Oh yes, you must not judge a man by what he writes in his paper. Even in an ordinary secular paper a man must observe some care about it; he must be better than the principles which he puts in print. And that is the case with Mr. Mabie. Why, to see what he writes about me and the missionaries you would think he did not have any principles. But that is Mr. Mabie in his public capacity. Mr. Mabie in his private capacity is just as clean a man as I am.

In this very room, a month or two ago, some people admired that portrait; some admired this, but the great majority fastened on that, and said, "There is a portrait that is a beautiful piece of art." When that portrait is a hundred years old it will suggest what were the manners and customs in our time. Just as they talk about Mr. Mabie to-night, in that enthusiastic way, pointing out the various virtues of the man and the grace of his spirit, and all that, so was that portrait talked about. They were enthusiastic, just as we men have been over the character and the work of Mr. Mabie. And when they were through they said that portrait, fine as it is, that work, beautiful as it is, that piece of humanity on that canvas, gracious and fine as it is, does not rise to those perfections that exist in the man himself. Come up, Mr. Alexander. [The reference was to James W. Alexander, who happened to be sitting-- beneath the portrait of himself on the wall.] Now, I should come up and show myself. But he cannot do it, he cannot do it. He was born that way, he was reared in that way. Let his modesty be an example, and I wish some of you had it, too. But that is just what I have been saying --that portrait, fine as it is, is not as fine as the man it represents, and all the things that have been said about Mr. Mabie, and certainly they have been very nobly worded and beautiful, still fall short of the real Mabie.


James Whitcomb Riley and Edgar Wilson Nye (Bill Nye) were to give readings in Tremont Temple, Boston, November, 1888. Mr. Clemens was induced to introduce Messrs. Riley and Nye. His appearance on the platform was a surprise to the audience, and when they recognized him there was a tremendous demonstration.

I am very glad indeed to introduce these young people to you, and at the same time get acquainted with them myself. I have seen them more than once for a moment, but have not had the privilege of knowing them personally as intimately as I wanted to. I saw them first, a great many years ago, when Mr. Barnum had them, and they were just fresh from Siam. The ligature was their best hold then, the literature became their best hold later, when one of them committed an indiscretion, and they had to cut the old bond to accommodate the sheriff.

In that old former time this one was Chang, that one was Eng. The sympathy existing between the two was most extraordinary; it was so fine, so strong, so subtle, that what the one ate the other digested; when one slept, the other snored; if one sold a thing, the other scooped the usufruct. This independent and yet dependent action was observable in all the details of their daily life--I mean this quaint and arbitrary distribution of originating cause and resulting effect between the two- between, I may say, this dynamo and the other always motor, or, in other words, that the one was always the creating force, the other always the utilizing force; no, no, for while it is true that within certain well- defined zones of activity the one was always dynamo and the other always motor, within certain other well-defined zones these positions became exactly reversed.

For instance, in moral matters Mr. Chang Riley was always dynamo, Mr. Eng Nye was always motor; for while Mr. Chang Riley had a high--in fact, an abnormally high and fine moral sense, he had no machinery to work it with; whereas, Mr. Eng Nye, who hadn't any moral sense at all, and hasn't yet, was equipped with all the necessary plant for putting a noble deed through, if he could only get the inspiration on reasonable terms outside.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book