Mark Twain’s “Last Visit to Washington” [New York Times, April 22, 1910]

Mark Twain, 1907. Library of Congress

Mark Twain, 1907. Library of Congress


Humorist Invited Cannon to Luncheon, Which Neither Ever Ate.

WASHINGTON, April 21.-On the occasion of his last visit to the National Capital, which was in December, 1906, Mark Twain appeared in the halls of Congress on a cold day dressed in a suit of cream-colored flannel. When asked why he was wearing white on such a day the aged humorist replied:

“This is not a suit; it is a uniform. It is the uniform of the American Association of Purity and Perfection, of which I am President, Secretary, and Treasurer, and the only man in the United States eligible for membership.”

Commenting further on his costume, Mr. Clemens declared that when a man was 71 years old he had a right to dress in the fashion that conformed most to his comfort and enjoyment.

“I prefer light clothing and colors,” he added, “like those worn by the ladies at the opera.”

He said men’s clothing, especially evening dress, was abominable.

It was a favor of a change in the copyright laws that Mark Twain made his last appearance in Washington. Other literary celebrities also were here. Mr. Clemens appeared before the joint committee on copyright and spoke in favor of extending the life of a copyright, and spoke in favor of extending the life of a copyright from forty-two years to the life of the author and fifty years beyond.

“I think that ought to satisfy any reasonable author,” he told the committee, “because it will take care of his children. Let the grandchildren take care of themselves.”

Appearing at Speaker Cannon’s office to seek advice in regard to the Copyright bill, Mr. Clemens, who had arrived on the scene early in the day, was told by the Speaker’s secretary that the Speaker had not yet reached the Capitol.

“Well, when he comes, will you present to him this letter?” asked the humorist. When the Speaker arrived, he read the letter, which was to the effect that “during a long and busy life the author had not bothered Congress much, wherefore he thought he should be given a vote of thanks by Congress.” With a twinkle in his eye, the Speaker looked up from the letter and said:

“Well, Mark, I would like to admit you to the floor of the House, but I cannot even entertain a motion that effect.”

But Mr. Cannon did even better for Mr. Clemens. He gave him the use for several days of his private office, whither nearly all the members of Congress flocked as soon as they learned that Mark Twain was holding an informal reception there. A few days later he said to Mr. Cannon: “I would like to become better acquainted with you and wish you would take lunch with me tomorrow.”

“But I don’t eat lunch,” replied Mr. Cannon.

“So much the better neither do I,” was the retort. “We’ll let George Harvey eat the lunch while we smoke and talk.”

And this programme was followed.

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