We go on exploiting that talent year after year, as I have done. I shall go on writing dramas, and some day the impossible may happen, but I am not looking for it.
In writing plays the chief thing is novelty. The world grows tired of solid forms in all the arts. I struck a new idea myself years ago. I was not surprised at it. I was always expecting it would happen. A person who has suffered disappointment for many years loses confidence, and I thought I had better make inquiries before I exploited my new idea of doing a drama in the form of a dream, so I wrote to a great authority on knowledge of all kinds, and asked him whether it was new.
I could depend upon him. He lived in my dear home in America--that dear home, dearer to me through taxes. He sent me a list of plays in which that old device had been used, and he said that there was also a modern lot. He travelled back to China and to a play dated two thousand six hundred years before the Christian era. He said he would follow it up with a list of the previous plays of the kind, and in his innocence would have carried them back to the Flood.
That is the most discouraging thing that has ever happened to me in my dramatic career. I have done a world of good in a silent and private way, and have furnished Sir Henry Irving with plays and plays and plays. What has he achieved through that influence. See where he stands now-- on the summit of his art in two worlds and it was I who put him there --that partly put him there.
I need not enlarge upon the influence the drama has exerted upon civilization. It has made good morals entertaining. I am to be followed by Mr. Pinero. I conceive that we stand at the head of the profession. He has not written as many plays as I have, but he has lead that God- given talent, which I lack, of working hem off on the manager. I couple his name with this toast, and add the hope that his influence will be supported in exercising his masterly handicraft in that great gift, and that he will long live to continue his fine work.
DINNER TO HAMILTON W. MABIE
ADDRESS DELIVERED APRIL 29, 1901
In introducing Mr. Clemens, Doctor Van Dyke said:
"The longer the speaking goes on to-night the more I wonder how I got this job, and the only explanation I can give for it is that it is the same kind of compensation for the number of articles I have sent to The Outlook, to be rejected by Hamilton W. Mabie. There is one man here to-night that has a job cut out for him that none of you would have had--a man whose humor has put a girdle of light around the globe, and whose sense of humor has been an example for all five continents. He is going to speak to you. Gentlemen, you know him best as Mark Twain."
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN,--This man knows now how it feels to be the chief guest, and if he has enjoyed it he is the first man I have ever seen in that position that did enjoy it. And I know, by side-remarks which he made to me before his ordeal came upon him, that he was feeling as some of the rest of us have felt under the same circumstances. He was afraid that he would not do himself justice; but he did--to my surprise. It is a most serious thing to be a chief guest on an occasion like this, and it is admirable, it is fine. It is a great compliment to a man that he shall come out of it so gloriously as Mr. Mabie came out of it tonight--to my surprise. He did it well.
He appears to be editor of The Outlook, and notwithstanding that, I have every admiration, because when everything is said concerning The Outlook, after all one must admit that it is frank in its delinquencies, that it is outspoken in its departures from fact, that it is vigorous in its mistaken criticisms of men like me. I have lived in this world a long, long time, and I know you must not judge a man by the editorials that he puts in his paper. A man is always better than his printed opinions. A man always reserves to himself on the inside a purity and an honesty and a justice that are a credit to him, whereas the things that he prints are just the reverse.