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[This article has been edited to include only the speech given by Mark Twain.]

The New York Times, December 23, 1882




The seventy-seventh annual dinner of the New England Society of New York was given at Delmonico's last evening, and about 250 gentlemen members of the society and their friends, braved the inclement weather and celebrated the two hundred and sixty-second anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims by attending the banquet. The banquet hall was decorated simply with American flags and streamers, and the shields of the 13 original States were scattered in convenient positions about the walls. The raised table for the officers and distinguished guests extended along the entire western end of the room, and below this five long tables stretched down the hall. These, however, were found to be insufficient to accommodate the large number of guests, and one of the parlors was transformed into a dining room, in which covers were laid for about 25 of the guests. A string band enlivened the dinner with popular music. Josiah M. Fiske, President of the society, presided at the dinner, supported on the left by Gen. U. S. Grant, and on the right by Joseph S. Choate. The other guests at the principal table were Senator Miller, of California; Gov. John D. Long, of Massachusetts; Gen. Horace Porter, Samuel L. Clemens, (Mark Twain,) the Rev. J. R. Paxton, Commodore Upshur, of the Brooklyn Navy yard; Col. W. T. Vilas, of Madison, Wis.; Gov. Hobart V. Bigelow, of Connecticut; Mayor Grace, Benjamin D. Silliman, President of the Brooklyn New England Society; Judge Abram R. Lawrence, Chauncey M. Depew, F. W. J. Hurst, and the Rev. Arthur Brooks. Among the guests at the other tables were Augustus G. Paine, Isaac H. Bailey, D. F. Appleton, Dexter A. Hawkins, Randolph W. Townsend, Gardiner R. Colby, Marshall Jewell, Marvelle W. Cooper, Elihu Root, W. W. Niles, Frederick A. Potts, William Dowd, Stewart L. Woodford, E. N. Tailer, Carlisle Norwood, Jr., Cornelius N. Bliss, J. Pierpont Morgan, Noah Brooks, Frederick Billings, Prof. Cilley, of Exeter, N. H.; William A. Wheelock, Judge Horace Russell, Samuel Shethar, Lorenzo G. Woodhouse, W. B. Dinsmore, and Albon P. Man.

It was nearly 9 o'clock before the descendants of the Pilgrims concluded the frugal repast which Delmonico had provided for them, and when cigars were lighted, the President, Josiah M. Fiske, called the assembly to order, the hum of conversation ceased, and amid profound silence the Rev. Arthur Brooks returned thanks. President Fiske then opened the literary portion of the feast by a brief address, which was applauded to the echo. Mr. Fiske said:

"We have assembled this evening to celebrate the seventy-seventh anniversary of our society - one so highly favored in having so many of New England's noblest sons among its members. I know you will join me in welcoming to this banquet these distinguished and honored guests from sister States and sister societies, who commemorate with us the two hundred and sixty-second anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. We meet under most happy auspices - our land overflowing with plenty and at peace with all the world. Our relations with sister societies are still, as ever, of a most cordial character. Through the generous contributions of our members, instigated by the zealous efforts of ex-President Appleton, our prospects are bright for the erection and unveiling within a year of the Pilgrim Statue in an appropriate place in Central Park, to command, we hope, the admiration and homage of all visitors. Allow me a word at this time in behalf of one of the needs of the society. It is a New England Hall in this City - one adapted to all its wants. [Applause.] I hope some descendants of the Pilgrims will be inspired to inaugurate and carry to a successful termination of this work. Need I say that while we are grateful for all our blessings let us not forget those of our number who have passed away. And now, gentlemen, I shall leave it to the honored speakers of the evening to carry you back to Plymouth Rock and the days of your forefathers, but before doing so allow me to thank you most sincerely for the honor conferred upon me in re-electing me your President during my absence from the country, and to express my regrets that I have so poorly fulfilled the duties incumbent upon me.


The next toast on the list was "Woman - God Bless Her," and this was responded to by Mark Twain in an address which kept the tables in a roar for a quarter of an hour. The speaker brought his words out in an indescribable drawl, and puffed a cloud of smoke from his cigar between every two sentences. He said:

"The toast includes the sex, universally - it is to woman, comprehensively, wheresoever she may be found. Let us consider her ways. First, comes the matter of dress. This is a most important consideration in a subject of this nature, and must be disposed of before we can intelligently proceed to examine the profounder depths of the theme. For text let us take the dress of two antipodal types - the savage woman of Central Africa and the cultivated daughter of our high modern civilization. Among the Fans, a great negro tribe, a woman when dressed for home, or to go to market, or go out calling, does not wear anything at all but just her complexion. That is all; that is her entire outfit. It is the lightest costume in the world, but is made of the darkest material. It has often been mistaken for mourning. It is the trimmest, and neatest, and gracefulest costume that is now in fashion; it wears well, is fast colors, doesn't show dirt; you don't have to send it down town to wash, and have some of it come back scorched with the flatiron, and some of it with the buttons ironed off, and some of it petrified with starch, and some of it chewed by the calf, and some of it rotted with acids, and some of it exchanged for other customers' things that haven't any virtue but holiness, and ten-twelfths of the pieces overcharged for, and the rest of the dozen 'mislaid.' And it always fits; it is the perfection of a fit. And it is the handiest dress in the whole realm of fashion. It is always ready, always 'done up.' When you call on a Fan lady and send up your card, the hired girl never says: 'Please take a seat, Madame is dressing; she will be down in three-quarters of an hour.' No, Madame is always dressed, always read to receive; and before you can get the door mat before your eyes she is in your midst. Then again the Fan ladies don't go to church to see what each other has got on; and they don't go back home and describe it and slander it. Such is the dark child of savagery as to every-day toilet, and thus curiously enough she finds a point of contact with the fair daughter of civilization and high fashion - who often has 'nothing to wear,' and thus these widely separated types of the sex meet upon common ground. Yes, such is the Fan woman, as she appears in her simple, unostentatious, every-day toilet. But on state occasions she is more dressy. At a banquet she wears bracelets; at a lecture she wears earrings and a belt; at a ball she wears stockings, and with true feminine fondness for display, she wears them on her arms; at a funeral she wears a jacket of tar and ashes; at a wedding the bride who can afford it puts on pantaloons. Thus the dark child of savagery and the fair daughter of civilization meet once more upon common ground, and these two touches of nature make their whole world kin.

"Now we will consider the dress of our other type. A large part of the daughter of civilization is her dress, as it should be. Some civilized women would lose half their charm without dress, and some would lose all of it. The daughter of modern civilization, dressed at her utmost best, is a morsel of exquisite and beautiful art and expense. All the lands, all the climes, and all the arts are laid under tribute to furnish her forth. Her linen is from Belfast; her robe is from Paris; her lace is from Venice or Spain or France; her feathers are from the remote regions of Southern Africa; her furs from the remote home of the iceberg and the aurora; her fan from Japan; her diamonds from Brazil; her bracelets from California; her pearls from Ceylon; her cameos from Rome; she has gems and trinkets from buried Pompeii, and others that graced comely Egyptian forms that have been dust and ashes now for 40 centuries; her watch is from Geneva; her card-case is from China; her hair is from - from - I don't know where her hair is from; I never could find out. That is her other hair; her public hair, her Sunday hair; I don't mean the hair she goes to bed with. Why, you ought to know the hair I mean; it's that thing which she calls a switch, and which resembles a switch as much as it does a brickbat or a shot-gun or any other thing which you correct people with. It's that thing which she twists and then coils round and round her head, beehive fashion, and then tucks the end in under the hive and harpoons it with a hair-pin . And that reminds me of a trifle. Any time you want to, you can glance around the carpet of a Pullman car and go and pick up a hair-pin, but not to save our life can you get any woman in that car to acknowledge that hair-pin. She will deny that hair-pin before a hundred witnesses. I have stupidly got into more trouble and more hot water trying to hunt up the owner of a hair-pin in a Pullman car than by any other indiscretion of my life.

"Well, you see what the daughter of civilization is when she is dressed, and you have seen what the daughter of savagery is when she isn't. Such is woman as to costume. I come now to consider her in her higher and nobler aspects - as mother, wife, widow, grass-widow, mother-in-law, hired girl, telegraph operator, telephone hellower, queen, book-agent, wet-nurse, step-mother, boss, professional fat woman, professional double-headed woman, professional beauty, and so forth, and so on. We will simply discuss these few - let the rest of the sex tarry in Jericho until we come again. First in the list, of right, and first in our gratitude, come a woman who - why, dear me, I've been talking three-quarters of an hour! I beg a thousand pardons. But you see yourselves I had a large contract. I have accomplished something, anyway; I have introduced my subject, and if I had until next Forefather's day I am satisfied that I could discuss it adequately and appreciatively as a so gracious and noble theme deserves. But as the matter stands now let us finish as we began and say, without jesting, but with all sincerity, 'Woman - God bless her!' "

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