Mark Twain's Speech on the Fourth
At the American banquet in London on July 4, one of the speakers was Mark Twain, who in speaking to the toast, said the previous speakers had left him little to say, but he noticed that they had considered the day from one side - its sentimental, patriotic, and poetical side. That was all right, but it had another side. It had a commercial side, a business side, and that side needed reform. They had heard nothing but compliments of the Fourth of July, and the Fourth of July was entitled to those compliments. Referring to its historical side, he took occasion to humorously criticise the use of the word "an" in English. He did not see why their cousins should continue to say an hospital, an historical fact, an horse, and it seemed to him that the Congress of Women, now in session, should see to it, for "an" was having too much too with the matter. This all came from habit. This reminded him of an incident at a luncheon the previous day.
A great Church dignitary went away half an hour before anybody else, and he carried off his (Mark Twain's) hat. Of course, in going out first he had the choice of hats. It was an innocent act, and was perhaps due to heredity. His head was no doubt full of ecclesiastical matters. He was absorbed in something that would benefit the Church, and when a man was in that condition he would take anybody's hat. It was just a recurrence of a long-abandoned habit of an ancestor, and he would not trust an ancestor with a hat or anything else. For five hours he (Mark Twain) was under the influence of the clerical hat, and during that time he could not tell a lie. In conclusion, the speaker said he hoped that the time would come when, wherever English and Americans found themselves together, they would feel that they were not aliens or strangers, but kinsmen of the same blood.
Return to The New York Times
Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search