He begged Fuller to take a smaller hall, the smallest he could get. But only the biggest hall in New York would satisfy Fuller. He would have taken a larger one if he could have found it. The lecture was announced for May 6th. Its subject was "Kanakadom, or the Sandwich Islands"-- tickets fifty cents. Fuller timed it to follow a few days after Webb's book should appear, so that one event might help the other.

Mark Twain's first book, 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveyas County, and Other Sketches', was scheduled for May 1st, and did, in fact, appear on that date; but to the author it was no longer an important event. Jim Smiley's frog as standard-bearer of his literary procession was not an interesting object, so far as he was concerned--not with that vast, empty hall in the background and the insane undertaking of trying to fill it. The San Francisco venture had been as nothing compared with this. Fuller was working night and day with abounding joy, while the subject of his labor felt as if he were on the brink of a fearful precipice, preparing to try a pair of wings without first learning to fly. At one instant he was cold with fright, the next glowing with an infection of Fuller's faith. He devised a hundred schemes for the sale of seats. Once he came rushing to Fuller, saying:

"Send a lot of tickets down to the Chickering Piano Company. I have promised to put on my programme, 'The piano used at this entertainment is manufactured by Chickering."'

"But you don't want a piano, Mark," said Fuller, "do you?"

"No, of course not; but they will distribute the tickets for the sake of the advertisement, whether we have the piano or not."

Fuller got out a lot of handbills and hung bunches of them in the stages, omnibuses, and horse-cars. Clemens at first haunted these vehicles to see if anybody noticed the bills. The little dangling bunches seemed untouched. Finally two men came in; one of them pulled off a bill and glanced at it. His friend asked:

"Who's Mark Twain?"

"God knows; I don't!"

The lecturer could not ride any more. He was desperate.

"Fuller," he groaned, "there isn't a sign--a ripple of interest."

Fuller assured him that everything was working all right "working underneath," Fuller said--but the lecturer was hopeless. He reported his impressions to the folks at home:

Everything looks shady, at least, if not dark; I have a good agent; but now, after we have hired the Cooper Institute, and gone to an expense in one way or another of $500, it comes out that I have got to play against Speaker Colfax at Irving Hall, Ristori, and also the double troop of Japanese jugglers, the latter opening at the great Academy of Music--and with all this against me I have taken the largest house in New York and cannot back water.

He might have added that there were other rival entertainments: "The Flying Scud" was at Wallack's, the "Black Crook" was at Niblo's, John Brougham at the Olympic; and there were at least a dozen lesser attractions. New York was not the inexhaustible city in those days; these things could gather in the public to the last man. When the day drew near, and only a few tickets had been sold, Clemens was desperate.

"Fuller," he said, "there'll be nobody in the Cooper Union that night but you and me. I am on the verge of suicide. I would commit suicide if I had the pluck and the outfit. You must paper the house, Fuller. You must send out a flood of complementaries."

"Very well," said Fuller; "what we want this time is reputation anyway-- money is secondary. I'll put you before the choicest, most intelligent audience that ever was gathered in New York City. I will bring in the school-instructors--the finest body of men and women in the world."

Fuller immediately sent out a deluge of complimentary tickets, inviting the school-teachers of New York and Brooklyn, and all the adjacent country, to come free and hear Mark Twain's great lecture on Kanakadom. This was within forty-eight hours of the time he was to appear.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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