Mark Twain's London Speech
At a dinner of the Author's Club, in London, a fortnight ago, Mark Twain was a guest of honor. He was greeted with much enthusiasm, and, on rising, began by humorously saying that it did not embarrass him to hear works of his praised. It only pleased and delighted him. He had not gone past the age when embarrassment was possible, it was true enough; but he had reached that age where he knew how to conceal it. It was such a satisfaction to him to hear Sir Walter Besant, who was much more competent than himself to judge of his work, deliver a judgment, which was such a contentment to his spirit. Well, had thought well of the books himself, but he thought more of them now. It also charmed him to hear Sir Spencer Walpole deliver a similar judgment, and he should treasure his remarks also; he should not discount them in any possible way. When he reported them to his family they would lose nothing. There were, however, certain heredities which came down to them, and which their writings at the present day might be traced to. He, for instance, read the Walpole Letters when he was a boy. He absorbed them, gathered in their grace, wit, and humor, and put them away to be used by and by; and one did that so unconsciously. He was now reminded of what use those Letters had been to him. They must not claim credit in America for what was given to them so long ago. They must only claim that they had trimmed this, that, and the other, and so changed their appearance that they seemed to be original. The gathering thus saw what modesty he had in stock; but it had taken long practice to get it there.
But he most not stand there talking. He had meant merely to get up and give his thanks for the pleasant things the preceding speakers had said. He wished also to extend his thanks to the Authors' Club for constituting him a member at a reasonable price per year, and for giving him the benefit of their legal advice. He believe they kept a lawyer. He had always kept a lawyer, too, though he had never made anything out of him. It was of service to an author to have a lawyer. There was something so disagreeable in having a personal contact with a publisher. It was better to work through a lawyer - and lose your case. He understood that the publishers had been meeting together. He did not know what for, but possibly they were devising new and mysterious ways of remunerating authors. He only wished to thank them for electing him a member of that club - he believed he had paid his dues - and to thank them for the pleasant things they had said of him.
Last February, when Rudyard Kipling was ill in America, the sympathy which was poured out to him was genuine and sincere, and he believed that that which cost Kipling so much would bring England and America closer together. He had been proud and pleased to see this growing affection and respect between the two countries, and he hoped it would continue to grow and please God it would continue to grow. He trusted they would leave to posterity, if they could not leave anything else, a friendship between England and America that would count for much. He added that he had been engaged for the past eight days in compiling a pun. He had brought it here to lay it at their feet, and not to ask for their indulgence, but for their applause. It was in these words:
"Since England and American have been joined together in Kipling,
May they not be severed in Twain."
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