CELEBRATE MARK TWAIN'S SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY
Fellow-Workers in Fiction Dine with Him at Delmonico's.
HEAR WHY HE LIVED SO LONG
And How They, if They Resemble Him, May Reach Seventy, Too - Roosevelt Sends Congratulations.
Mark Twain, the greatest of living humorists and the uncrowned king of American letters, whose standing joke among his intimate friends is the pretension that his real name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, celebrated his seventieth birthday last night. Or perhaps it would be more proper to say that others did it for him, Mark Twain himself being too busy making a speech.
There were 170 of his friends and fellow-craftsmen in literature gathered in the Red Room at Delmonico's for the celebration. Barring a half dozen or so, all were guaranteed to be genuine creators of imaginative writings - or illustrators of such writings. The guarantee was furnished by Col. George Harvey, editor of The North American Review, who was the host of the evening as well as the Chairman.
Even the presence as the guest of honor of the world's foremost fun maker could not drive away the serious reflection that never before in the annals of this country had such a representative gathering of literary men and women been seen under one roof. There were representative in every conceivable respect - even geographically. There was no corner of this country with a literary crop of its own that did not have at least one favorite son - or daughter - present. The Far North and the extreme South, the New England States, and the Pacific slope - all sent delegates.
Many Women There.
A particular feature of the dinner was the strength of the feminine contingent. There were fully as many women there as men, and they were no present as mere appendages of their husbands, but as individuals representing the art of imaginative writing no less than the men. An observer looking over the host of diners, after having scanned the list of guests and noticed that every feminine name in it was familiar to all readers, could not but wonder that the women he found corresponding to those names were all young and pretty. The whole gathering did not seem to include half a dozen women with streaks of gray in their hair.
All - men as well as women - showed by word and manner and act that they looked upon the chief guest as the master. The greeting when he rose to speak was one which might have tickled the vanity of the vainest of political adventurers. No one thought of measuring the duration of the applause and cheering, however, because everybody, including the reporters, were too busy swelling the volume of that ovation.
Unintroduced, as it seemed most befitting, Mr. Clemens rose to respond to the toast proposed to him by his fellow veteran in the literary service, William Dean Howells. It would be difficult to pick a more critical audience - and yet as the great humorist talked on in his characteristic, inimitable drawl, the men and women present laughed until their laughter turned into groans. Yet a strain of melancholy ran perceptibly through the speaker's sentences. Toward the end it gained predominance, and the last words were spoken with a voice quivering with emotion.
To those who listened, the man appeared younger than ever, and when he pretended to look down upon really old men with scorn, his attitude was thought more than a clever conceit. The character of the occasion caused Mr. Clemens to hark back to other birthdays, of which he admitted having had a great many. And his reminiscences concerned, in particular, the first of them all. Between this and the last one, so far he drew an inferred comparison, the comparison was entirely in favor of the seventieth.
His First Birthday.
"I remember that first birthday well," he began. "Whenever I think of it, it is with indignation. Everything was so crude, so unaesthetic. Nothing was really ready. I was born, you know, with a high and delicate aesthetic taste. And then think of - I had no hair, no teeth, no clothes. And I had to go to my first banquet like that.
"And everybody came swarming in. It was the merest little hamlet in he backwoods of Missouri, where never anything happened at all. All interest centered on me that day. They came with that peculiar provincial curiosity to look me over and to see if I had brought anything fresh in my particular line. Why, I was the only thing that had happened in the last three months - and I came very near being the only thing that happened there in two whole years.
"They gave their opinions. No one had asked them, but they gave them, and they were all just green with prejudice. I stood it as long as - well, you know, I was born courteous. I stood it for about an hour. Then the worm turned. I was the worm. It was my turn to turn, and I did turn. I knew the strength of my position. I knew that I was the only spotlessly pure person in that camp, and I just came out and told them so.
"It was so true that they could make no answer at all. They merely blushed and went away. Well, that was my cradle song, and now I am singing my swan song. It is a far stretch from that first birthday to this, the seventieth. Just think of it!
Twain Recipe for Long Life.
"The seventieth birthday! It is the time of life when you arrive at a new and awful dignity; when you may throw aside the decent reserves which have oppressed you for a generation, and stand unafraid and unabashed upon your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach - unrebuked. You can tell the world how you got there. It is what they all do. I have been anxious to explain my own system this long time, and now at last I have the right.
"I have achieve my seventy years in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else. It sounds like an exaggeration, but that is really the common rule for attaining old age. When we examine the programme of any of these garrulous old people we always find that the habits which have preserved them would have decayed us. I will offer here, as a sound maxim this: that we can't reach old age by another man's road.
"I will now teach, offering my way of life to whomsoever desires to commit suicide by scheme which has enabled me to beat the doctor and the hangman for seventy years. Some of the details may sound untrue, but they are not. I am not here to deceive. I am here to teach.
He Goes to Bed Sometimes.
"We have no permanent habits until we are 40. Then they begin to harden, presently they petrify, then business begins. Since 40 I have been regular about going to bet and getting up - and that is one of the main things. I have made it a rule to go to bed when there wasn't anybody left to sit up with; and I have made it a rule to get up when I had to. This has resulted in an unswerving regularity of irregularity.
"In the matter of diet - which is another main thing - I have been persistently strict in sticking to the things which didn't agree with me until one or the other got the best of it myself. But last Spring I stopped frolicking with mince pie after midnight; up to then I had always believed it wasn't loaded. For thirty years I have taken coffee and bread at 8 in the morning, and no bite nor sup till 7:30 in the evening. Eleven hours. That is all right for me. Headachy people would not reach 70 comfortably by that road. And I wish to urge upon you this - which I think is wisdom - that if you find you can't make 70 by any but an uncomfortable road, don't you go. When they take off the Pullman and retire you to the rancid smoker, put on your things, count your checks, and get out at the first way station where there's a cemetery.
And Smokes in Bed.
"I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time. I have no other restriction as regards smoking. I do not know just when I began to smoke, I only know that it was in my father's lifetime, and that I was discreet. He passed from this life early in 1847, when I was a shade past 11; ever since then I have smoked publicly. As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep and never to refrain when awake.
"I smoke in bed until I have to go to sleep; I wake up in the night, sometimes once, sometimes twice, sometimes three times, and I never waste any of these opportunities to smoke. This habit is so old and dear and precious to me that if I should break it I should feel as you, Sir, would feel if you should lose the only moral you've got. Meaning the Chairman. If you've got one; I am making no charge. I will grant, here, that I have stopped smoking, now and then, for a few months at a time, but it was not on principle - it was only to show off; it was to pulverize those critics who said I was a slave to my habits and couldn't break my bonds.
"Today it is all of sixty years since I began to smoke the limit. I have never bought cigars with life belts around them. I early found that those were too expensive for me. I have always bought cheap cigars - reasonably cheap, at any rate. Sixty years ago they cost me $4 a barrel, but my taste has improved laterly, and I pay $7 now. Six or seven. Seven, I think. Yes; it's seven. But that includes the barrel. I often have smoking parties at my house, but the people that come have always just taken the pledge. I wonder why that is?
Raised on 9 Barrels of Cod Liver Oil.
"As for drinking, I have not rule about that. When the others drink I like to help; otherwise I remain dry, by habit and preference. This dryness does not hurt me, but it could easily hurt you, because you are different. You let it alone.
"Since I was 7 years old I have seldom taken a dose of medicine, and have still seldomer needed one. But up to 7 I have lived exclusively on allopathic medicines. Not that I needed them, for I don't think I did; it was for economy. My father took a drug store for a debt, and it made cod liver oil cheaper than other breakfast foods. We had nine barrels of it, and it lasted me seven years. Then I was weaned. The rest of the family had to get along with rhubarb and ipecac and such things, because I was the pet. I was the first Standard Oil Trust. I had it all. By the time the drug store was exhausted my health was established, and there has never been much the matter with me since.
"I have never taken any exercise, except sleeping and resting, and I never intend to take any. Exercise is loathsome. And it cannot be any benefit when you are tired; I was always tired.
"I desire now to repeat and emphasize that maxim: We can't reach old age by another man's road. My habits protect my life, but they would assassinate you.
"I have lived a severely moral life. But it would be a mistake for other people to try that, or for me to recommend it. Very few would succeed: you have to have a perfectly colossal stock of morals; and you can't get them on a margin. Morals are an acquirement - like music, like a foreign language, like piety, poker, paralysis - no man is born with them. I wasn't myself. I started poor. I hadn't a single moral. There is hardly a man in this house that is poorer than I was then. Yes, I started like that - the world before me, not a moral in the slot. Not even an insurance moral.
His First Moral.
"I can remember the first one I ever got. I can remember the landscape, the weather, the - I can remember how everything looked. It was an old moral, an old second-hand moral, all out of repair, and didn't fit, anyway. But if you are careful with a thing like that, and keep it in a dry place, and save it for processions, and Chautauquas, and World's Fairs and so on, and disinfect it now and then, and give it a fresh coat of whitewash once in a while, you will be surprised to see how well she will last and how long she will keep sweet, or at least inoffensive. When I got that moldy old moral she had stopped growing, because she hadn't any exercise, but I worked her hard, I worked her Sundays and all. Under this cultivation she waxed in might and stature beyond belief, and served me well and was my pride and joy for sixty-three years; then she got to associating with insurance Presidents, and lost flesh and character, and was a sorrow to look at and no longer competent for business. She was a great loss to me.
"Yet not all loss. I sold her - ah, pathetic skeleton, as she was! - I sold her to Leopold, the pirate King of Belgium; he sold her to our Metropolitan Museum, and it was very glad to get her, for without a rag on, she stands fifty-seven feet long and sixteen feet high, and they think she's a brontosaur. Well, she looks it. They believe it will take nineteen geological periods to breed her match.
Joys of Being Moral.
"Morals are of inestimable value, for every man is born crammed with sin microbes, and the only thing that can extirpate these sin microbes is morals. Now you take a sterilized Christian - I mean, you take the sterilized Christian, for there's only one - Dear Sir, I wish you wouldn't look at me like that.
"Threescore years and ten!
"It is the Scriptural statute of limitations. After that you owe no active duties; for you the strenuous life is over. You are a time-expired man, to use Kipling's military phrase. You have served your term, well or less well, and you are mustered out.
"The Previous Engagement plea, which in forty years has cost you so many twinges, you can lay aside forever; on this side of the grave you will never need it again. If you shrink at thought of night, and winter, and the late homecoming from the banquet and the lights and the laughter, through the deserted streets - a desolation which would not remind you now, as for a generation it did, that your friends are sleeping, and you must creep in a-tiptoe and not disturb them, but would only remind you that you need not tiptoe, you can never disturb them more - if you shrink at thought of these things, you need only reply:
"Your invitation honors me, and pleases me because you still keep me in your remembrance, but I am seventy; seventy, and would nestle in the chimney corner, and smoke my pipe, and read my book, and take my rest, wishing you well in all affection, and that when you in your turn shall arrive at pier No. 70 you may step aboard your waiting ship with a reconciled spirit, and lay your course toward the sinking sun with a contented heart."
Guest of Honor Led to Dinner.
The dinner began at 8 o'clock. Soon before that hour the guests began to gather in the parlor adjoining the Red Room. In the corridor outside, place had been prepared for an orchestra of forty directed by Nahan Franko. When the march, serving as a signal for the procession to the dining room, was played, Mr. Clemens led the way, with Mrs. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman on his arm.
The couples that followed would have attracted attention wherever they were seen and recognized. Col. Harvey led Princess Troubetzkoy, who once was Amelia Rives and still writes under that name. Andrew Carnegie and Agnes Repplier, the essayist, followed side by side.
After them came John Burroughs and Mrs. Louise Chandler Moulton, who was the first author from whom Henry Mills Alden received a contribution after becoming editor of Harper's Monthly, more than forty years ago. The Rev. Dr. Henry Van Dyke escorted Mrs. Frances Hodgson Burnett, while Bliss Carman, the poet, led Mrs. Ruth McEnery Stuart.
While the dinner was in progress the guests - one table at a time - went out into another room and had their pictures taken in groups. The pictures will form the most conspicuous feature of an album which is to be given to Mr. Clemens as a souvenir of the occasion.
Souvenirs Plaster Busts.
The menu was printed with a circle of pen-and-ink sketches by Leon Barritt, showing the guest of honor at the successive stages of his long and varied career - as a printer, as Mississippi pilot, as gold miner in the far West, as editor in the same adventurous region, as world traveler, and, finally, as a lecturer pronouncing to empty benches the maxim: "Be good and you will be lonesome."
Toward the end of the dinner the souvenirs were brought in. They were plaster of paris busts about a foot high and excellently modeled. When the distribution had been completed, there were just 171 Mark Twains in the room, including the original.
Col. Harvey's first act as toastmaster of the evening was to call on Miss Cutting, President of Vassar College Alumni Association to read this letter which had been received from President Roosevelt:
The President's Letter.
Nov. 28, 1905
My Dear Col. Harvey: I wish it were in my power to be at the dinner held to celebrate the seventieth birthday of Mark Twain - it is difficult to write of him by his real name instead of by that name which has become a household word wherever the English language is spoken. He is one of the citizens whom all Americans should delight to honor, for he has rendered a great and peculiar service to America, and his writings, though such as no one but an American could have written, yet emphatically come within that small list which are written for no particular country, but for all countries, and which are not merely written for the time being, but have an abiding and permanent value. May he live long, and year by year may he add to the sum of admirable work that he has done. Sincerely yours, THEODORE ROOSEVELT.
The reading of the letter was the cause of prolonged applause.
Howells Toasts Twain.
Col. Harvey called next on William Dean Howells as "the person in all the world best fitted to propose the health of the guest of the evening." Previously Col. Harvey had referred to Mr. Clemens as a man "who first of all had the friendship of the whole world, and thin in a peculiar degree the friendship of the few." He made special mention of Henry H. Rogers and the Rev. Joseph H. Twitchell as two of Mr. Clemens's most intimate friends, who although not men of letters were present and occupied seats at the table with the principal guest.
Mr. Howells declared that the thought of Mark Twain always threw him into poetic ecstasy, and whenever he had to make a speech in honor of the humorist it seemed to shape itself naturally in to meter and rhyme. This was the case three years ago, he said, when Mr. Clemens was a comparatively young man of 67.
"Then I composed what I called a 'double-barreled sonnet,' " Mr. Howells explained. "This time, thinking of the Psalmist's age limit, I wanted to try a Psalm, but this time, too, I had to fall back on the Shakespearean sonnet. But please notice that the sonnet is twice as long as Shakespeare used to make them, and for good reason.
"Shakespeare, you know, has been improved upon since he died. Nowadays Shaw is writing plays that are twice as good as those of Shakespeare, and I am writing sonnets twice as long as his."
Mr. Howells then read his sonnet, which after comparing the effect of the American joke on a traveler from the Old World with that made by a skyscraper, ended with this sextet:
The lame dance with delight in me; my mirth
Reaches the deaf untrumpeted; the blind
My point can see. I jolly the whole earth,
But most I love to jolly my own kind.
Joke of a people great, gay, bold, and free,
I type their master-mood. Mark Twain made me.
England Sends Greetings.
After the uproar which follwed the completion of Mark Twain's reply to the toast given by Mr. Howells had died out, Col. Harvey read this cablegram, received from London:
The undersigned send Mark Twain heartiest greetings on his seventieth birthday and cordially wish him long life and prosperity:
Sir William Anson, T. Anstey Guthrie, (F. Anstey,) Alfred Austin, Poet Laureate; the Right Hon. Arthur Balfour, J. M. Barrie, Augustine Birrell, K. T.; the Right Hon. James Bryce, Sir Francis Burnand, editor of Punch; Gilbert Chesterton, Churton Collins, W. L. Courteney, Austin Dobson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, W. S. Gilbert, Edmund Gosse, Francis Carruthers Gould, Thomas Hardy, Anthony Hope, W. W. Jacobs, Rudyard Kipling, Ian Maclaren, (the Rev. John Watson,) W. H. Mallock, George Meredith, Henry Norman, M. P.; Sir Gilbert Parker, Sir John Tenniel, the illustrator; Sir George Otto Trevelyan, historian; Mrs. Humphry Ward, William Watson, Theodore Watts Dunton, Israel Zangwill, Tauchnitz.
More Poetic Tributes.
Letters of regret were read from Dr. S. Weir Mitchell and Joel Chandler Harris, both of whom had planned to be present. Dr. Mitchell ended his message of felicitation with the quatrain in honor of the chief guest:
So large the joy your pen has given,
To match it one might try in vain,
But what one man could never do
Is easily done by Twain.
Among others who read or sent greetings in rhyme were Amelia E. Barr, Wilbur D. Nesbit, Virginia Frazer Boyle, John Kendrick Bangs, and Henry van Dyke.
Tale the Others Told.
Prof. Brander Matthews, Andrew Carnegie, George W. Cable, Richard Watson Gilder, Rex E. Beach, and Irving Bacheller were among the other speakers. Mr. Carnegie won great applause with his Scotch drolleries. He extolled Mr. Clemens for his sincereity, and said he was a lion of his day.
George W. Cable recalled days more than twenty years ago when he and Mark Twain were on the Mississippi together. He told many anecdotes that were new and interesting. He told of a mutual friend who, on meeting Mark Twain for the first time, had prepared something "nice and appropriate" to say when he shook hands with the humorist. This friend had read all his works, but the only one he could recall, when it came to shaking hands, was his "heathen Chinee," so he quoted it at length.
Hamilton W. Mabie said that Mark Twain had written a biography, or an autobiography, of Adam and Eve and every other person of Scriptural or historic fame. Mr. Mabie thought his masterpiece was yet to come and it should be called "The Diary of the Devil." At this, Mark Twain doubled up over the nearest bust of himself.
Here is the list of guests in full:
Joseph Altsheler, George Ade, Henry M. Alden, Mrs. Henry M. Alden, Frances H. Burnett, T. Buchanan, Nancy H. Banks, Margaret P. Black, Josephine D. Bacon, Perry Belmont, Mrs. Belmont, Alice Brown, Lillian Bell Bogue, Elizabeth B. Wetmore, Irving Bacheller, John K. Bangs, Rex E. Beach, John Burroughts, Gelett Burgess, Edmund I. Baylies, Mrs. Baylies, Dorothy Canfield, Miss Clemens, Andrew Carnegie, Mrs. Carnegie, James B. Connolly, George W. Cobb, Robert W. Chambers, Arthur Colton, Will Carleton, Charles W. Chestnutt, Mrs. Pearl Craigie, Miss Cutting, Elisabeth L. Cary, Mrs. Phillips Clark, Frances P. Case, Willa S. Cather, E. A. Dithmar, Finley P. Dunne, Caroline Duer, Olivia H. Dunbar, Norman Duncan, Samuel Davis, Frederick A. Duneka, Charles A. Eastman, Geo. C. Eggleston, George B. Fife, Mary W. Freeman, May Isabel Fisk, Justus M. Forman, Sewell Ford, Louise Forsslund, C. de Fornaro, Lawrence Gilman, Richard W. Gilder, S. M. Gardenhire, Eliot Gregory, Theodosia Garrison, Miss Howells, William D. Howells, Will N. Harben, Frederick T. Hill, Rupert Hughes, Julian Hawthorne, Margaret S. B. Hopkins, Katherine Hillard, Mrs. Harvey, J. Henry Harper, Ernest Ingersoll, Winifred Ives, Burges Johnson, Adrian H. Joline, Gabrielle Jackson, Elizabeth G. Jordan, Owen Johnson, Mrs. Joline, Florence M. Kingsley, Mrs. H. A. M. Keays, Mrs. Leigh, Edwin Lefevre, John Uri Lloyd, Richard Le Gallienne, Nelson Lloyd, Elinor M. Lane, Alfred H. Lewis, John L. Long, W. J. Lampton, Frederick T. Leigh, Mrs. Edward Loomis, Roy L. McCardell, John A. Mitchell, Alice Duer Miller, Marguerite Merington, Mrs. G. M. Martin, Charles Meior, Hamilton W. Mabie, Geo. B. McCutcheon, Philip V. Mighels, Weymer Jay Mills, Edwin Markham, Harold McGrath, Tom Masson, Brander Matthews, Frank D. Millet, R. K. Munkittrick, Louise C. Moulton, Frances A. Mathews, John McCutcheon, Samuel E. Moffett, W. D. Nesbit, James MacArthur, Edward S. Martin, Peter Newell, Anne O'Hagan, William D. Orcutt, Lloyd Osbourne, Roland Phillips, Emery Pottle, William F. Payson, Anna P. Paret, Albert B. Paine, Emily Post, Dr. Edward Quintard, Kate Douglas Riggs, Morgan Robertson, Charles G. D. Roberts, Agnes Repplier, Henry H. Rogers, Mrs. Rogers, C. C. Rice, Henry E. Rood, Abby M. Roach, William D. Sloane, Mrs. Sloane, Ruth McE. Stuart, Louise Morgan Sill, Anna McClure Sholl, F. Hopkinson Smith, Van Tassel Sutphen, Isobel Strong, May Sinclair, E. T. Tomlinson, Bert Leston Taylor, Eugene Thwing, Annie E. Trumbull, Caroline Ticknor, The Rev. J. H. Twichell, Mark Twain, Herman K. Viele, Henry van Dyke, Onoto W. Babcock, Churchill Williams, Mrs. Wilson Woodrow, Edith Wyatt, Jesse L. Williams, Carolyn Wells, Florence Wilkinson, Owen Wister, Orme Wilson, Mrs. Orme Wilson, Thomas B. Wells, Jean Webster.
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