Made in London by Mr. Choate and Mark Twain at a Dinner to Sir Henry Irving.
An event of literary as well as dramatic interest was the welcome-home dinner given in London to Sir Henry Irving on June 9 at the Hotel Savoy on his return from his American tour. Mr. R. D'Oyly Carte was the Chairman of the occasion, on his immediate right at the dinner being the guest of the evening, and on his left the Hon. Joseph H. Choate, United States Ambassador. At the tables, which were beautifully decorated with flowers, some fashioned to represent the Union Jack and others formed into the Stars and Stripes, sat, among others, Sir L. Alma-Tadema, Sir John Tenniel, Mr. Pinero, Bret Harte, S. L. Clemens, ("Mark Twain,") Anthony Hope Hawkins, Sydney Grundy, E. A. Abbey, Henry Arthur Jones, and Laurence Irving.
In reply to a toast to "Our American Visitors" Mr. Choate said:
I feed very proud to have been called upon to speak for the American visitors, who are so numerous and so noted, at this hospital board. I think I can say for them that they all feel very proud in having the honor to be here tonight to unite in honoring our distinguished guest. Across the Atlantic they are listening at this moment, wondering whether you will be able to give him as hearty and as warm-hearted a welcome as they gave him a godspeed when he left their shores. We take great price in congratulating him upon his world-wide fame and his success, which every year is outstripping itself. We are delighted to hear, too, from his own lips, authenticated by the emphatic declaration of the Lord Chief Justice of England, that this last triumph of his has been his best. Really, this time he has surpassed all former experiences, andhas discovered - made is own and brought home - the Golden Fleece. It was a veritable voyage of the Argonaut. I shall not follow the analogy too closely. But in this expedition of his there was a very close resemblance. He was accompanied by an enchantress, whose name he has mentioned, who helped him to soothe, to subdue, to captivate everybody whom he encountered. He found a worthy ship, he filled it with a noble crew of noble actors, and he penetrated to the heart of our great continent, where this wonderful treasure was hidden, and made it his own. How has he been able to achieve this might conquest? There is an old Spanish proverb which explains it fully: "He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry the wealth of the Indies along with him." That is exactly what Sir Henry Irving has done. No matter what treasure or reward we heap upon him in our country and in your, he always gives us more than our money's worth. How much treasure he brought away I am unable to certify. I know that the withdrawal of so much made a serious disturbance upon the New York Stock Exchange and caused a perceptible contraction of the currency on our side of the water which occasioned a momentary panic in all our centres of trade. Despair overcame our people until he promised to return again next year, and then everybody once more felt happy at the prospect. He gives more than he takes away, because he does so much to elevate popular taste and judgment and to raise the standard of the stage, and in raising the moral tone of the stage necessarily raises with it the moral tone of the audience. I would like to put Sir Henry "on the stand" and hear his view as to the relative capacity of these two great peoples for enthusiasm. When I first came to reside among the English people I had supposed from the account they gave of themselves that they were a cold and unimpassioned people, unwilling to give way to their feelings, and that when an occasional ebullition of enthusiasm broke out on our side of the water they said, "That is quite American, you know," but that was before certain recent events which have shown them in their true colors - before the relief of Ladysmith and Mafeking; in other words, before the relief of London. When these wonderful events happened they went as wild as human nature could let them go. never do I recollect, never have I heard in our history of such a wild outbreak of the human spirit as occurred on those two nights in London. It recalled the enthusiasm on the other side of the water when events made our experiment in self-government a final, an absolute, and a perpetual success. I hope that what I have read in the papers is untrue, and that Sir Henry will keep visiting our people for many years to come.
Mr. S. L. Clemens, ("Mark Twain,") in proposing the toast of "The Drama," said:
I find my task a very easy one. I have been a dramatist for thirty years. I have had an ambition in all that time to overdo the work of the Spaniard who said he left behind him 400 dramas when he died. I leave behind me 415, and am not yet dead. The greatest of all the arts is to write a drama. It is a most difficult thing. It requires the highest talent possible and the rarest gifts. No, there is another talent that ranks with it - for anybody can write a drama - I had 400 of them - but to get one accepted requires real ability. And I have never had that felicity yet. But human nature is so constructed, we are so persistent, that when we know we are born to a thing we do not care what the world thinks about it. We do on exploiting that talent year after year, as I have done. I shall go on writing dramas, and someday the impossible may happen, but I am not looking for it. In writing plays the chief thing is novelty. The world grows tired of solid forms in all the arts. I struck a new idea myself years ago. I was not surprised at it. I was always expecting it would happen. A person who has suffered disappointment for many hears loses confidence, and I thought I had better make inquiries before I exploited my new idea of doing a drama in the form of a dream, so I went to a great authority on knowledge of all kinds, and asked him whether it was new. I could depend upon him. He lived in my dear home in America - that dear home, dearer to me through taxes. He sent me a list of plays in which that old device had been used, and he said there was also a modern list. He traveled back to China and to a play dated 2,600 years before the Christian era. He said he would follow up with a list of the previous plays of the kind, and in his innocence would have carried them back to the Flood. That is the most discouraging thing that has ever happened to me in my dramatic career. I have done a world of good in a silent and private way, and have furnished Sir Henry Irving with plays and plays and plays. What has he achieved through that influence? See where he stands now - on the summit of his art in two worlds - a position unchallenged - and it was I who put him there - that partly put him there. I need not enlarge upon the influence the drama has exerted upon civilization. It has made even good morals entertaining. I am to be followed by Mr. Pinero. I conceive that we stand at the head of the profession. He has not written as many plays as I have, but he has had that God-given talent, which I lack, of working them off on the manager. I couple his name with this toast, and add the hope that his influence will be supported in exercising his masterly handicraft in that great gift, and that he will long live to continue his fine work.
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