Mark Twain\'s Speeches

Марк Твен
Mark Twain's Speeches

The Babies

Delivered at the banquet, in Chicago, given by the army of the Tennessee to their first commander, general U. S. Grant, November, 1879

The fifteenth regular toast was “The Babies. – As they comfort us in our sorrows, let us not forget them in our festivities.”

I like that. We have not all had the good fortune to be ladies. We have not all been generals, or poets, or statesmen; but when the toast works down to the babies, we stand on common ground. It is a shame that for a thousand years the world’s banquets have utterly ignored the baby, as if he didn’t amount to anything. If you will stop and think a minute – if you will go back fifty or one hundred years to your early married life and recontemplate your first baby – you will remember that he amounted to a good deal, and even something over. You soldiers all know that when that little fellow arrived at family headquarters you had to hand in your resignation. He took entire command. You became his lackey, his mere body-servant, and you had to stand around too. He was not a commander who made allowances for time, distance, weather, or anything else. You had to execute his order whether it was possible or not. And there was only one form of marching in his manual of tactics, and that was the double-quick. He treated you with every sort of insolence and disrespect, and the bravest of you didn’t dare to say a word. You could face the death-storm at Donelson and Vicksburg, and give back blow for blow; but when he clawed your whiskers, and pulled your hair, and twisted your nose, you had to take it. When the thunders of war were sounding in your ears you set your faces toward the batteries, and advanced with steady tread; but when he turned on the terrors of his war whoop you advanced in the other direction, and mighty glad of the chance, too. When he called for soothing-syrup, did you venture to throw out any side-remarks about certain services being unbecoming an officer and a gentleman? No. You got up and got it. When he ordered his pap bottle and it was not warm, did you talk back? Not you. You went to work and warmed it. You even descended so far in your menial office as to take a suck at that warm, insipid stuff yourself, to see if it was right – three parts water to one of milk, a touch of sugar to modify the colic, and a drop of peppermint to kill those immortal hiccoughs. I can taste that stuff yet. And how many things you learned as you went along! Sentimental young folks still take stock in that beautiful old saying that when the baby smiles in his sleep, it is because the angels are whispering to him. Very pretty, but too thin – simply wind on the stomach, my friends. If the baby proposed to take a walk at his usual hour, two o’clock in the morning, didn’t you rise up promptly and remark, with a mental addition which would not improve a Sunday-school book much, that that was the very thing you were about to propose yourself? Oh! you were under good discipline, and as you went fluttering up and down the room in your undress uniform, you not only prattled undignified baby-talk, but even tuned up your martial voices and tried to sing! – Rock a-by Baby in the Tree-top, for instance. What a spectacle far an Army of the Tennessee! And what an affliction for the neighbors, too; for it is not everybody within, a mile around that likes military music at three in the morning. And, when you had been keeping this sort of thing up two or three hours, and your little velvet head intimated that nothing suited him like exercise and noise, what did you do? You simply went on until you dropped in the last ditch. The idea that a baby doesn’t amount to anything! Why, one baby is just a house and a front yard full by itself. One baby can, furnish more business than you and your whole Interior Department can attend to. He is enterprising, irrepressible, brimful of lawless activities. Do what you please, you can’t make him stay on the reservation. Sufficient unto the day is one baby. As long as you are in your right mind don’t you ever pray for twins. Twins amount to a permanent riot. And there ain’t any real difference between triplets and an insurrection.

Yes, it was high time for a toast-master to recognize the importance of the babies. Think what is in store for the present crop! Fifty years from now we shall all be dead, I trust, and then this flag, if it still survive (and let us hope it may), will be floating over a Republic numbering 200,000,000 souls, according to the settled laws of our increase. Our present schooner of State will have grown into a political leviathan – a Great Eastern. The cradled babies of to-day will be on deck. Let them be well trained, for we are going to leave a big contract on their hands. Among the three or four million cradles now rocking in the land are some which this nation would preserve for ages as sacred things, if we could know which ones they are. In one of these cradles the unconscious Farragut of the future is at this moment teething think of it! and putting in a world of dead earnest, unarticulated, but perfectly justifiable profanity over it, too. In another the future renowned astronomer is blinking at the shining Milky Way with but a languid interest poor little chap! – and wondering what has become of that other one they call the wet-nurse. In another the future great historian is lying – and doubtless will continue to lie until his earthly mission is ended. In another the future President is busying himself with no profounder problem of state than what the mischief has become of his hair so early; and in a mighty array of other cradles there are now some 60,000 future office-seekers, getting ready to furnish him occasion to grapple with that same old problem a second, time. And in still one more cradle, some where under the flag, the future illustrious commander-in-chief of the American armies is so little burdened with his approaching grandeurs and responsibilities as to be giving his whole strategic mind at this moment to trying to find out some way to get his big toe into his mouth – an achievement which, meaning no disrespect, the illustrious guest of this evening turned his entire attention to some fifty-six years ago; and if the child is but a prophecy of the man, there are mighty few who will doubt that he succeeded.

Our Children And Great Discoveries

Delivered at the authorsclub, New York

Our children – yours – and – mine. They seem like little things to talk about – our children, but little things often make up the sum of human life – that’s a good sentence. I repeat it, little things often produce great things. Now, to illustrate, take Sir Isaac Newton – I presume some of you have heard of Mr. Newton. Well, once when Sir Isaac Newton – a mere lad – got over into the man’s apple orchard – I don’t know what he was doing there – I didn’t come all the way from Hartford to q-u-e-s-t-i-o-n Mr. Newton’s honesty – but when he was there – in the main orchard – he saw an apple fall and he was a-t-t-racted toward it, and that led to the discovery – not of Mr. Newton but of the great law of attraction and gravitation.

And there was once another great discoverer – I’ve forgotten his name, and I don’t remember what he discovered, but I know it was something very important, and I hope you will all tell your children about it when you get home. Well, when the great discoverer was once loafn’ around down in Virginia, and a-puttin’ in his time flirting with Pocahontas – oh! Captain John Smith, that was the man’s name – and while he and Poca were sitting in Mr. Powhatan’s garden, he accidentally put his arm around her and picked something simple weed, which proved to be tobacco – and now we find it in every Christian family, shedding its civilizing influence broadcast throughout the whole religious community.

Now there was another great man, I can’t think of his name either, who used to loaf around and watch the great chandelier in the cathedral at Pisa., which set him to thinking about the great law of gunpowder, and eventually led to the discovery of the cotton-gin.

Now, I don’t say this as an inducement for our young men to loaf around like Mr. Newton and Mr. Galileo and Captain Smith, but they were once little babies two days old, and they show what little things have sometimes accomplished.

Educating Theatre-Goers

The children of the Educational Alliance gave a performance of “The Prince and the Pauper” on the afternoon of April 14, 1907, in the theatre of the Alliance Building in East Broadway. The audience was composed of nearly one thousand children of the neighborhood. Mr. Clemens, Mr. Howells, and Mr. Daniel Frohman were among the invited guests.

I have not enjoyed a play so much, so heartily, and so thoroughly since I played Miles Hendon twenty-two years ago. I used to play in this piece ("The Prince and the Pauper”) with my children, who, twenty-two years ago, were little youngsters. One of my daughters was the Prince, and a neighbor’s daughter was the Pauper, and the children of other neighbors played other parts. But we never gave such a performance as we have seen here to-day. It would have been beyond us.

My late wife was the dramatist and stage-manager. Our coachman was the stage-manager, second in command. We used to play it in this simple way, and the one who used to bring in the crown on a cushion – he was a little fellow then – is now a clergyman way up high – six or seven feet high – and growing higher all the time. We played it well, but not as well as you see it here, for you see it done by practically trained professionals.

I was especially interested in the scene which we have just had, for Miles Hendon was my part. I did it as well as a person could who never remembered his part. The children all knew their parts. They did not mind if I did not know mine. I could thread a needle nearly as well as the player did whom you saw to-day. The words of my part I could supply on the spot. The words of the song that Miles Hendon sang here I did not catch. But I was great in that song.

 

[Then Mr. Clemens hummed a bit of doggerel that the reporter made out as this:

 
“There was a woman in her town,
She loved her husband well,
But another man just twice as well.”
 

“How is that?” demanded Mr. Clemens. Then resuming]

It was so fresh and enjoyable to make up a new set of words each time that I played the part.

If I had a thousand citizens in front of me, I would like to give them information, but you children already know all that I have found out about the Educational Alliance. It’s like a man living within thirty miles of Vesuvius and never knowing about a volcano. It’s like living for a lifetime in Buffalo, eighteen miles from Niagara, and never going to see the Falls. So I had lived in New York and knew nothing about the Educational Alliance.

This theatre is a part of the work, and furnishes pure and clean plays. This theatre is an influence. Everything in the world is accomplished by influences which train and educate. When you get to be seventy-one and a half, as I am, you may think that your education is over, but it isn’t.

If we had forty theatres of this kind in this city of four millions, how they would educate and elevate! We should have a body of educated theatre-goers.

It would make better citizens, honest citizens. One of the best gifts a millionaire could make would be a theatre here and a theatre there. It would make of you a real Republic, and bring about an educational level.

The Educational Theatre

On November 19, 1907, Mr. Clemens entertained a party of six or seven hundred of his friends, inviting them to witness the representation of “The Prince and the Pauper,” flayed by boys and girls of the East Side at the Children’s Educational Theatre, New York.

Just a word or two to let you know how deeply I appreciate the honor which the children who are the actors and frequenters of this cozy playhouse have conferred upon me. They have asked me to be their ambassador to invite the hearts and brains of New York to come down here and see the work they are doing. I consider it a grand distinction to be chosen as their intermediary. Between the children and myself there is an indissoluble bond of friendship.

I am proud of this theatre and this performance – proud, because I am naturally vain – vain of myself and proud of the children.

I wish we could reach more children at one time. I am glad to see that the children of the East Side have turned their backs on the Bowery theatres to come to see the pure entertainments presented here.

This Children’s Theatre is a great educational institution. I hope the time will come when it will be part of every public school in the land. I may be pardoned in being vain. I was born vain, I guess. [At this point the stage-manager’s whistle interrupted Mr. Clemens.] That settles it; there’s my cue to stop. I was to talk until the whistle blew, but it blew before I got started. It takes me longer to get started than most people. I guess I was born at slow speed. My time is up, and if you’ll keep quiet for two minutes I’ll tell you something about Miss Herts, the woman who conceived this splendid idea. She is the originator and the creator of this theatre. Educationally, this institution coins the gold of young hearts into external good.

[On April 23, 1908, he spoke again at the same place]

I will be strictly honest with you; I am only fit to be honorary president. It is not to be expected that I should be useful as a real president. But when it comes to things ornamental I, of course, have no objection. There is, of course, no competition. I take it as a very real compliment because there are thousands of children who have had a part in this request. It is promotion in truth.

It is a thing worth doing that is done here. You have seen the children play. You saw how little Sally reformed her burglar. She could reform any burglar. She could reform me. This is the only school in which can be taught the highest and most difficult lessons – morals. In other schools the way of teaching morals is revolting. Here the children who come in thousands live through each part.

They are terribly anxious for the villain to get his bullet, and that I take to be a humane and proper sentiment. They spend freely the ten cents that is not saved without a struggle. It comes out of the candy money, and the money that goes for chewing-gum and other necessaries of life. They make the sacrifice freely. This is the only school which they are sorry to leave.

Poets As Policemen

Mr. Clemens was one of the speakers at the Lotos Club dinner to Governor Odell, March 24, 1900. The police problem was referred to at length.

Let us abolish policemen who carry clubs and revolvers, and put in a squad of poets armed to the teeth with poems on Spring and Love. I would be very glad to serve as commissioner, not because I think I am especially qualified, but because I am too tired to work and would like to take a rest.

Howells would go well as my deputy. He is tired too, and needs a rest badly.

I would start in at once to elevate, purify, and depopulate the red-light district. I would assign the most soulful poets to that district, all heavily armed with their poems. Take Chauncey Depew as a sample. I would station them on the corners after they had rounded up all the depraved people of the district so they could not escape, and then have them read from their poems to the poor unfortunates. The plan would be very effective in causing an emigration of the depraved element.

Pudd’nhead Wilson Dramatized

When Mr. Clemens arrived from Europe in 1895 one of the first things he did was to see the dramatization of Pudd’nhead Wilson. The audience becoming aware of the fact that Mr. Clemens was in the house called upon him for a speech.

Never in my life have I been able to make a speech without preparation, and I assure you that this position in which I find myself is one totally unexpected.

I have been hemmed in all day by William Dean Howells and other frivolous persons, and I have been talking about everything in the world except that of which speeches are constructed. Then, too, seven days on the water is not conducive to speech-making. I will only say that I congratulate Mr. Mayhew; he has certainly made a delightful play out of my rubbish. His is a charming gift. Confidentially I have always had an idea that I was well equipped to write plays, but I have never encountered a manager who has agreed with me.

Daly Theatre

Address at A dinner after the one hundredth performance of “The taming of the shrew.”

Mr. Clemens made the following speech, which he incorporated afterward in Following the Equator.

I am glad to be here. This is the hardest theatre in New York to get into, even at the front door. I never, got in without hard work. I am glad we have got so far in at last. Two or three years ago I had an appointment to meet Mr. Daly on the stage of this theatre at eight o’clock in the evening. Well, I got on a train at Hartford to come to New York and keep the appointment. All I had to do was to come to the back door of the theatre on Sixth Avenue. I did not believe that; I did not believe it could be on Sixth Avenue, but that is what Daly’s note said – come to that door, walk right in, and keep the appointment. It looked very easy. It looked easy enough, but I had not much confidence in the Sixth Avenue door.

Well, I was kind of bored on the train, and I bought some newspapers – New Haven newspapers – and there was not much news in them, so I read the advertisements. There was one advertisement of a bench-show. I had heard of bench-shows, and I often wondered what there was about them to interest people. I had seen bench-shows – lectured to bench-shows, in fact – but I didn’t want to advertise them or to brag about them. Well, I read on a little, and learned that a bench-show was not a bench-show – but dogs, not benches at all – only dogs. I began to be interested, and as there was nothing else to do I read every bit of the advertisement, and learned that the biggest thing in this show was a St. Bernard dog that weighed one hundred and forty-five pounds. Before I got to New York I was so interested in the bench-shows that I made up my mind to go to one the first chance I got. Down on Sixth Avenue, near where that back door might be, I began to take things leisurely. I did not like to be in too much of a hurry. There was not anything in sight that looked like a back door. The nearest approach to it was a cigar store. So I went in and bought a cigar, not too expensive, but it cost enough to pay for any information I might get and leave the dealer a fair profit. Well, I did not like to be too abrupt, to make the man think me crazy, by asking him if that was the way to Daly’s Theatre, so I started gradually to lead up to the subject, asking him first if that was the way to Castle Garden. When I got to the real question, and he said he would show me the way, I was astonished. He sent me through a long hallway, and I found myself in a back yard. Then I went through a long passageway and into a little room, and there before my eyes was a big St. Bernard dog lying on a bench. There was another door beyond and I went there, and was met by a big, fierce man with a fur cap on and coat off, who remarked, “Phwat do yez want?” I told him I wanted to see Mr. Daly. “Yez can’t see Mr. Daly this time of night,” he responded. I urged that I had an appointment with Mr. Daly, and gave him my card, which did not seem to impress him much. “Yez can’t get in and yez can’t shmoke here. Throw away that cigar. If yez want to see Mr. Daly, yez ’ll have to be after going to the front door and buy a ticket, and then if yez have luck and he’s around that way yez may see him.” I was getting discouraged, but I had one resource left that had been of good service in similar emergencies. Firmly but kindly I told him my name was Mark Twain, and I awaited results. There was none. He was not fazed a bit. “Phwere’s your order to see Mr. Daly?” he asked. I handed him the note, and he examined it intently. “My friend,” I remarked, “you can read that better if you hold it the other side up.” But he took no notice of the suggestion, and finally asked: “Where’s Mr. Daly’s name?” “There it is,” I told him, “on the top of the page.” “That’s all right,” he said, “that’s where he always puts it; but I don’t see the ‘W’ in his name,” and he eyed me distrustfully. Finally, he asked, “Phwat do yez want to see Mr. Daly for?” “Business.” “Business?” “Yes.” It was my only hope. “Phwat kind – theatres?” that was too much. “No.” “What kind of shows, then?” “Bench-shows.” It was risky, but I was desperate. “Bench – shows, is it – where?” The big man’s face changed, and he began to look interested. “New Haven.” “New Haven, it is? Ah, that’s going to be a fine show. I’m glad to see you. Did you see a big dog in the other room?” “Yes.” “How much do you think that dog weighs?” “One hundred and forty-five pounds.” “Look at that, now! He’s a good judge of dogs, and no mistake. He weighs all of one hundred and thirty-eight. Sit down and shmoke – go on and shmoke your cigar, I’ll tell Mr. Daly you are here.” In a few minutes I was on the stage shaking hands with Mr. Daly, and the big man standing around glowing with satisfaction. “Come around in front,” said Mr. Daly, “and see the performance. I will put you into my own box.” And as I moved away I heard my honest friend mutter, “Well, he desarves it.”

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