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The New York Times, January 12, 1908

Says at Lotos Club Dinner He's Collecting Them as some Others Do Stamps.
Author Took a Nap Between Courses Because He Was Going to be Up So Late.

Through Innocent Oysters Abroad, Roughing It Soup, Fish Huckleberry Finn, and Joan of Arc Filet of Beef, which the menu of the Lotos Club's dinner to Mark Twain told the guests they were eating last night, the guest of honor in his white suit, sat in an armchair at the speaker's table. But when Jumping Frog Terrapin had been reached, the author, the names of whose works had been perpetuated in the dishes, thought he would be out of bed pretty late for him, and consequently he would like to take a nap.

While the guests cheered him and he waved his hand to them, he was escorted to the upper floor. Those left in the dining room continued with Punch, Brothers, Punch; Gilded Age duck, Hadleyburg salad, Life on the Mississippi salad, Prince and the Pauper cakes, Puddin'head [sic] cheese, and White Elephant coffee. Toward the end of the menu, Mark Twain reappeared.

When his turn to speak came he announced that he had discovered a new idea. People collected postage stamps, cats, dogs, and autographs, but he was collecting compliments, he declared. He had a number of specimens and he would read them. He did. And then he added his appreciation of their authors' sincerity. The paying of compliments was an art by itself, he said.

At the speakers' table with Mark Twain were Frank R. Lawrence, President of the club; Col. Robert P. Porter, Andrew Carnegie, Dr. Robert S. MacArthur, Hamilton W. Mabie, James M. Beck, Col. George M. Harvey, Col. William C. Church, Gen. Steward L. Woodford, H. H Rogers, Chester S. Lord, Dr. Alexander C. Humphreys, and William H. McElroy. Near the close of the dinner Gov. Fort of New Jersey entered.

After Mark had taken his armchair again and the other guests had sipped their White Elephant coffee, President Lawrence as a prelude to the introduction of the guest of honor pointed out one significant feature of the occasion.

The first club dinner in he present clubhouse, at 558 Fifth Avenue, held fourteen years ago, had been in honor of Mark Twain. Seven years later, "on his return from diverse and irregular wanderings," he was the guest at another dinner.

At that time it had been jokingly proposed that at regular intervals of seven years dinners should be held for the author. Last night was the night. It was possible, Mr. Lawrence said, that this dinner might be the last given in the hold house. (The new house, 110 West Fifty-seventy Street, may be ready on Jan. 15.)

Mr. Lawrence then called upon Col. Robert P. Porter, who had accompanied Mr. Clemens to Oxford on the occasion of the conferring upon him of the degree of Doctor of Literature, to tell something of the author as he appeared then.

Dr. Porter said among other things that he had been impressed abroad at the number and kind of persons who knew Mr. Clemens. The people on the street - even the London policemen who had been sent down to the university town to help their comrades of Oxford with the pageant knew him.

Then after a toast had been drunk to him, Mr. Clemens began in his drawling gentle way:

"I wish to begin at the beginning, lest I forget it altogether," he said. "I wish to thank you for your welcome now and for that of seven years ago, which I forgot to thank you for at the time, also for that of fourteen years ago which I also forgot to thank you for. I know how it is; when you have been in a parlor and are going away, common decency ought to make you say the decent thing, what a good time you have had. Everybody does it except myself.

"I hope that you will continue that excellent custom of giving me dinners every seven years. I had had it on my mind to join the hosts of another world - I do not know which world - but I have enjoyed your custom so much that I am willing to postpone it for another seven years.

"The guest is in an embarrassing position, because compliments have been paid to him. I don't care whether you deserve it or not, but it is hard to talk up to it.

"The other night at the Engineers' Club dinner they were paying Mr. Carnegie here discomforting compliments. They were all compliments and they were not deserved, and I tried to help him out with criticisms and references to things nobody understood.

"They say that one cannot live on bread alone, but I could live on compliments. I can digest them. They do not trouble me. I have missed much in life that I did not make a collection of compliments, and keep them where I could take them out and look at them once in a while. I am beginning now. Other people collect autographs, dogs, and cats, and I collect compliments. I have brought them along.

"I have written them down to preserve them, and think that they're mighty good and exceedingly just."

Then Mr. Clemens read a few. The first, by Hamilton W. Mabie, said that La Salle might have been the first man to make a voyage of the Mississippi, but that Mark Twain was the first man to chart light and humor for the human race.

"If that had been published at the time that I issued that book ('Life on the Mississippi')it would have been money in my pocket," he said. "I tell you it is a talent by itself to pay complements gracefully and have them ring true. It's an art by itself.

"Now, here's one by my biographer. [Loud laughter.] Well, he ought to know me if anybody does. He's been at my elbow for two years and a half. This is Albert Bigelow Paine:

" 'Mark Twain is not merely the great writer, the great philosopher, but he is the supreme expression of the human being with its strengths and weaknesses.' "

Mark Twain looked up from he paper which the compliments were written.

"What a talent for compression!" he exclaimed.

W. D. Howells, Mark Twain said, spoke of him as first of Hartford and ultimately of the solar system, not to say of the universe.

"You know how modest Howells is," he commented. "If it can be proved that my fame reaches to Neptune and Saturn, that will satisfy even me. You know how modest and retiring Howells is, but deep down he is as vain as I am."

Mark Twain said Mr. Howells had been granted a degree at Oxford, whose gown was red. He had been invited to an exercise at Columbia, and upon inquiry had been told that it was usual to wear the black gown. Later he had found that three other men wore bright gowns and he had lamented that he had been one of the black mass, and not a red torch.

Edison wrote: "The average American loves his family. If he has any love left over for some other person he generally selects Mark Twain."

"Now here's the compliment of a little Montana girl, " continued Mark Twain, "which came to me indirectly. She was in a room in which there was a large photograph of me. After gazing at it steadily for a time, she said:

" 'We've got a John the Baptist like that.' "

When the diners' laughter allowed him, Mr. Clemens added:

"She also said: 'Only ours has more trimmings.'

"I suppose she meant the halo. Now here is a gold miner's compliment. It is forty-two years old. It was my introduction to an audience to which I lectured in a log schoolhouse. There were no ladies there. I wasn't famous then. They didn't know me. Only the miners were there with their breeches tucked into their boot tops and with clay all over them. They wanted some one to introduce me, and then selected a miner, who protested that he didn't want to do on the ground that he had never appeared in public. This is what he said:

"I don't know anything about this man. Anyhow, I only know two things about him. One is he has never been in jail and the other is I don't know why.

"There's one thing I want to say about the English trip. I knew his Majesty, the King of England, long years ago, and I didn't meet him for the first time then. One thing that I regret was that some newspapers said I talked with the Queen of England with my hat on. I don't do that with any woman. I did not put it on until she asked me to. Then she told me to put it on, and it's a command there. I thought I had carried my American democracy far enough. So I put it on. I have no use for a hat, and never did have.

"Who was it who said that he police of London knew me? Why, the police knew me everywhere. There never was a day over there when a policeman did not salute me, and then put up his hand and stop the traffic of the world. They treated me as though I were a Duchess."

Andrew Carnegie, who followed Mr. Clemens, said that the English public had made much of the author's literary attainments but there was another Mark Twain - Mark Twain the man. He eulogized Mark Twain at length, and referred to his action in paying every cent of the debts of the publishing firm with which he had once been connected.

Other speakers were Dr. Robert S. MacArthur, Hamilton W. Mabie, James M. Beck, Col. George M. Harvey, Col. William C. Church, and Gen. Stewart L. Woodford.

The menu card was a large sheet rolled as a diploma or degree with its central feature a picture of Mark Twain in his Oxford doctor's robes. The margins contained small pictures of scenes and characters from the author's books.

There were also shown the old homes and the new of the Lotos club. A woman below the Mark Twain portrait held in one a scroll with Mr. Clemens's various degrees, and in the other a mask whose features were those of Mark Twain. Near the bottom in the centre was the menu with its book and character names and titles.

Here is what the diners ate:

Innocent Oysters Abroad.
Roughing It Soup.
Huckleberry Finn Fish.
Joan of Arc Filet of Beef.
Jumping Frog Terrapin.
Punch Brothers Punch.
Gilded Duck.
Hadleyburg Salad.
Life on the Mississippi Ice Cream.
Prince and the Pauper Cake.
Pudd'nhead Cheese.
White Elephant coffee.
Chateau Yuem Royals.
Pommery Brut.
Henkow Cognac.


After it was all over President Lawrence told the company that while this might be the final gathering in the old quarters, the Lotos spirit must be made to burn brightly in the new quarters.

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