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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol III, Part 2: 1907 - 1910
Appendix D: From Mark Twain's First Lecture, Delivered October 2, 1866
by Paine, Albert Bigelow

(See Chapter liv)


After a full elucidation of the sugar industry of the Sandwich Islands, its profits and possibilities, he said:

I have dwelt upon this subject to show you that these islands have a genuine importance to America--an importance which is not generally appreciated by our citizens. They pay revenues into the United States Treasury now amounting to over a half a million a year.

I do not know what the sugar yield of the world is now, but ten years ago, according to the Patent Office reports, it was 800,000 hogsheads. The Sandwich Islands, properly cultivated by go-ahead Americans, are capable of providing one-third as much themselves. With the Pacific Railroad built, the great China Mail Line of steamers touching at Honolulu--we could stock the islands with Americans and supply a third of the civilized world with sugar--and with the silkiest, longest-stapled cotton this side of the Sea Islands, and the very best quality of rice .... The property has got to fall to some heir, and why not the United States?


They are very fond of funerals. Big funerals are their main weakness. Fine grave clothes, fine funeral appointments, and a long procession are things they take a generous delight in. They are fond of their chief and their king; they reverence them with a genuine reverence and love them with a warm affection, and often look forward to the happiness they will experience in burying them. They will beg, borrow, or steal money enough, and flock from all the islands, to be present at a royal funeral on Oahu. Years ago a Kanaka and his wife were condemned to be hanged for murder. They received the sentence with manifest satisfaction because it gave an opening for a funeral, you know. All they care for is a funeral. It makes but little difference to them whose it is; they would as soon attend their own funeral as anybody else's. This couple were people of consequence, and had landed estates. They sold every foot of ground they had and laid it out in fine clothes to be hung in. And the woman appeared on the scaffold in a white satin dress and slippers and fathoms of gaudy ribbon, and the man was arrayed in a gorgeous vest, blue claw- hammer coat and brass buttons, and white kid gloves. As the noose was adjusted around his neck, he blew his nose with a grand theatrical flourish, so as to show his embroidered white handkerchief. I never, never knew of a couple who enjoyed hanging more than they did.


It is a solemn pleasure to stand upon the summit of the extinct crater of Haleakala, ten thousand feet above the sea, and gaze down into its awful crater, 27 miles in circumference and ago feet deep, and to picture to yourself the seething world of fire that once swept up out of the tremendous abyss ages ago.

The prodigious funnel is dead and silent now, and even has bushes growing far down in its bottom, where the deep-sea line could hardly have reached in the old times, when the place was filled with liquid lava. These bushes look like parlor shrubs from the summit where you stand, and the file of visitors moving through them on their mules is diminished to a detachment of mice almost; and to them you, standing so high up against the sun, ten thousand feet above their heads, look no larger than a grasshopper.

This in the morning; but at three or four in the afternoon a thousand little patches of white clouds, like handfuls of wool, come drifting noiselessly, one after another, into the crater, like a procession of shrouded phantoms, and circle round and round the vast sides, and settle gradually down and mingle together until the colossal basin is filled to the brim with snowy fog and all its seared and desolate wonders are hidden from sight.

And then you may turn your back to the crater and look far away upon the broad valley below, with its sugar-houses glinting like white specks in the distance, and the great sugar-fields diminished to green veils amid the lighter-tinted verdure around them, and abroad upon the limitless ocean. But I should not say you look down; you look up at these things.

You are ten thousand feet above them, but yet you seem to stand in a basin, with the green islands here and there, and the valleys and the wide ocean, and the remote snow-peak of Mauna Loa, all raised up before and above you, and pictured out like a brightly tinted map hung at the ceiling of a room.

You look up at everything; nothing is below you. It has a singular and startling effect to see a miniature world thus seemingly hung in mid-air.

But soon the white clouds come trooping along in ghostly squadrons and mingle together in heavy masses a quarter of a mile below you and shut out everything-completely hide the sea and all the earth save the pinnacle you stand on. As far as the eye can reach, it finds nothing to rest upon but a boundless plain of clouds tumbled into all manner of fantastic shapes-a billowy ocean of wool aflame with the gold and purple and crimson splendors of the setting sun! And so firm does this grand cloud pavement look that you can hardly persuade yourself that you could not walk upon it; that if you stepped upon it you would plunge headlong and astonish your friends at dinner ten thousand feet below.

Standing on that peak, with all the world shut out by that vast plain of clouds, a feeling of loneliness comes over a man which suggests to his mind the last man at the flood, perched high upon the last rock, with nothing visible on any side but a mournful waste of waters, and the ark departing dimly through the distant mists and leaving him to storm and night and solitude and death!



"The inimitable Mark Twain, delivered himself last night of his first lecture on the Sandwich Islands, or anything else.

"Some time before the hour appointed to open his head the Academy of Music (on Pine Street) was densely crowded with one of the most fashionable audiences it was ever my privilege to witness during my long residence in this city. The Elite of the town were there, and so was the Governor of the State, occupying one of the boxes, whose rotund face was suffused with a halo of mirth during the whole entertainment. The audience promptly notified Mark by the usual sign--stamping--that the auspicious hour had arrived, and presently the lecturer came sidling and swinging out from the left of the stage. His very manner produced a generally vociferous laugh from the assemblage. He opened with an apology, by saying that he had partly succeeded in obtaining a band, but at the last moment the party engaged backed out. He explained that he had hired a man to play the trombone, but he, on learning that he was the only person engaged, came at the last moment and informed him that he could not play. This placed Mark in a bad predicament, and wishing to know his reasons for deserting him at that critical moment, he replied, 'That he wasn't going to make a fool of himself by sitting up there on the stage and blowing his horn all by himself.' After the applause subsided, he assumed a very grave countenance and commenced his remarks proper with the following well-known sentence: 'When, in the course of human events,' etc. He lectured fully an hour and a quarter, and his humorous sayings were interspersed with geographical, agricultural, and statistical remarks, sometimes branching off and reaching beyond, soaring, in the very choicest language, up to the very pinnacle of descriptive power."


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