Frank Mayo (b. 1839 - d. 1896) and Mary Shaw (b. 1854 - d. 1929)
in stage production of "Pudd'nhead Wilson" in 1895
Poor old Puddn'head! Why didn't the useless son die, instead
of the useful father? That is the way this universe is carried on. I wish
we could get its affairs into the hands of the Standard Oil.
- Letter to Henry H. Rogers, 19 March 1897 (written after Frank Mayo had died and his son Edwin F. Mayo, also an actor, was having less success in his father Frank's role as Pudd'nhead Wilson on stage)
(St. Louis, Mo) The Republic, November 10, 1895, p. 22.
MARK TWAIN COULDN'T WAIT.
HE SAW HIS STORY STAGED BEFORE HE WAS EXPECTED
Frank Mayo, Who Dramatised "Pudd'nhead Wilson," Wanted,
Along With Manager Evans, to Have a Particular "Mark Twain"
Night, but Their Plans Were Turned Over by the Humorist -- His Funny
Written for The Republic.
Many are the excuses that have been made by older people who "only went to see the circus to take the children." When Frank Mayo's play "Pudd'nhead Wilson," was ready for production, Hartford, Conn., was set aside as the place for its initial performance. First, because the bright Connecticut town was looked upon as a more than "likely dog," and again, because it happens to be the home of Samuel L. Clemens, "Mark Twain," the author of the story, and he, with a party of friends, were to be among the spectators on the opening night. Shortly before the time arrived, however, the humorist was suddenly called "abroad."
Of the success of the play, and of the run at the Herald Square Theater in April and May, Mr. Clemens was informed. On the day of his sailing, he cabled his oldtime friend, Mr. Mayo, whereupon Mr. Evans, the proprietor of the Herald Square Theater, Mr. Mann, the manager, and Mr. Mayo set about preparations for a "Mark Twain" night for which Wednesday, May 22, was selected, and invitations were sent to such literary luminaries as were in town to be present to witness the humorist's first sight of his Missouri men and women, after Mr. Mayo had made them walking, talking human beings. Mr. Clemens and his family arrived in New York Saturday morning, May 18, and hardly were they located in their hotel before a messenger was hastened tot he Herald Square Theater bearing a note from Mr. Clemens and the price of a box for the performance that night. The treasurer filled the order the the only box left and soon after informed Mr. Evans what he had done. Then did genial Charles Evans see the wind falling out of the sails he had set for the coming Wednesday night and he began to put into execution some of those wily diplomatic moves that made him famous when he and "Old Hoss" Hoey in "A Parlor Match" used to bamboozle the relatives of the renowned old pirate, "Captain Kidd."
But his efforts were in vain. In an answer to his appeal to wait until Wednesday night to see "Pudd'nhead Wilson," Mr. Clemens replied, "In the interest of harmony in my family, I think we had better occupy the box I have for to-night." Mr. Evans, in his desperation, appealed to Mr. Mayo, and he, with the prestige of 30 years of personal friendship, tried to show his shaggy-haired writer friend that to attend the performance that night would simply annihilate a very prettily concocted business scheme, and begged him to wait till Wednesday evening, as had been arranged. But even his friend could do nothing with him, but after listening to his appeals, he replied, "Frank, I might as well try to stay the tides of the restless ocean as try to keep my daughters away from 'Pudd'nhead' tonight; they have planned and talked about seeing the play from Paris to New York, and I really believe it will do them more good than all the doctors they have been chasing over Europe after for the past two years. In fact, we all think it will be good medicine, and we are going to take our dose to-night." And they did. Among the crowds making their way into the theater that night, accompanied by Mrs. Clemens, the three Misses Clemens, William Dean Howells and some other friends who had come down from Hartford to meet them, were the well known form and bush gray hair of the humorist author of "Pudd'nhead Wilson." He gave every evidence of enjoyment during the progress of the play, and at the end of the third act there were loud calls for the "Author." After some hesitation he arose in his box and in his peculiar style of delivery said:
"Ladies and Gentlemen: I wish I could make a speech, but I cannot. I never could make one -- good or bad -- without preparation. Solemn, painful, bitter, aye, woe-begone preparation. I have had no opportunity for that, as I have been in the presence of Dean Howells and other equally frivolous persons who have been talking of anything else but that which would interest you, and besides, seven days of salt water have left me in a more or less unsettled condition. However, I do want to say that I have been charmed to see what a good play Mr. Mayo has built on such a flimsy pretext as my story of 'Pudd'nhead Wilson' furnished him. I wish I could do that. When I see a thing of that kind it fills me with everlasting anguish, for I have ever thought I could write as good a play as anybody, but I have never yet found a manager who shared my faith. I have known Frank Mayo upwards of 70 years (laughter), we were both young t hen, and it has given me great pleasure to witness his double success as author and actor in 'Pudd'nhead Wilson.'"
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