March 3, 2012

Mark Twain: to stand on a lecture Platform

Why dont you congratulate me Honestly I never expect to stand on a lecture Platform again after Thursday night.

This was the telegraph dated March 3, 1874 which James Redpath received from Mark Twain (born Samuel Clemens). "Roughing It" was not his first public lecture, nor was this particular instance his last. Two days later, for example, he gave the same presentation in Boston's Horticultural Hall (Thomas Bailey Aldrich was asked to introduce his friend, but was unable to do so). A reviewer in the Boston Herald noticed no misgivings in Twain: "The speaker was in excellent humor... as were his hearers, who came to laugh and be merry, and so they were from the opening to the closing syllable of the discourse."

The lecture was based on his book Roughing It published in 1872. That book was a memoir chronicling the author's experiences in the 1860s (including his short stint in the Confederate military) and served as a sequel to his book Innocents Abroad. Twain's brother Orion Clemens had been named Secretary of the Nevada Territory and the lecture version of the book focused mostly on his three year sojourn among gold-seekers there.

Twain apparently let Redpath do all the work in scheduling, organizing, and promoting the lecture. Only a few days earlier, he apparently reluctantly agreed and asked for Redpath to secure a room in Boston's well-known Parker House hotel. He also asked Redpath to decide what lecture to present (if not "Roughing It," it likely would have been about Twain's trips to the Sandwich Islands).

Despite the concerns he voiced in his telegraph, Twain had a long side career as a lecturer. Almost exactly two years after telling Redpath he would never return to a lecture platform, he asked him to help set up a reading of the same lecture again.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. I can never get enough inside info about Mark Twain's career and the humor and insights that were such a big part of it.

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