He had a number of plans, but they did not promise much. One idea was to make a book from his Hawaiian material. Another was to write magazine articles, beginning with one on the Hornet disaster. He did, in fact, write the Hornet article, and its prompt acceptance by "Harper's Magazine" delighted him, for it seemed a start in the right direction. A third plan was to lecture on the islands.
This prospect frightened him. He had succeeded in his "Third House" address of two years before, but then he had lectured without charge and for a church benefit. This would be a different matter.
One of the proprietors of a San Francisco paper, Col. John McComb, of the "Alta California," was strong in his approval of the lecture idea.
"Do it, by all means," he said. "Take the largest house in the city, and charge a dollar a ticket."
Without waiting until his fright came back, Mark Twain hurried to the manager of the Academy of Music, and engaged it for a lecture to be given October 2d (1866), and sat down and wrote his announcement. He began by stating what he would speak upon, and ended with a few absurdities, such as:
A SPLENDID ORCHESTRA is in town, but has not been engaged.
Also A DEN OF FEROCIOUS WILD BEASTS will be on exhibition in the next block. A GRAND TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION may be expected; in fact, the public are privileged to expect whatever they please. Doors open at 7 o'clock. The trouble to begin at 8 o'clock.
Mark Twain was well known in San Francisco, and was pretty sure to have a good house. But he did not realize this, and, as the evening approached, his dread of failure increased. Arriving at the theater, he entered by the stage door, half expecting to find the place empty. Then, suddenly, he became more frightened than ever; peering from the wings, he saw that the house was jammed--packed from the footlights to the walls! Terrified, his knees shaking, his tongue dry, he managed to emerge, and was greeted with a roar, a crash of applause that nearly finished him. Only for an instant--reaction followed; these people were his friends, and he was talking to them. He forgot to be afraid, and, as the applause came in great billows that rose ever higher, he felt himself borne with it as on a tide of happiness and success. His evening, from beginning to end, was a complete triumph. Friends declared that for descriptive eloquence, humor, and real entertainment nothing like his address had ever been delivered. The morning papers were enthusiastic.
Mark Twain no longer hesitated as to what he should do now. He would lecture. The book idea no longer attracted him; the appearance of the "Hornet" article, signed, through a printer's error, "Mark Swain," cooled his desire to be a magazine contributor. No matter--lecturing was the thing. Dennis McCarthy, who had sold his interest in the "Enterprise," was in San Francisco. Clemens engaged this honest, happy-hearted Irishman as manager, and the two toured California and Nevada with continuous success.
Those who remember Mark Twain as a lecturer in that early day say that on entering he would lounge loosely across the platform, his manuscript-- written on wrapping-paper and carried under his arm--looking like a ruffled hen. His delivery they recall as being even more quaint and drawling than in later life. Once, when his lecture was over, an old man came up to him and said:
"Be them your natural tones of eloquence?"
In those days it was thought proper that a lecturer should be introduced, and Clemens himself used to tell of being presented by an old miner, who said:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I know only two things about this man: the first is that he's never been in jail, and the second is, I don't know why."
When he reached Virginia, his old friend Goodman said, "Sam, you don't need anybody to introduce you," and he suggested a novel plan.