Home | Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search

The New York Times, June 5, 1902

Missouri University Makes Him a Doctor of Laws.
The Humorist Eulogizes Himself in a Manner Which Greatly Amuses Those Who Hear Him.

Special to The New York Times.

COLUMBIA, Mo., June 4. - The graduating exercises of the State University of Missouri took place today. The programme included several special attractions. The feature was the conferring of honorary degrees of LL.D. on a number of distinguished personages, including Mark Twain, the humorist, James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture; Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Secretary of the Interior; B. T. Galloway, Chief of the Bureau of Plant Industry, and Robert S. Brookings of St. Louis.

Mark Twain was the centre of attraction. Since his arrival from Hannibal yesterday he has been given a continual round of banquets, dinners, and similar entertainments, and when he appeared in chapel this morning he looked fatigued, but was otherwise in fine spirits.

Mr. Clemens, attired in a Yale scholastic gown, led the graduating procession in its march to the stage, and conferred the diplomas upon the graduates. All the exercises were made a brief as possible. The distinguished humorist gave the audience a treat of humorous stories, personal anecdotes, and humorous remarks at the expense of the other distinguished visitors, in whose company he received the degrees.

The conferring of the degrees was especially interesting, each of the ones thus honored responding with a few remarks appropriate to the occasion. Before the degree of Doctor of Laws was formally conferred upon Mark Twain, Gardner Lathrop read a statement introducing the author to the audience, containing many references to his work and characteristics of his genius.

Mr. Clemens stepped to the centre of the stage and paused. He seemed to be hesitating whether to make a talk or retire with a few remarks. Suddenly, and without a signal, the great audience arose as one man and stood in silence at the feet of the man who wrote "Tom Sawyer." Mr. Clemens bowed and remained silent. Then the audience began a peculiar chant, spelling slowly the word Missouri, with a pause between each letter. It was as solemn sound, and the effect was strongly impressive.

The humorist said that he was in doubt as to whether a speech was expected or only a few remarks. He was not left in doubt very long. With one will the audience demanded a speech and were so insistent that it would have been extremely difficult to decline, but it is doubtful if Mark Twain wished to do so.

His speech was playful, satirical, and at times pathetic, including personal anecdotes, funny stories of a great variety and much that was serious, and all told with great earnestness. He referred with much feeling to his recent visit to his old home and friends, and said that though it cost him an aching heart, he would not have missed experiencing those sacred emotions even if he could have avoided them. He touched humorously upon the matter of his degree and said that while he fully deserved the honor and was glad to get it, he was very much afraid that it might have aroused jealousy among his enemies.

He said that when he received his degree in an Eastern college as a Doctor of Literature much jealousy of a most reprehensible nature was created among those who envied his intellect and ability, and that one man wrote him asking him what knew about literature. Another man wished to know if a Doctor of Literature meant a man who was able to "doctor' his own literature, and others asked similar mean questions, which only proved their jealousy of spirit and envy of a deserving man.

Mr. Clemens referred to Mr. Lathrop, who had read such a glowing eulogy on the humorist, as "the Ambassador," and expressed his regret that the latter had neglected so splendid an opportunity to tell the real truth instead of contenting himself with compliments.

Mr. Clemens told a watermelon story that greatly amused his audience, and a few jokes on Secretary Wilson and others that were highly characteristic of the humorist. Though he began his talk rather sadly, he was in a merry mood before he had completed. He finally launched forth into a eulogy on himself delivered so seriously and with such a straight face that the audience were almost tempted to take him at his word and refrain from laughing when the laugh came in.

"Since I have been in Missouri," said the speaker, "I have distributed more wisdom than ever before, and I am sure that much good will result from my visit. I have had many honors conferred upon me, but I deserved them all. I sometimes suspect when you confer these honors you mean it as a sort of hint that I have been with you long enough. Some of the Eastern colleges seemed to be rather in a hurry about getting me out of the way, and began conferring honors upon me years ago, but as I stated before, I deserve them all, and am always willing to accept anything in the way of honors that you have to offer."

Mark Twain will leave at noon tomorrow for St. Louis. During his stay in Columbia he has been the guest of E. W. Stephens, proprietor of a paper here. A dinner was given in his honor tonight by his host, and there were twelve invited guests.

Return to The New York Times index

Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search