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The New York Times, September 12, 1920

Mark Twain's Mock Trial

We were having a very dull voyage. Mark Twain was one of the passengers on the steamship, and it was decided to have a mock trial instead of the usual concert for the benefit of the Seamen's Fund. Mark Twain was to be arrested and tried on the charge of being the greatest liar in the world. Every one was eager for this unusual form of entertainment, and Mr. Clemens entered into the spirit of it heartily. Judge Dittenhoefer of New York presided. A number of Harvard and Yale students were the jury, and the witnesses were other passengers. The hall was crowded. Every one received a souvenir program with Mark Twain's autograph.

The prisoner was handcuffed and forcibly led in by two sailors, looking as if he had had a severe struggle before his arrest. He was placed on the stand and the witnesses talked about everything but the case. They related numerous funny stories, and the only allusion to Mark Twain's veracity was made by a witness who said Mark Twain had written that coffee in Germany was so weak that it looked and tasted as if a coffee bean had just waded through it, and she knew this to be untrue, since she had often tasted good coffee in Germany.

Finally the author testified in his own behalf and said the only difference between others and himself was that other people were natural-born liars, while with him it was an acquired art. However, the jury found him guilty, and Judge Dittenhoefer, in summing up the case, said he hoped Mark Twain would live long to charm us with his stories.

The sentence was that he must read his own works three hours daily, whereupon Mark Twain in a weeping voice said, "I would rather be hanged," and handed the jury twelve stolen napkins to weep with him.

He made a picturesque figure with his shaggy white hair, his wonderfully brilliant eyes and commanding presence. The receipts from the entertainment were $100.


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