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



Facsimile of the original manuscript published in the Minneapolis Journal, 29 December 1900, p. 2.

A salutation-speech from the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth, taken down in short-hand by Mark Twain.

I bring you the stately matron named Christendom, returning bedraggled, besmirched, and dishonored, from pirate raids in Kiaochow, Manchuria, South Africa, and the Philippines, with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle, and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her soap and towel, but hide the looking glass.

Give her the glass; it may from error free her
When she shall see herself as others see her.

- original salutation published in the Minneapolis Journal, 29 December 1900. The final two lines were added for cards distributed by the New England Anti-Imperialist League.


Mark Twain's greeting was originally written for the Red Cross but he became dissatisfied with publicity surrounding his contribution and requested his contribution be returned. The disagreement with the Red Cross was reported in newspapers around the country.

Minneapolis Journal
December 29, 1900, p. 2


Mark Twain's Greeting of the Nineteenth to the Twentieth Century Was "Hot Stuff" --- But He Withdrew It in High Dudgeon.

Correspondence of The Journal

New York, Dec. 27. -- Everybody has heard of the undertaking of the Red Cross Society, that of obtaining greetings to the twentieth century from celebrities, royal and otherwise, in all parts of the world, and having these greetings read on the night of Dec. 31 at hundreds of Red Cross watch meetings held in many cities and towns throughout the land. But perhaps everybody does not know that this idea was etched by Frank D. Higbee, a man who was born a next door neighbor to "Buffalo Bill," and came out of the west before there was a railroad into Des Moines; a man, too, who earns a small fortune each year from some original idea. In 1893, at Chicago, for instance, it was a statue of Ada Rehan in silver, in 1900, at the Paris Exposition, it was a statue of Maude Adams in gold, and now, at the dawn of a new century, it is the great idea which, it is believed, will prove so popular that many thousands of dollars will find their way into the Red Cross treasury.

When Mr. Higbee went to Europe in furtherance of his idea, which had been indorsed by the Red Cross society, he bore a brief letter signed by the secretary of state and addressed to all diplomatic agents of the United States abroad, asking them to give the bearer every aid. However, Mr. Higbee's pathway was not lined with roses. In the prosecution of his delicate undertaking he met with many rebuffs. A few instances: He was very desirous of obtaining a greeting from the Emperor of China. The effort was abandoned when there came a direct intimation from Washington that its significance might be misconstrued by Uncle Sam's allies in China, and the incident might lead to serious complications.

The Emperor of Germany would have gladly given Higbee a greeting, owing to his admiration for the work of the Red Cross society, but explained through the proper channels that he was debarred from doing so because he was on record as having officially declared that the twentieth century began on Jan. 1, 1900.

Then there was the case of Queen Victoria. The queen's hesitancy was due to the advice of Lord Salisbury that she refrain from sending any greeting until he could have opportunity to examine the greeting which it was reported had been sent by "Oom Paul" Kruger.

It was, therefore, not without feelings of satisfaction that upon embarking for the return voyage Mr. Higbee discovered that one of his fellow passengers was Samuel L. Clemens, alias Mark Twain. Instantly Higbee recalled the fact that one of Mark's early offenses, his "Roughing It," had been dedicated to his uncle, Calvin S. Higbee. And Higbee remembered that in "Roughing It" a whole chapter had been devoted to a narrative of a joint venture in mining in which the partners were Mark Twain and Uncle Calvin.

Naturally enough, Mr. Higbee concluded that this incident should entitle him to the privilege of approaching the world-famous Twain, who, great humorist though he was, had drawn a visible line of demarcation between himself and the other passengers. He was not mistaken. In fact, he was cordially received, and upon explaining his wishes was immediately and heartily promised all things in the way of "greetings" and aid in the Red Cross that lay within the power of the famous writer and traveler.

In due time the promised greeting arrived, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it was "the warmest baby in the bunch." A few days after its receipt Mr. Higbee was in Washington, where he was besieged by reporters. Then it was that Higbee made a mistake. "Boys," he said, "we are receiving greetings from all over the world, and in many instances they reveal famous men in new and unlooked for lights. For example, the greetings of Mark Twain deals almost entirely with international politics and the line of policy pursued by the allied powers in their present campaign in China."

After the publication of this interview, which the Associated Press had widely distributed, reporters and correspondents swarmed about the home of Mark Twain in New York, clamoring for a copy of the sensational "greeting." Needless to say none of them got a copy. But the humorist was nettled. He sent the following letter to Higbee:


Dear Sir: Please send me a complete list of the names of contributors of the sentiments which are to be read on your Red Cross Watchnight. I wish it for publication. The list thus far issued by you contains only vague generalities, and one definite name -- mine: "Some Kings and Queens and Mark Twain's."

I am not enjoying this lofty and sparkling solitude and distinction which has not been authorized by me, and which makes me feel like a circus poster in a graveyard, or like any other advertisement improperly placed. Dear sir, you take too many liberties. Send me your list of names or suppress my "sentiment" and return it to me. Either course will content me. Truly yours, -- S. L. C.


In reply to the above letter a courteous reply was sent on Dec. 10, as follows:

My Dear Sir: I cannot blame you for taking exceptions to the way in which a recent dispatch made mention of your name. Rest assured it was not sent out from this office, as, in fact, the headline of Washington will show you.

Speaking of literary men whose "greetings" we are now possessed of, I desire to say that the list includes such men as Sir Edwin Arnold, Anthony Hope, Thomas Hardy, Max O'Rell, Jerome K. Jerome, Hall Caine, Francois Coppee, Flammarion and others.

We are advised that the "greetings" of Dreyfus, Tolstoi, Florence Nightingale and others are in transit. The newspapers are working every scheme they can devise to get a "scoop" on these "greetings." That may be newspaper enterprise, but it would kill our plan throughout the country. The rulers of every nation that is a party to the International Red Cross Convention of Geneva have been invited through the state department at Washington to send us "greetings," and we have every reason to believe that a majority of the forty-three countries will respond. Our every effort and intention is to keep this on the highest possible plane and the "greetings" are kept in safe deposit vaults and will under no circumstances be given out until the night of Dec. 31.

In this connection I desire to say that I shall be very glad, if you can make it convenient to come to assign you a box for yourself and family at our Madison Square Garden meeting. The reason that the list given out by this office contains, as you state, "only vague generalities," is because not only in the country, but on the other side, the correspondents of American newspapers and the news associations are seeking to obtain from those who have favored us with their "greetings" a copy thereof, that they may make an advance publication of same.

I am sure that you will never have occasion to regret having aided the Red Cross by that which is of more value to it than money would have been.

Again thanking you, I am very truly yours,

-- F. D. Higbee, Jr.
Director 20th Century Watch Meeting

Then came this communication from Mark Twain:


Dear Sir: I was quite sure you could not furnish the list, and it turns out that I was right.

You have neglected to return my "greeting" to me. Please send it without delay and remove my name from your list. Yours truly,

-- S. L. Clemens


In answer Mr. Higbee's secretary wrote that Mr. Higbee was indisposed and unable to come to the office, adding that as soon as possible the matter would be referred to him.

The famous humorist was in no mood for joking for two days later he sent another letter, which was as follows:


Mr. L. A. Hitt, Secretary: Will you return my "greeting" to me and strike my name from your list.

This correspondence is wasting my time quite unnecessarily. I am an enemy of your scheme. Yours truly, -- S. L. Clemens


Mr. Higbee had now recovered and Mr. Twain's "greeting" was at once returned to him, and his name was stricken from the list of contributors.

Whether Mark Twain had made up his mind that the sentiments he had written were not such as he would like to stand sponsor for, or what was the real reason for his demand continues to be a mystery.

Although the greeting was returned, the words had burned themselves deeply into the minds of those through whose hands they had passed, so deeply in fact that a lasting impression was retained thereof, and from that impression a drawing has been made which is pretty close, line for line, and word for word, to Mark Twain's original manuscript, and it appears herewith in the shape of an engraved reproduction of what Mark said, or rather would have said had he said it, but which, as he recalled it he did not say. In other words, the genial funmaker for some reason best known to himself recalled his greeting, which all will agree was "hot stuff," and refused to greet.

-- George B. Goodwin


December 30, 1900


Said His Words to the Red Cross Made Him Feel Like a Circus Poster in a Graveyard.

NEW YORK, Dec. 29 - Among the many greetings to the new century which were received by the Red Cross Society, to be read at its chain of watch meetings, was one sent by Mark Twain. After sending it he got it into his head that the Red Cross scheme was not just what it was cracked up to be, and that the alleged greetings were largely mythical. So a few days ago he wrote to the management of the enterprise:

"The list thus far issued by you contains only vague generalities and one definite name, mine -- 'Some Kings and Queens and Mark Twain.' Now, I am not enjoying this sparkling solitude and distinction, which has not been authorized by me, and which makes me feel like a circus poster in a graveyard, or like any other advertisement improperly placed."

He added that unless the Red Cross manager would send him for publication a complete list of contributors he wanted his "Greeting" back. Manager F. D. Higbee explained that to publish names at that time would hurt the scheme, so he returned the "Greeting" with regret.

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