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MARK TWAIN IN NEW JOKE.
Humorist Appears Before Congress in White Flannel Suit.
URGES NEW COPYRIGHT LAW
Incidentally Gives Views on "Plug" Hats and Peek-a-Boo Waists.
Washington, D.C., Dec. 7. - [Special] - Literary, musical, and legal talent of a high order were represented today in a hearing before the joint committees on patents of the senate and house on the bill to amend the and codify the copyright laws. The hearing was held in the senate reading room of the Congressional library, and among those who were present were Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Thomas Nelson Page, Edward Everett Hale, John Philip Sousa, Victor Herbert, Albert Bigelow Paine, Herbert Putman, and a number of prominent librarians and lawyers from different cities.
Conspicuous in this galaxy of genius was Mark Twain--conspicuous not only because of his fame as an author--but especially an object of interest because of his unique winter attire.
Twain All in White.
Despite the fact that the mercury was hovering about the freezing point all day at Washington and a cold west wind was blowing across the broad plaza in front of the capitol, where it blows with more intensity than anywhere else in Washington, the author of "Innocents Abroad" was garbed in an immaculate suit of white flannel of the style and texture affected by gay young men at the seashore in July. It was faultless in appearance, and this, together with his heavy shock of bushy white hair, made his appearance most striking.
Says Black's Too Funereal.
Seated in a comfortable chair in the lounging room of the press gallery, Mr. Clemens puffed out smoke and conversation for an hour to a party of newspaper men. Some one was rude enough to comment upon his attire, and this started the humorist off in a happy vein.
"O, I find this flannel suit comfortable," he began. "You see [illustrating], I wear heavy underclothing. This suit, I may say, is the uniform of the Ancient and Honorable Order of Purity and Perfection, of which organization I am president, secretary, treasurer and sole member. I may add that I don't know of any one else who is eligible.
"You see, when a man gets to be 71, as I am, the world begins to look somber and dark. I believe we should do all we can to brighten things up and make ourselves look cheerful. You can't do that by wearing black, funereal clothes.
"And why shouldn't a man wear white? It betokens purity and innocence.
Favors Peek-a-Boo Waists.
"I'm in favor of peek-a-boo waists and décolleté costumes. The most beautiful costume is the human skin, but since it isn't conventional or polite to appear in public in that garb along, I believe in wearing white.
"I don't know anything more hideous or disgusting in men's attire than the black clawhammer coat. A group of men thus adorned remind me more of a flock of crows than anything else. About the most becoming get up I ever saw in my life was out in the Sandwich Islands thirty years ago, where a native who wanted to appear at this best usually appeared in a pair of eyeglasses.
"They tried to get me to wear a plug hat when I started to come down to Washington, but I rebelled against it. Of all the styles of headgear I think the plug hat is about the limit. I'm glad to see it become obsolete. You might walk up and down Broadway all day, but you would never see any of the best dressed men wearing plug hats.
Calls Howells an Ass.
"I always suspect a man whom I see wearing a plug hat these days. Coming down here the only man I saw wearing one was William Dean Howells."
"Did you suspect Mr. Howells?" some one asked.
"Yes, I suspected him of being an ass," replied the humorist. "Howells just let some one persuade him into wearing that plug hat, and any man who will let another do that is an ass. Of course, Howells is a mighty fine old fellow. He is 70 and therefore old enough not to be bamboozled into wearing a hat of that sort."
In the afternoon Mr. Clemens made an argument for the extension of the term of copyright before the joint committees on patents. He made an earnest plea for the protection of authors and their works, and kept the members of the committee and his audience in constant good humor by a series of stories, told in his inimitable style, to illustrate the points which he made.
Concerns His Own Trade.
"I am partly interested in the portion of the measure which concerns my trade," he said.
"I like that extension from forty-two years, the present limit of the life of a copyright, to the life of the author and fifty years thereafter. I think that ought to satisfy any reasonable author, because it will take care of his children--let the grandchildren take care of themselves.
"It is not objectionable to me," he continued, "that all the trades and industries of the United States are in the bill and protected by it. I should like to have the oyster culture added and anything else that might need protection.
"I have no ill feeling. I think it a just and righteous measure and should like to see it passed."
Says Constitution Upsets Decalogue.
Clemens argued that there was really no legitimate ground for making any limitation to the life of a copyright.
"But," he added, "I understand it must have a limit because that is required by the constitution of the United States, which sets aside that prior constitution we call the decalogue.
"The decalogue says you shall not take away from any man his property--I will not use that harsher word. But the laws of England and America do take away the property from the author.
"The all talk handsomely of the literature of the land, then they turn around to crush and wipe it all out of existence."
Wants Daughters Cared For.
"My copyrights produce to me a great deal more money than I can spend. Still, if I did not have them I could take care of myself. I know half a dozen trades. If those ran out I would invent a half dozen others.
"But, for my daughters, I hope congress will extend to them the charity which they have failed to get from me.
"You cannot name twenty persons in the whole United States," he declared, "who in the last 100 years have produced books which have outlived the copyright limit."
Richard R. Bowker, vice president, and Robert Underwood Johnson,
secretary of the American Copyright League, advocated the bill, as did Thomas
Nelson Page, the author; F. D. Millet, the artist; and W. A. Livingston, representing
the print publishers.