Tenney: Source: The
[Laughter.] Goldsmith said that he had found some of the Scotch possessed wit, which is next door to humor.
He didn’t overurge the compliment.
“Josh Billings defined the difference between humor and wit as that between the lightning bug and the lightning. There is a conscious and unconscious humor. That whiskey offer of the Lord Rector’s was one of unconscious humor. A peculiarity of that sort is a man is apt to forget it. [Laughter.]
“I have here a few anecdotes to illustrate these definitions. I hope you will recognize them. I like anecdotes which have had the benefit of experience and travel, those which have stood the test of time, those which have laid claim to immortality. Here is one passed around a year ago, and twelve years old in its Scotch form.
“A man receives a telegram telling him that his mother-in-law is dead and asking, ‘Shall we embalm, bury, or cremate her?’ He wired back, ‘If these fail, try dissection.’ Now, the unconscious humor of this was that he thought they’d try all of the three means suggested, anyway.
“An old Scotch woman wrote to a friend, ‘First the child died, then the callant’—for the benefit of those not Scotchmen here, I will say that a callant is a kind of shepherd dog. [Laughter.] That is, this is the definition of the Lord Rector, who spends six months in his native land every year to preserve his knowledge of its tongue.
“Another instance of unconscious humor was of the Sunday school boy who defined a lie as ‘An abomination before the Lord and an ever present help in time of trouble.’ That may have been unconscious humor, but it looked more like hard, cold experience and knowledge of facts.
“Then you have the story of the two fashionable ladies talking before a sturdy old Irish washerwoman. One said to the other, ‘Where did you spend the summer?’ ‘Oh, at Long Branch,’ was the reply. ‘But the Irish there; oh, the Irish! Where were you?’ she asked her companion in turn. ‘At Saratoga; but the Irish there; oh, the Irish!’ Then spoke up the old Irish woman, and asked, ‘Why didn’t you go to Hades? You wouldn’t have found any Irish there.’
“Let me tell you now of a case of conscious humor. It was of William Cary, late of the Century, who died a few weeks ago, a man of the finest spirit and thought. One day a distinguished American called at the Century office. There was a new boy on duty as sentry. He gruffly gave the gentleman a seat and bade him wait. A short time after, Mr. Cary came along and said, ‘Why, what are you doing here?’ After explanations Mr. Cary brought out three pictures, one of Washington, one of Lincoln, and one of Grant. ‘Now, young man,’ he said to the boy, ‘didn’t you know that gentleman? Now, look at these pictures carefully, and if any of these gentlemen call show them right in.’
“I am grateful for this double recognition. I find that, like St. Andrew, my birthday comes on the 30th of November. In fact, I was sixty-six years old about thirty-four minutes ago. It was cold weather when I was born. What a chance there was of my catching cold! My friends never explained their carelessness, except on the plea of custom, but what does a child of that age care for custom?”
December – Sam inscribed his photograph to William Winter: “Willie Winter, with the affectionate regard
of Mark Twain. Riverdale, Dec., ’01” [MTP: Walpole Galleried catalogs, Nov. 11, 1923, Item 60].
Sam’s story, “The Death-Disk” (aka “The Death Wafer”) ran in Harper’s Monthly Magazine.
W. Ramsay’s article, “Mark Twain: A Biographical Sketch” ran in Great Thoughts.
Twainian, II (February, 1940), 7 .
Dr. Channing H. Cook, General Manager of the American Plasmon Co., left the firm after accusations of dishonesty [Report of Cases Vol. 187 (1910): Ashcroft v. Hammond 491]. Note: Cook’s successor would also leave the company in May 1903, also under charges of dishonesty and fraudulent issue of stock [Ibid.]
December 1 Sunday
December 2 Monday – Elisabeth Marbury wrote from N.Y.C. to Sam about whom she should select to make a libretto of CY. She had conferred with George W. Broadhurst, whom she thought “especially qualified” for the job, and also thought Mr. Englander could write the music. If Francis Wilson (Sam’s
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.