"MARK TWAIN" AT DINNER
THE GUEST OF HONOR IN THE LOTOS CLUB'S NEW HOUSE.
The Famous American Humorist Greeted by Many Well-Known People - Witty References by Charles Dudley Warner, Charles A. Dana, Seth Low, Richard Watson Gilder, and Others - The Guest Praised for His Love of the United States - Mr. Clemens's Two Speeches.
The Lotos Club gave its first dinner in its new home on Fifth Avenue, near Forty-fifth Street, last evening. Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) was the guest of honor. The dinner was a notable event, and it brought together a large gathering of well-known men.
Besides Mr. Clemens, there were seated at the head of the table William Dean Howells, Charles Dudley Warner, John Hay, Richard Watson Gilder, Gen. Horace Porter, Charles A. Dana, Andrew Carnegie, Edmund Clarence Stedman, James Brisben Walker, Seth Low, and St. Clair McKelway. In addition to these were nearly 200 other men well known in social, business, literary, and artistic circles.
After the dinner, humor, jollity, and good comradeship held undisputed sway. President Lawrence introduced - to use a formal expression - the guest of the evening with a few witty and well-chosen allusions. Mark Twain needed no introduction, however. He made two speeches, abounding with his quaint and inimitable humor. Almost every sentence was punctuated with spontaneous laughter and applause. The other speakers made Mr. Clemens the target of many a jest and joke, which were appreciated by none more keenly than by the famous writer himself.
"I have seldom in my lifetime," said Mr. Clemens, "listened to compliments more felicitous, nor praise so well bestowed. I return thanks for them from a full heart and appreciative spirit, and I will say in self-defense that while I am charged with having no reverence for anything, I have a reverence for a man who can say such things as your genial president. And I also have a reverence, deep and sincere, for a club that can confer upon one so confessedly deserving such distinguished tribute of respect. To be the chief guest on an occasion like this is something to be envied, and if I read human nature correctly tonight I am envied, and if I read human nature correctly tonight I am envied.
"I am glad to see a club in these palatial quarters. I knew it twenty years ago when it was in a stable, and later when it was in a respectable house, but nothing so fine as this. I am glad to see it is renewing its youth, and I hope it may be continued to the end - and I hope I shall be there.
"When I was studying for the ministry there were two or three things that attracted my attention. One was that unfortunate procedure that was introduced with the first banquet recorded in history, and which has been universally followed down to this present moment; I refer to the annoying custom of making the guest of the evening hop on his feet first. In the first banquet recorded in history, that other Prodigal Son, who had come back from his travels, as I have done, was notified to stand up and say his say. That was unfair. If he had been left alone until his brethren - David, Goliath, and the rest of 'em - had spoken, and if he had had as much experience as I, he would have declined. We know what happened. He gave himself away. I am afraid I shall give myself away if I go on. My history is plenty well enough known already. I never wish to add anything to it. Now, that you know how I feel about this matter, I will sit down and give the others a chance. If they talk too much, then I will get up and deny it ever happened.
"Besides, I don't feel well enough to talk any more. I have been in training with the Democratic party, and the events of last Tuesday have sort of undermined my political health. You can imagine I don't feel very robust. I feel as I do when I see one of those weak-minded young ladies, with an extra charge of poetic soul, towing a pup around the street. When I translate that pup's feelings, I feel that in that pup is concentrated the Democratic party. That ought to be a good excuse.
"Now, if I may beg your permission, I would rather sit down and wait until I find out whether I am a prodigal or a fatted calf."
Charles W. [sic] Warner was next introduced. He spoke in a happy vein about the reputation which "Mark Twain" has acquired in every part of the civilized and uncivilized world. After many chaffing remarks, Mr. Warner reverted to serious talk for a few moments, and said:
"Now underneath all this I have great respect and love for the man I am defending. I believe there is no man of the ordinary sort that is known to so many people as Mark Twain, and that there is none who is held in such friendly and warm-hearted recognition. Whether he is in Italy, India, Germany, or England, or whether he is among true-hearted Americans, he is always the same person - the same cordial, God-bless-you! Mark Twain."
A telegram from Henry Irving was read, as follows:
"Salutations and greetings to my old and honored friend, Mark Twain, and to the Lotos Club, with its supreme good fellowship. Wish I could be with you."
Charles A. Dana expressed his satisfaction at being able to pay tribute of affection and esteem to the guest of the evening. He said: "Never have we had from him any word or any suggestion that was not purely and heartily American. There are those today who seem to think it the right thing to do to turn their backs upon the Stars and Stripes, but mark Twain is not one of those, and I judge from the light that sparkles in your eyes as I gaze upon you that all the Lotos Club is first and always American. For that we say to Mark Twain, God bless you, and we will always carry you in our hearts."
Seth Low was the next speaker. He referred humorously to the political events of the last few days and said that, while all New York knew that what they saw in The Sun was so, he had not been able to find anything in that newspaper that would lead him to believe that there had been an election.
St. Clair McKelway made a witty defense of Brooklyn, and rejoiced at the vindication of right at the last election. He said that he expected many New Yorkers to move to Brooklyn now, and that some Brooklyn people would migrate to New York en route for a climate further up the river. he told many humorous stories about mark Twain which occasioned roars of laughter.
Gen. Horace Porter followed in another brilliant speech.
There were again loud calls for Mark Twain, and he responded as follows:
"I don't see that I have a great deal to explain away. I have got off very easily indeed, considering the opportunities these gentlemen have had. Neither Mr. Warner nor President Low said anything that I can object to, but I never heard so many er - lies as Mr. McKelway told you. I consider myself a pretty capable liar, but when he got through I was more than gratified to see how many things he hadn't found out."
Mark Twain then became Samuel L. Clemens, and he spoke seriously and feelingly about what had been said of his Americanism.
"I have been on the Continent two and a half years and I have met many Americans there. I tell you it is very gratifying that wherever you find Americans in Europe they have in almost all cases preserved their Americanism. The American abroad likes to see the flag of his country; he likes to see the Stars and Stripes fluttering proudly in the breeze. In those two and a half years l met only one American lady to be ashamed of. That is a very good record. That woman glorified monarchical institutions and lauded titles of nobility. She was entirely lost in them. She kept on until it was plain to me that she had forgotten such as country as the United States and such a flag as our flag. Finally, when I could stand it no longer, I said: 'We have at least one merit - we are not as China is.' The lady replied that she would like to know what the difference was. I answered: 'China forbids a dissatisfied citizen to leave the country. Thank God, we don't!'
"I was born a Mugwump, and I shall probably die a Mugwump. This election merely proves what I have contended abroad. I have said there that when Europe gets a ruler lodged in her gullet, there is no help for it but a bloody revolution; here we go and get a great big, emetical ballot, and heave it up."
Richard Watson Gilder, the editor of The Century, was the last speaker. He spoke briefly, but with quaint humor.
Return to The New York Times
Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search