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The New York Times, February 6, 1873

Mark Twain's Lecture on the Sandwich Islands

The inimitable Mark Twain delivered his lecture on the Sandwich Islands last night at Steinway Hall, for the benefit of the Mercantile Library Association. The Hall and balconies were crowded to excess; every seat was occupied, and the centre and side passages were literally packed with persons who could not procure seats. The lecturer on being introduced assured the audience that he felt himself fully competent to speak of the interesting locality to which public attention has been lately directed, having spent several months on the islands. They were situated about 2,100 miles south-west of San Francisco, but why they were put in such an out-of-the-way locality he never could ascertain. The geological structure of the group of islands was described in the dry caustic style for which Twain is celebrated. The visit of the whites introduced civilization and education and killed out the natives. The latest reliable information fixes the population at 50,000, and when the benevolent foreigners start a few more seminaries, it is to be hoped that that event will materially help to kill off the remainder of the native population. The females wear a long robe, the gentlemen generally wear a smile and a pair of spectacles. The humorous description of the king and nobility kept the audience convulsed with laughter. It was not to be supposed that the natives were ignorant of scripture history; that they had some idea of the fall of Eve. Mr. Twain proved by stating that it was death for a woman to eat any fruit of the island, probably they did not wish to give woman a second chance. The American Missionary Society had started schools and introduced printing, and, owing to their exertions, there was not a single uneducated native above eighteen years old on the island, and the nation was about the best educated in the world. The expense of the mission was paid by the Sunday-school children of America, and Mr. Twain mentioned the fact that some thirty years ago he invested $2 in the speculation. Of course he did not mind the money, nor did he wish to "show off;" the incident was referred to as an instance of confiding humanity, and he hoped it would have its effect on the house. The natives are very hospitable, and feast their guests on roast dog and friccaseed cat -- the ordinary American sausage stripped of its mystery. The dog was the pet of the household and the constant companion of the family, and when fit for the table was killed and served up. Mr. Twain had no decided objection to the dish, but he did not relish the idea of eating a personal friend. There were no cannibals in the Sandwich Islands. True, one addicted to that barbarous custom settled on one of the group, and getting tired of digesting natives, he resolved to try a white man with onions. This savage succeeded in capturing the captain of a whaling-ship, a tough old salt, who had spent fifty years at sea, living on shark steaks and blubber, but he proved too much for the digestive organs of the interesting native, and he died of the feast, with the crime on his conscience and the whaler in his stomach. The various peculiarities of the Kanacks were described by Mr. Twain, who interspersed his discourse with humorous sketches and witty allusions to the topics of the day, which kept his audience in a continuous roar of laughter. His attitudes, gestures, and looks, even his very silence were provocative of mirth. The lecture will be repeated on Monday evening.

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