Tobacco art featuring humorists
Bernhard Gillam, Joseph Keppler, and Mark Twain.
From the Dave Thomson collection.
Humorists of the "mere" sort cannot survive. Humor is
only a fragrance, a decoration. Often is merely an odd trick of speech and of
spelling. ...Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach,
but it must do both if it would live forever. By forever, I mean thirty years.
... I have always preached. That is the reason that I have lasted thirty years.
- Mark Twain in Eruption
Cartoon from PUCK, July 10, 1895
To be made a master of arts by your venerable college is an event of large size to me, and a distinction which gratifies me quite as much as if I deserved it. To be noticed in this way by the university would be pleasing to me at any time, but it is peculiarly so at this juncture. The late Matthew Arnold rather sharply rebuked the guild of American "funny men" in his latest literary delivery, and therefore your honorable recognition of us is peculiarly forcible and timely.
A friendly word was needed in our defense, and you have said it, and
it is sufficient. It could not become us -- we being in some ways, and
at intervals, modest, like other folk -- to remind the world that ours
is a useful trade, a worthy calling; that with all its lightness and frivolity
it has one serious purpose, one aim, one specialty, and it is constant
to it -- the deriding of shams, the exposure of pretentious falsities,
the laughing of stupid superstitions out of existence; and that whoso
is by instinct engaged in this sort of warfare is the natural enemy of
royalties, nobilities, privileges and all kindred swindles, and the natural
friend of human rights and human liberties. We might with propriety say
these things, and so hint that in some degree our calling is entitled
to respect, but since you have rehabilitated us it is not necessary. I
offer my best thanks to the corporation of Yale university for the high
honor which they have conferred upon me, and am very sorry that my circumstances
deny me the privilege of saying my thanks by word of mouth at the dinner
tomorrow night. With great respect, I am truly yours, S. L. CLEMENS.
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