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The New York Times, July 23, 1895

He Was Asked to Write It by a Man in Australia, and Throws All the Responsibility on Him.

From the Cleveland (Ohio) Plain Dealer.

Following is in part the text of Mark Twain's lecture on "Morals," delivered in Music Hall on Monday evening, July 15, together with readings from his books:

"I was solicited to go around the world on a lecture tour by a man in Australia. I asked him what they wanted to be lectured on. He wrote back that those people were very course, and serious, and that they would like something solid, something gigantic; and he proposed that I prepare about three or four lectures at any rate, on just morals, any kind of morals, but just morals, and I liked that idea. I liked it very much, and was perfectly willing to engage in that kind of work, and I should like to teach morals. I have a great enthusiasm in doing that, and I shall like to teach morals to those people. I do not like to have them taught to me, and I do not know of any duller entertainment than that, but I know I can produce a quality of goods that will satisfy those people.

"If you teach principles, why, you had better let your illustrations come first, illustrations which shall carry home to every person. I planned my first lecture on morals. I must not stand here and talk all night; get out a watch; I am talking the first time now, and I do not know anything about the length of it.

"I would start with two or three rules of moral principles which I want to impress upon those people. I will just make the lecture gradual, by and by. The illustrations are the most important, so that when that lecture is by and by written and completed, it will just be a waveless ocean with this archipelago of smiling green islands of illustrations in the midst of it.

"I thought I would state a principle which I was going to teach. I have this theory for doing a great deal of good out there, everywhere in fact, that you should prize as a priceless thing every transgression, every crime that you commit - the lesson of it, I mean.

"Make it permanent; impress it so that you may never commit that same crime again as long as you live; then you will see yourself what the logical result of that will be - that you get interested in committing crimes. You will lay up in that way, course by course, the edifice of a personally perfect oral character. You cannot afford to waste any crime; they are not give to you to be thrown away, but for a great purpose. There are 462 crimes possible, and you cannot add anything to this; you cannot originate anything. These have been all thought out, all experimented on, and have been thought out by most capable men in the penitentiary. When you commit a transgression lay it up in your memory, and without stopping, it will all lead toward moral perfection. When you have committed your 462 you are released of every other possibility and have ascended the staircase of faultless creation, and you finally stand with your 462 complete with absolute moral perfection, and I am more than two-thirds up there. It is immense inspiration to find yourself climbing that way, and have not much further to go. I shall have, then, that moral perfection, and shall then see my edifice of moral character standing fair before the world all complete. I know that this would produce it. Why, the first time that I ever stole a watermelon - I think it was the first, but this is no matter, it was right along there somewhere - I carried that watermelon to a secluded bower. You may call it a bower, and I suppose you may not. I carried that watermelon to a secluded bower in the lumber yard, and broke it open and it was green.

"Now then, I began to reflect; there is the virtual - that is the beginning of reformation, when you reflect. When you do not reflect, that transgression is wasted on you. I began to reflect, and I said to myself, I have done wrong; it was wrong in me to steal that watermelon - that kind of watermelon. And I said to myself: Now what would a right-minded and right-intentioned boy do, who found that he had done wrong - stolen a watermelon like this. What would he do, what must he do? Do right; restitution; make restitution. He must restore that property to its owner; and I resolved to do that, and the moment I made that good resolution I felt that electrical moral uplift which becomes a victory over wrongdoing. I was spiritually strengthened and refreshed, and carried that watermelon back to that wagon and gave it to the farmer - restored it to him, and I told him he ought to be ashamed of himself going around working off green watermelons in that way on people who had confidence in him, and I told him in my perfectly frank manner it was wrong. I said that if he did not stop he could not have my custom and he was ashamed. He was ashamed; he said he would never do it again, and I believe that I did that man a good turn, as well as one for myself. He did reform; I was severe with him a little, but that was all. I restored the watermelon and made him give me a ripe one. I morally helped him, and I have no doubt that I helped myself the same time, for that was a lesson which remained with me for my perfection. Ever since that day to this I never stole another one - like that.

"Then I have another theory, and that is to teach that when you do a thing do it with all your might; do it with all your heart. I remember a man in California, Jim. What-is-his-name, Baker. He was a hearty man of most gentlemanly spirit, and had many fine qualities. He lived a good many years in California among the woods and mountains; he had no companionship but that of the wild creatures of the forest. To me he was an observant man. He watched the ways of the different creatures so that he got so that he could understand what the creatures said to each other and translate it accurately. He was the only man I ever knew who could do this. I know he could, because he told me so himself, and he says that some of he animals have very slight education and small vocabulary. These creatures are very fond of talking. They like to show off and he placed the bluejay at the head of that list. He said: 'Now, there is more to the bluejay than any other animal. He has got more different kinds of feeling. Whatever a bluejay feels he can put into language, and not mere commonplace language, but straight out-and-out book talk. And there is such a command of language. You never saw a bluejay get stuck for a word. He is a vocabularized geyser. Now, you must call a jay, a bird, and so he is in a measure, because he wears feathers, and don't belong to any church, but otherwise he is just as human nature made him. A bluejay hasn't any more principle than an ex-Congressman, and he will steal, deceive, and betray four times out of five; and as for the sacredness of an obligation you cannot scare him in the detail of principle. He talks the best grammar of all the animals. You may say a cat talks good grammar. Well, a cat does; but you let a cat get excited, you let a cat get a pulling fur with another cat on a shed nights, and you will hear grammar. A bluejay is human; he has got all a man's faculties and a man's weakness. He likes especially scandal; he knows when he is an ass as well as you do.

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