. e., the arrangement for the apportionment of the taxes between Hungary and Austria. Paragraph 14 of the ausgleich fixes the proportion each country must pay to the support of the army. It is the paragraph which caused the trouble and prevented its renewal.

Now that we are all here together, I think it will be a good idea to arrange the ausgleich. If you will act for Hungary I shall be quite willing to act for Austria, and this is the very time for it. There couldn’t be a better, for we are all feeling friendly, fair-minded, and hospitable now, and, full of admiration for each other, full of confidence in each other, full of the spirit of welcome, full of the grace of forgiveness, and the disposition to let bygones be bygones.

Let us not waste this golden, this beneficent, this providential opportunity. I am willing to make any concession you want, just so we get it settled. I am not only willing to let grain come in free, I am willing to pay the freight on it, and you may send delegates to the Reichsrath if you like. All I require is that they shall be quiet, peaceable people like your own deputies, and not disturb our proceedings.

If you want the Gegenseitigengeldbeitragendenverhaltnismassigkeiten rearranged and readjusted I am ready for that. I will let you off at twenty-eight per cent. – twenty-seven – even twenty-five if you insist, for there is nothing illiberal about me when I am out on a diplomatic debauch.

Now, in return for these concessions, I am willing to take anything in reason, and I think we may consider the business settled and the ausgleich ausgegloschen at last for ten solid years, and we will sign the papers in blank, and do it here and now.

Well, I am unspeakably glad to have that ausgleich off my hands. It has kept me awake nights for anderthalbjahr.

But I never could settle it before, because always when I called at the Foreign Office in Vienna to talk about it, there wasn’t anybody at home, and that is not a place where you can go in and see for yourself whether it is a mistake or not, because the person who takes care of the front door there is of a size that discourages liberty of action and the free spirit of investigation. To think the ausgleich is abgemacht at last! It is a grand and beautiful consummation, and I am glad I came.

The way I feel now I do honestly believe I would rather be just my own humble self at this moment than paragraph 14.

 

A New German Word

To aid a local charity Mr. Clemens appeared before a fashionable audience in Vienna, March 10, 1899, reading his sketch “The Lucerne Girl,” and describing how he had been interviewed and ridiculed. He said in part:

I have not sufficiently mastered German, to allow my using it with impunity. My collection of fourteen-syllable German words is still incomplete. But I have just added to that collection a jewel – a veritable jewel. I found it in a telegram from Linz, and it contains ninety-five letters:

Personaleinkommensteuerschatzungskommissionsmitgliedsreisekostenrechnungs erganzungsrevisionsfund

If I could get a similar word engraved upon my tombstone I should sleep beneath it in peace.

Unconscious Plagiarism

Delivered at the dinner given by the publishers of “The Atlantic monthly” To Oliver Wendell Holmes, in honor of his Seventieth birthday, August 29, 1879

I would have travelled a much greater distance than I have come to witness the paying of honors to Doctor Holmes; for my feeling toward him has always been one of peculiar warmth. When one receives a letter from a great man for the first time in his life, it is a large event to him, as all of you know by your own experience. You never can receive letters enough from famous men afterward to obliterate that one, or dim the memory of the pleasant surprise it was, and the gratification it gave you. Lapse of time cannot make it commonplace or cheap.

Well, the first great man who ever wrote me a letter was our guest – Oliver Wendell Holmes. He was also the first great literary man I ever stole anything from – and that is how I came to write to him and he to me. When my first book was new, a friend of mine said to me, “The dedication is very neat.” Yes, I said, I thought it was. My friend said, “I always admired it, even before I saw it in The Innocents Abroad.” I naturally said: “What do you mean? Where did you ever see it before?” “Well, I saw it first some years ago as Doctor Holmes’s dedication to his Songs in Many Keys.” Of course, my first impulse was to prepare this man’s remains for burial, but upon reflection I said I would reprieve him for a moment or two and give him a chance to prove his assertion if he could: We stepped into a book-store, and he did prove it. I had really stolen that dedication, almost word for word. I could not imagine how this curious thing had happened; for I knew one thing – that a certain amount of pride always goes along with a teaspoonful of brains, and that this pride protects a man from deliberately stealing other people’s ideas. That is what a teaspoonful of brains will do for a man – and admirers had often told me I had nearly a basketful – though they were rather reserved as to the size of the basket.

However, I thought the thing out, and solved the mystery. Two years before, I had been laid up a couple of weeks in the Sandwich Islands, and had read and re-read Doctor Holmes’s poems till my mental reservoir was filled up with them to the brim. The dedication lay on the top, and handy, so, by-and-by, I unconsciously stole it. Perhaps I unconsciously stole the rest of the volume, too, for many people have told me that my book was pretty poetical, in one way or another. Well, of course, I wrote Doctor Holmes and told him I hadn’t meant to steal, and he wrote back and said in the kindest way that it was all right and no harm done; and added that he believed we all unconsciously worked over ideas gathered in reading and hearing, imagining they were original with ourselves. He stated a truth, and did it in such a pleasant way, and salved over my sore spot so gently and so healingly, that I was rather glad I had committed the crime, far the sake of the letter. I afterward called on him and told him to make perfectly free with any ideas of mine that struck him as being good protoplasm for poetry. He could see by that that there wasn’t anything mean about me; so we got along right from the start. I have not met Doctor Holmes many times since; and lately he said – However, I am wandering wildly away from the one thing which I got on my feet to do; that is, to make my compliments to you, my fellow-teachers of the great public, and likewise to say that I am right glad to see that Doctor Holmes is still in his prime and full of generous life; and as age is not determined by years, but by trouble and infirmities of mind and body, I hope it may be a very long time yet before any one can truthfully say, “He is growing old.”

The Weather

Address at the new England society’s seventy first annual dinner, New York city

The next toast was: “The Oldest Inhabitant-The Weather of New England.”

 
“Who can lose it and forget it?
Who can have it and regret it?
Be interposer ’twixt us Twain.”
 

– Merchant of Venice.

I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don’t know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk’s factory who experiment and learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take their custom elsewhere if they don’t get it. There is a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger’s admiration – and regret. The weather is always doing something there; always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it gets through more business in spring than in any other season. In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four-and-twenty hours. It was I that made the fame and fortune of that man that had that marvellous collection of weather on exhibition at the Centennial, that so astounded the foreigners. He was going to travel all over the world and get specimens from all the climes. I said, “Don’t you do it; you come to New England on a favorable spring day.” I told him what we could do in the way of style, variety, and quantity. Well, he came and he made his collection in four days. As to variety, why, he confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather that he had never heard of before. And as to quantity well, after he had picked out and discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not only had weather enough, but weather to spare; weather to hire out; weather to sell; to deposit; weather to invest; weather to give to the poor. The people of New England are by nature patient and forbearing, but there are some things which they will not stand. Every year they kill a lot of poets for writing about “Beautiful Spring.” These are generally casual visitors, who bring their notions of spring from somewhere else, and cannot, of course, know how the natives feel about spring. And so the first thing they know the opportunity to inquire how they feel has permanently gone by. Old Probabilities has a mighty reputation for accurate prophecy, and thoroughly well deserves it. You take up the paper and observe how crisply and confidently he checks off what to-day’s weather is going to be on the Pacific, down South, in the Middle States, in the Wisconsin region. See him sail along in the joy and pride of his power till he gets to New England, and then see his tail drop. He doesn’t know what the weather is going to be in New England. Well, he mulls over it, and by and-by he gets out something about like this: Probably northeast to southwest winds, varying to the southward and westward and eastward, and points between, high and low barometer swapping around from place to place; probable areas of rain, snow, hail, and drought, succeeded or preceded by earthquakes, with thunder and lightning. Then he jots down his postscript from his wandering mind, to cover accidents. “But it is possible that the programme may be wholly changed in the mean time.” Yes, one of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it. There is only one thing certain about it: you are certain there is going to be plenty of it – a perfect grand review; but you never can tell which end of the procession is going to move first. You fix up for the drought; you leave your umbrella in the house and sally out, and two to one you get drowned. You make up your mind that the earthquake is due; you stand from under, and take hold of something to steady yourself, and the first thing you know you get struck by lightning. These are great disappointments; but they can’t be helped. The lightning there is peculiar; it is so convincing, that when it strikes a thing it doesn’t leave enough of that thing behind for you to tell whether – Well, you’d think it was something valuable, and a Congressman had been there. And the thunder. When the thunder begins to merely tune up and scrape and saw, and key up the instruments for the performance, strangers say, “Why, what awful thunder you have here!” But when the baton is raised and the real concert begins, you’ll find that stranger down in the cellar with his head in the ash-barrel. Now as to the size of the weather in New England – lengthways, I mean. It is utterly disproportioned to the size of that little country. Half the time, when it is packed as full as it can stick, you will see that New England weather sticking out beyond the edges and projecting around hundreds and hundreds of miles over the neighboring States. She can’t hold a tenth part of her weather. You can see cracks all about where she has strained herself trying to do it. I could speak volumes about the inhuman perversity of the New England weather, but I will give but a single specimen. I like to hear rain on a tin roof. So I covered part of my roof with tin, with an eye to that luxury. Well, sir, do you think it ever rains on that tin? No, sir; skips it every time. Mind, in this speech I have been trying merely to do honor to the New England weather – no language could do it justice. But, after all, there is at least one or two things about that weather (or, if you please, effects produced by it) which we residents would not like to part with. If we hadn’t our bewitching autumn foliage, we should still have to credit the weather with one feature which compensates for all its bullying vagaries – the ice-storm: when a leafless tree is clothed with ice from the bottom to the top – ice that is as bright and clear as crystal; when every bough and twig is strung with ice-beads, frozen dew-drops, and the whole tree sparkles cold and white, like the Shah of Persia’s diamond plume. Then the wind waves the branches and the sun comes out and turns all those myriads of beads and drops to prisms that glow and burn and flash with all manner of colored fires, which change and change again with inconceivable rapidity from blue to red, from red to green, and green to gold – the tree becomes a spraying fountain, a very explosion of dazzling jewels; and it stands there the acme, the climax, the supremest possibility in art or nature, of bewildering, intoxicating, intolerable magnificence. One cannot make the words too strong.

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