Review of Mark Twain’s Georgetown Lecture [Daily Morning Chronicle, 24 February, 1868; p. 4]

Daily Morning Chronicle _ 24 Feb 1868“MARK TWAIN.” – The mere announcement of the name of this distinguished, humorous lecturer is sufficient at any time to secure an overflowing house, and this fact was fully illustrated on Saturday evening at Forrest Hall, Georgetown, where he delivered a lecture for the benefit of the Ladies’ Union Benevolent Society to a large and (it is needless to say) appreciative audience, including many of the most prominent persons of Georgetown and this city. He selected as his topic “The Sandwich Islands,” and for an hour or more kept the audience in almost continuous roars of laughter. Upon stepping forward to the desk in his usual cautious and deliberate manner, he was received with applause. He apologized for his appearance without an introduction by stating that the young man who had promised to present him to the audience has been disabled. He fell down and broke his heart or neck, Mark didn’t know which, not being particularly interested in the young man. The chief reason for his intrusion upon their attention was a request, made by several ladies, that he should deliver a lecture for the poor. He always had a grudge against the poor, and therefore embraced the opportunity to inflict a lecture on them. Before taking up his subject, he referred to the fact that it was the anniversary of the birthday of Mr. Washington. That reminded him of an anecdote he heard the other day, which as it was new, might be of interest. It appears that little George was once presented with a new steel hatchet. With it he chopped his father’s favorite cherry tree. From this it might be inferred that his father was a wealthy man, as he had several cherry trees. Little George, with his face all smeared with mashed cherries, (strong circumstantial evidence,) went to his father, and confessed the act, saying that he could not tell a lie, whereupon his father clasped him to his arms, and told him that he wished he had gone into all the cherry orchards in the vicinity, and chopped all the trees, for his confession would then have been a greater evidence of his love of truth. The speaker, though a newspaper man, thought he was like Washington in that respect – he couldn’t tell a lie.

Forrest Hall todayThe Sandwich Islands are about 2,100 miles southwest of San Francisco; but why they were there the speaker did not know, and did not think it was anybody’s business. About 80 years ago there were 400,000 natives of Kanakas there, but the missionaries came and introduced Christianity, education, civilization, and other distressing evils. Under such evils the Kanakas were still further diminishing in numbers; and now it is proposed to establish two or three seminaries and finish them. The Kanaka female dress is a single, long, loose garment, made of native bark cloth. The men are in full dress if they wear nothing except a battered plug hat. The King held despotic power, and upon his decree it was customary to knock out a couple of front teeth, pluck out an eye, & c; and a native, in the extremes of his grief sometimes goes out and scalps a neighbor. The Kanakas are a very hospitable people. When a stranger comes among them they furnish him with stuffed dog, fricasseed cat, and like delicacies. Mark never relished dogs because of a fear that he might possibly devour on old personal friend. The native dogs are not noble Newfoundlands, graceful greyhounds, or sturdy mastiffs, but worthless little curs, which a white man would reject on general principles. They are no cannibals in the Sandwich Islands. One did live there are a long time ago, but he was an emigrant from one of the islands south of the equator. He fed on Kanakas for a while, but he finally got disgusted, for they are not healthy for a steady diet. He finally came to a miserable end. He went out early one morning and caught a missionary for breakfast. The change was too sudden, and he didn’t survive very long afterward. In concluding the relation of this incident, the speaker remarked, with much pathos, “Let this be a warning to all of you.”

The Kanaka women have some very good traits. They never kiss each other, but prefer a fair diversion of such favors. And they never kiss each other and they go away and talk behind each other backs. This barbarous characteristic might be introduced here. It might, however, be denounced as an innovation of an old and time-honored custom. The Kanakas don’t know how to do anything right. They buckle a girth on the wrong side, and mount a horse on the wrong side. In the soul-inspiring game of “seven up” the ten takes the ace, and lineage is traced through the female line, not the male.

They are a very easy people in Honolulu. Some parties started a gas company there once, and sold the gas at $13 a thousand feet. Everybody goes to bed at nine o’clock, and the company’s receipts in a month were only thirteen dollars and a half. The failure is a proof of the love of ease on the part of the people. They did not want to be vexed or in trouble with anybody, so they let the gas company alone.

The above are some of the best points, but it is impossible to present to the reader in print anything that will give even a fair idea of the excellencies of the lecture. To be fully appreciated Mark must be heard, as his peculiarly slow and inimitable drawl is the most amusing characteristic of his remarks. It is understood that he will lecture in this city at an early day, and we bespeak for him a full house and a generous reception.

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