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Special Feature

The Newark Evening News, December 1, 1925

From Wheel Chair in Hospital Broadcasts Talk on Mark Twain

Mary Louise Howden, invalid for years with paralysis of the legs and who for a year was secretary to Mark Twain, who dictated much of his autobiography to her, broadcast over WOR last night on "Mark Twain as I Knew Him." She spoke from her invalid chair in the reception room of St. Mary's Hospital in Orange.

Julius A. Seebach, announcer for WOR, introduced her to her invisible audience, as the first patient ever to broadcast a talk from a hospital.

The station arranged for Miss Howden's address because yesterday was the ninetieth anniversary of Mark Twain's birth and Miss Howden has been the last secretary to whom the famous humorist had dictated.

She obtained the position as his secretary through a blind in ad in 1908, shortly after she arrived in this country from England, and she remained with him till the summer of 1909 when he left for Europe. He died in 1910.

She went to Orange as a social settlement worker four years ago and was stricken with inflammatory rheumatism. At St. Mary's Hospital she recovered sufficiently to take a position as a telephone operator, but was compelled to give it up to become a patient again.

Last night she attended benediction in the hospital chapel before she broadcast. She talked over the radio for fifteen minutes, dressed in a blue robe, blue silk stockings and patent leather pumps. Her black hair is bobbed and her face was flushed with excitement as she propelled her chair into the reception room with her arms.

When she began to speak her voice trembled and she admitted afterward that she was nervous for the first five minutes or so. After that she talked steadily enough in a rich contralto voice. In the reception room with her were Mr. Seebach, Mrs. Edmund S. Nugent, president of the Women's Auxiliary of the hospital; Mrs. Henry F. Hoey of East Orange, chairman of the comfort committee of the institution, Jack Popple chief engineer of WOR, and newspaper men and women. She read her speech.

Miss Howden described Mark Twain as a sad man, rather than a happy one, "from whose mouth humor dropped in little flashes like jewels. But in real life dignity rather than humor characterized him, in that wonderful Old World way."

She sketched his life briefly as a printer's apprentice, a river pilot, a gold seeker, an author and a publisher and she told how a scrap of paper influenced his whole life and resulted in one of his great books.

The scrap of paper was a page torn from a history which dealt with Joan of Arc. He read it avidly, she said and it led him to study history. Years after he wrote Joan of Arc's story, his favorite book of all that he had written.

Twain's death, Miss Howden said, was curiously mixed with a comet.

"The year he was born," she related, "a great comet appeared in the sky. It was due again in 1910. In speaking of it, he said: 'I came in with Halley's comet in 1835 and I expect to go out with it. It will be the disappoint of my life if I do not.'

"This was when he was suffering from the shock of the death of his wife and a daughter. He got his wish, for on the day he died Halley's comet appeared in the sky and then was seen no more."

Related article in The New York Times, December 1, 1925.

See also the Memoir of Mary Howden from the New York Herald

Return to The New York Times index

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