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The New York Times, November 19, 1884


A numerous and enthusiastic audience assembled at Chickering Hall last evening to listen to readings form the writings of Mr. Samuel L. Clemens - who prefers to be known as "Mark Twain" - Mr. George W. Cable. The gentlemen who read were the gentlemen who had written. The management, in its newspaper advertisements, spoke of the entertainment as a "combination of genius and versatility," but neglected to say which of the gentlemen had the genius and which the versatility. Some of those who were present last evening may have felt justified in coming to the conclusion that Mr. Cable represented both these elements, while Mr. Clemens was simply man, after the fashion of that famous hunting animal one-half of which was pure Irish setter and the other half "just plain dog." Mr. Cable was humorous, pathetic, weird, grotesque, tender, and melodramatic by turns, while Mr. Clemens confined his efforts to the ridicule of such ridiculous matters as aged colored gentlemen, the German language, and himself.

It became evident early in the evening that the gentleman who conceived the plan of bringing these two readers together had a marvelous faculty for grasping the sublimest possibilities of contrast. The audience appeared, however, to enjoy the sensation of dropping abruptly downward from such delightful people as Narcisse, Ristofalo, and Kate Riley to such earthy creatures as Huckleberry Finn.

The first selection was from "Dr. Sevier," the interesting scene in which Narcisse thinks he can "baw that fifty dolla' " himself. Then Mr. Clemens recited a selection from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," which will be continued in Mr. Clemens's next book. Mr. Cable followed with the scene from Dr. Sevier," in which Kate Riley yields her hand so eagerly to Ristofalo. The audience appeared to enjoy hugely the Italian's complacent "Da's all right." Mr. Clemens then read his "Tragic Tale of a Fishwife," which continued some remarkable linguistic contortions produced by adapting the German genders to the English language. Mr. Clemens was recalled after this effort and ladled out another section of the "Huckleberry Finn" advance sheets.

Then Mr. Cable read "A Sound of Drums," from "Dr. Sevier." This masterly bit of word painting was recited with fine elocutionary art, and held the audience spellbound to the close, when a burst of enthusiastic applause recalled Mr. Cable to the stage and compelled him to sing one of the old Confederate war songs that he learned by the camp fire. Mr. Clemens recited "A Trying Situation," one of those peculiar productions which attributes to its author much idiocy, and suggests the thought that it was written in the hope that it would make men deem the writer a very different kind of man. Mr. Cable's last selection from "Dr. Sevier" was "Mary's Night Ride," in which weirdness, tenderness, and melodramatic force were joined with a rare skill that evoked hearty and continued applause.

Mr. Clemens concluded the entertainment with "A Ghost Story," which had no merit beyond the reader's suggestion that it was a queer story to tell children at bedtime. This afternoon the same programme will be given, and this evening this combination of contrasts will present a fresh batch of readings.

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