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13 January, 2012
Mark Twain, A Biography Vol III, Part 2: 1907 - 1910|
CCLXV. Lotos Club Honors
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|It was on January 11, 1908, that Mark Twain was given his last great
banquet by the Lotos Club. The club was about to move again, into
splendid new quarters, and it wished to entertain him once more in its
He wore white, and amid the throng of black-clad men was like a white
moth among a horde of beetles. The room fairly swarmed with them, and
they seemed likely to overwhelm him.
President Lawrence was toast-master of the evening, and he ended his
customary address by introducing Robert Porter, who had been Mark Twain's
host at Oxford. Porter told something of the great Oxford week, and
ended by introducing Mark Twain. It had been expected that Clemens would
tell of his London experiences. Instead of doing this, he said he had
started a new kind of collection, a collection of compliments. He had
picked up a number of valuable ones abroad and some at home. He read
selections from them, and kept the company going with cheers and
merriment until just before the close of his speech. Then he repeated,
in his most impressive manner, that stately conclusion of his Liverpool
speech, and the room became still and the eyes of his hearers grew dim.
It may have been even more moving than when originally given, for now the
closing words, "homeward bound," had only the deeper meaning.
Dr. John MacArthur followed with a speech that was as good a sermon as
any he ever delivered, and closed it by saying:
"I do not want men to prepare for heaven, but to prepare to remain on
earth, and it is such men as Mark Twain who make other men not fit to
die, but fit to live."
Andrew Carnegie also spoke, and Colonel Harvey, and as the speaking ended
Robert Porter stepped up behind Clemens and threw over his shoulders the
scarlet Oxford robe which had been surreptitiously brought, and placed
the mortar-board cap upon his head, while the diners vociferated their
approval. Clemens was quite calm.
"I like this," he said, when the noise had subsided. "I like its
splendid color. I would dress that way all the time, if I dared."
In the cab going home I mentioned the success of his speech, how well it
had been received.
"Yes," he said; "but then I have the advantage of knowing now that I am
likely to be favorably received, whatever I say. I know that my
audiences are warm and responseful. It is an immense advantage to feel
that. There are cold places in almost every speech, and if your audience
notices them and becomes cool, you get a chill yourself in those zones,
and it is hard to warm up again. Perhaps there haven't been so many
lately; but I have been acquainted with them more than once." And then I
could not help remembering that deadly Whittier birthday speech of more
than thirty years before--that bleak, arctic experience from beginning to
"We have just time for four games," he said, as we reached the billiard-
room; but there was no sign of stopping when the four games were over.
We were winning alternately, and neither noted the time. I was leaving
by an early train, and was willing to play all night. The milk-wagons
were rattling outside when he said:
"Well, perhaps we'd better quit now. It seems pretty early, though." I
looked at my watch. It was quarter to four, and we said good night.