June 9 Saturday – Sam’s notebook: “Call at 20 at 5.30. GOUT FOOD. / Savage Club 6 p.m. with MacAlister. / Afterward, the dinner to Irving at the Savoy—8.30 or 9 will do, I guess” [NB 43 TS 15]. Note: “Call at 20” likely refers to an address.
Sam attended a welcome home dinner for Sir Henry Irving after his American tour at the Savoy Hotel in London. From the June 10 N.Y. Times, p.4
WELCOME HOME TO IRVING.
Ambassador Choate in a Witty Vein—
Mark Twain Speaks.
LONDON, June 9.—At the Savoy Hotel to-night a complimentary dinner was given to welcome home Sir Henry Irving after his American tour. D’Oyly Carte presided, and among the 200 persons present were United States Ambassador Choate, Henry White, Secretary of the United States Embassy, Bradley Martin, the Earl of Craven, F. Burnand, Reginald Ward, Charles Frohman, Maurice Grau, Bret Harte, Lord Russell, [Sir Laurens] Alma Tadema, Anthony Hope, and Mark Twain.
Sir Henry was given a tremendous reception when he rose to respond to the toast of his health, but the features of the evening were the speeches made by Ambassador Choate and Mark Twain.
Mark Twain’s speech, in which he described his experience as a dramatist, was received with continuous laughter. [Note: see the text of Mark’s short speech in Fatout, MT Speaking p.338-9].
Note: Sam’s toast preceded Sir Arthur Wing Pinero’s (1855-1934), playwright of The Gay Lord Quex: A Comedy in Four Acts, which Sam would later see in N.Y.C. on Nov. 14. In his toast Sam said of Pinero: “He has not written as many plays as I have, but he has had the God-given talent, which I lack, of working them off on the manager” [Gribben 547].
June 10 Sunday – Sam’s
notebook: “Oxford, 9 or 11.45 see next page” [NB 43 TS
15]. Note: next page, lined out: “
Oxford : 9 or
11.45 Paddington. Prof. J. Mark Baldwin. Drive straight to 6 Bardwell Rd . Dinner &
all night” [NB 43 TS 16].
Fatout gives this date for Sam’s speech (not recorded) at Magdalen College, Oxford. Sam had been unable to attend an earlier planned luncheon (June 7) with James Mark Baldwin, who wrote in his memoirs:
He came at a later date. The dinner was arranged, if I remember right, at Madelaine [sic Magdalen] College, and some Oxford notables were asked to meet him, among them Godley, the humorist, author of the book of humorous verse entitled “Lyra Frivola,” which made a stir at the time…. At the dinner, at
which it was expected that the two humorists would vie with each other in sallies of wit, all was as solemn as the tomb. Mark Twain was grave as a veritable deacon, and Godley seemed afraid to open his head. It was only after the coffee that, seated at different tables widely separated from each other, our lions began to roar.
Apropos of a meeting of the Oxford Philosophical Society which Clemens was unable to attend, he produced his bon mot. The question under discussion at the society was, “Is God infallible?” “No,” said Clemens, “not at all, for had he been, once he had the whole human race in the ark, he would have let them drown!” [James M. Baldwin, Between Two Wars, 1926 p.112]. Note: Perhaps the most famous graduate from Magdalen was Samuel Pepys, one of Sam’s favorite authors.
Baldwin also recalled Sam’s proficiency in swearing:
Clemens came out to Oxford from London as my guest, and not finding in his valise the necessary article named above, he stormed about and swore like a trooper. Seldom have I seen such an outburst, even from
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.