Directory of Mark Twain's maxims, quotations, and various opinions:



The Jubilee Singers are to appear in London, & I am requested to say in their behalf what I know about them -- & I most cheerfully do it. ... I heard them sing once, & I would walk seven miles to hear them sing again. ... I think these gentlemen & ladies make eloquent music -- & what is as much to the point, they reproduce the true melody of the plantations, & are the only persons I ever heard accomplish this on the public platform. The so-called “negro minstrels” simply misrepresent the thing; I do not think they ever saw a plantation or ever heard a slave sing. ... I was reared in the South, & my father owned slaves, & I do not know when anything has so moved me as did the plaintive melodies of the Jubilee Singers. It was the first time for twenty-five or thirty years that I had heard such songs, or heard them sung in the genuine old way -- & it is a way, I think, that white people cannot imitate -- & never can, for that matter, for one must have been a slave himself in order to feel what that life was & so convey the pathos of it in the music. Do not fail to hear the Jubilee Singers. I am very well satisfied that you will not regret it.
- Letter to Tom Hood, 10 March 1873
Jubilee Singers

I am expecting to hear the Jubilee Singers to-night, for the fifth time (the reason it is not the fiftieth is because I have not had fifty opportunities), & I wish to ask a favor of them. I remember an afternoon in London, when their “John Brown’s Body” took a decorous, aristocratic English audience by surprise & threw them into a volcanic eruption of applause before they knew what they were about. I never saw anything finer than their enthusiasm. Now, John Brown is not in this evening’s programme; cannot it be added? It would set me down in London again for a minute or two, & at the same time save me the tedious sea voyage & the expense. I was glad of the triumph the Jubilee Singers achieved in England, for their music so well deserved such a result. Their success in this country is pretty well attested by the fact that there are already companies of imitators trying to ride into public favor by endeavoring to convey the impression that they are the original Jubilee Singers.
- Letter to Theodore F. Seward, 8 March 1875

Arduous & painstaking cultivation has not diminished or artificialized their music, but on the contrary -- to my surprise -- has mightily reinforced its eloquence & beauty. Away back in the beginning to my mind -- their music made all other vocal music cheap; & that early notion is emphasized now. It is entirely beautiful, to me; & it moves me infinitely more than any other music can. I think that in the Jubilees & their songs America has produced the perfectest flower of the ages; & I wish it were a foreign product, so that she would worship it & lavish money on it & go properly crazy over it.
- Letter to Joseph Twichell, 22 August 1897

Aug. 13 [1897]. The Jubilee Singers sang at the Löwen last night -- diviner, even than in their early days, 26 years ago. They came up to the house this morning and sang to us. They are as fine people as I am acquainted with in any country.
- Mark Twain's Notebook, p. 336

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