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The New York Times, December 17, 1889


Ex-Mayor Low presided last night at an authors' reading in the Brooklyn Academy of Music, under the auspices of the American Copyright League, and for the benefit of its fund to secure the passage of an international copyright law. The Academy was filled with ladies and gentlemen. Mr. Low occupied a chair in the centre of the stage, and directly behind him, sitting in chairs arranged in a semicircle, were a number of gentlemen whose names and works are familiar to magazine readers.

Seated also on the stage and in the boxes were, among others, these members of the league: Gen. A. C. Barnes, W. A. White, Frank Lyman, Dr. P. P. Wells, James L. Morgan, Jr., Robert Muns, G. W.Bordwell, M. D. Farrington, Dr. H. Latto, Dr. James Roache, C. C. Wallace, F. Seaver, S. V. Lowell, C. Cuthbert Hall, the Rev. J. W. Chadwick, and Mrs. J. S. T. Stranahan. Chairman Low, before introducing the readers, made a brief address, in which he referred to the necessity of an international copyright law and the injustice to which authors were now, and have been for years, subjected without it. It was is earnest hope, and he knew he voiced the thoughts of all fair-minded men, that this session of Congress would not expire without the enactment of a law. He presented Mr. W. L. Reese, who read the following communication from Mark Twain, sent in response to an invitation to be present:

GENTLEMEN: I have worked for copyright in all the ways that its friends have suggested ever since 1872, seventeen or eighteen years, and I am cordially willing to continue to work for it all the rest of my life in all those ways but one - but I want to draw the line there - the platform.

We can point to an aggregate of about twelve Authors' readings now since the first attempt, but we cannot point to a single one of them and say it was rationally conducted. Conducting a show is a trade. To do it well it must be done by a master, not novices and apprentices. There is no master with grit enough for the place. You cannot find him; he has not been born yet. Consider what is required of him. He must say to the small fry: "You are allowed ten minutes platform time; if you overpass it two minutes, I shall bring down the gavel, and shut you off." To the very greatest poet he must say: "For your own sake you are allowed but fifteen minutes; you must test your pieces at home and time it by a friend's watch, and allow for the difference between platform time and parlor time, which is three minutes. If it overpasses twelve minutes at home, you must cut it down to twelve. If you try to ring in an extra piece you'll hear the gavel." He must say to the audience: "The performance will close at 10 o'clock whether this programme is finished or not," and then keep his word. He must find obscurities who are willing to take the tail places on the plain condition that they may possibly never be called up, or notorieties who will promise that they will not answer to their names after 10 o'clock, and will honorably keep that promise.

There is no such man alive, unless it might be Gen. Sherman, author of the brisk and delightful memoirs. And even then you would have to appoint me to police him, and whisper from time to time: "General, your time is up." For - possibly you have noticed it - in no instance in history has the Chairman of an Authors' reading failed to add an hour to the already intolerably long bill.

No, An Authors' reading conducted in the customary way turns what ought to be the pleasantest of entertainments into an experience to be forever remembered with bitterness by the audience. Remember Washington. There are now living but four persons who paid to get into that house. It is also a fact, however privately it has been kept, that twenty-two died on the premises and eighty-one on their way home. I am miserable when I think of my share in that wanton, that unprovoked massacre.

Tell me any other way that I can help the cause and I will do my very level best. Sincerely yours,

Edward Eggleston, after telling a few funny stories read "Bad Mean's Wooing," from "The Hoosier Schoolmaster." Then Mr. Low introduced Richard Watson Gilder, editor of the Century.

"The cause of international copyright," said Mr. Gilder, "is the cause of national honor. The fault of an individual may be excused, but who shalle excuse the crime of a nation? The greatest crime of this country which we have had to acknowledge since slavery is the piracy of the intellect." Applause greeted his words. Mr. Gilder read three of his short poems - "The Build of the Chimney," "Sheridan," and "On the Life Mask of Abraham Lincoln."

"A Question of To-day" was read by its author Edwin Lasseter Bynner. Mr. R. R. Bowker read from an autobiographic letter written by Amelia B. Edwards, telling of how she wrote her novels. Robert Grant gave some humorous passages from his "Confessions of a Frivolous Girl." William Hamilton Gibson read his article in the September Scribner's, "A Midnight Ramble," and F. Hopkinson Smith, by permission of Harper's Magazine, entertained the audience with an unpublished story called "Six Hours in Squantico," which, he declared, was a veracious narrative of a queer experience in a Virginia town. Theodore Roosevelt's name ended the programme. He told of his last encounter with a grizzly bear.

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