CHAIRMAN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--It seems a most difficult thing for any man to say anything about me that is not complimentary. I don't know what the charm is about me which makes it impossible for a person to say a harsh thing about me and say it heartily, as if he was glad to say it.
If this thing keeps on it will make me believe that I am what these kind chairmen say of me. In introducing me, Judge Ransom spoke of my modesty as if he was envious of me. I would like to have one man come out flat- footed and say something harsh and disparaging of me, even if it were true. I thought at one time, as the learned judge was speaking, that I had found that man; but he wound up, like all the others, by saying complimentary things.
I am constructed like everybody else, and enjoy a compliment as well as any other fool, but I do like to have the other side presented. And there is another side. I have a wicked side. Estimable friends who know all about it would tell you and take a certain delight in telling you things that I have done, and things further that I have not repented.
The real life that I live, and the real life that I suppose all of you live, is a life of interior sin. That is what makes life valuable and pleasant. To lead a life of undiscovered sin! That is true joy.
Judge Ransom seems to have all the virtues that he ascribes to me. But, oh my! if you could throw an X-ray through him. We are a pair. I have made a life-study of trying to appear to be what he seems to think I am. Everybody believes that I am a monument of all the virtues, but it is nothing of the sort. I am living two lives, and it keeps me pretty busy.
Some day there will be a chairman who will forget some of these merits of mine, and then he will make a speech.
I have more personal vanity than modesty, and twice as much veracity as the two put together.
When that fearless and forgetful chairman is found there will be another story told. At the Press Club recently I thought that I had found him. He started in in the way that I knew I should be painted with all sincerity, and was leading to things that would not be to my credit; but when he said that he never read a book of mine I knew at once that he was a liar, because he never could have had all the wit and intelligence with which he was blessed unless he had read my works as a basis.
I like compliments. I like to go home and tell them all over again to the members of my family. They don't believe them, but I like to tell them in the home circle, all the same. I like to dream of them if I can.
I thank everybody for their compliments, but I don't think that I am praised any more than I am entitled to be.
On October 13, 1900, Mr. Clemens made his last address preceding his departure for America at Kensal Rise, London.
I formally declare this reading-room open, and I think that the legislature should not compel a community to provide itself with intelligent food, but give it the privilege of providing it if the community so desires.
If the community is anxious to have a reading-room it would put its hand in its pocket and bring out the penny tax. I think it a proof of the healthy, moral, financial, and mental condition of the community if it taxes itself for its mental food.
A reading-room is the proper introduction to a library, leading up through the newspapers and magazines to other literature. What would we do without newspapers?
Look at the rapid manner in which the news of the Galveston disaster was made known to the entire world. This reminds me of an episode which occurred fifteen years ago when I was at church in Hartford, Connecticut.
The clergyman decided to make a collection for the survivors, if any. He did not include me among the leading citizens who took the plates around for collection. I complained to the governor of his lack of financial trust in me, and he replied: "I would trust you myself--if you had a bell-punch."
You have paid me many compliments, and I like to listen to compliments. I indorse all your chairman has said to you about the union of England and America.