June 4 Wednesday – In Columbia, Mo., The University of Missouri conferred an honorary Doctor of
Law degree, LL.D., upon Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Paine writes of the ceremony:
James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture, and Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Secretary of the Interior, were among those similarly honored. Mark Twain was naturally the chief attraction. Dressed in his Yale scholastic gown he led the procession of graduating students, and, as in Hannibal, awarded them their diplomas. The regular exercises were made purposely brief in order that some time might be allowed for the conferring of the degrees. This ceremony was a peculiarly impressive one. Gardner Lathrop read a brief statement introducing “America’s foremost author and best-loved citizen, Samuel Langhorne Clemens—Mark Twain.”
Clemens rose, stepped out to the center of the stage, and paused. He seemed to be in doubt as to whether he should make a speech or simply express his thanks and retire. Suddenly, and without a signal, the great audience rose as one man and stood in silence at his feet. He bowed, but he could not speak. Then that vast assembly began a peculiar chant, spelling out slowly the word Missouri, with a pause between each letter. It was dramatic; it was tremendous in its impressiveness. He had recovered himself when they finished. He said he didn’t know whether he was expected to make a speech or not. They did not leave him in doubt. They cheered and demanded a speech, a speech, and he made them one—one of the speeches he could make best, full of quaint phrasing, happy humor, gentle and dramatic pathos. He closed by telling the watermelon story for its “moral effect.”
He was the guest of E. W. Stevens in Columbia, and a dinner was given in his honor [MTB 1172-3].
Note: E.W. Stevens was the owner of the Columbia, Mo. Herald.
The New York Times, June 5, p.2, gave a somewhat fuller account:
DEGREE FOR MARK TWAIN
Missouri University Makes Him a Doctor of Laws.
The Humorist Eulogizes Himself
in a Manner Which Greatly Amuses Those Who Hear Him.
Special to The New York Times.
COLUMBIA, Mo., June 4.—The graduating exercises of the State University of Missouri took place today. The programme included several special attractions. The feature was the conferring of honorary degrees of LL.D. on a number of distinguished personages, including Mark Twain, the humorist, James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture; Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Secretary of the Interior; B. T. Galloway, Chief of the Bureau of Plant Industry, and Robert S. Brookings of St. Louis.
Mark Twain was the centre of attraction. Since his arrival from Hannibal yesterday he has been given a continual round of banquets, dinners, and similar entertainments, and when he appeared in chapel this morning he looked fatigued, but was otherwise in fine spirits.
Mr. Clemens, attired in a Yale scholastic gown, led the graduating procession in its march to the stage, and conferred the diplomas upon the graduates. All the exercises were made a brief as possible. The distinguished humorist gave the audience a treat of humorous stories, personal anecdotes, and humorous remarks at the expense of the other distinguished visitors, in whose company he received the degrees.
The conferring of the degrees was especially interesting, each of the ones thus honored responding with a few remarks appropriate to the occasion. Before the degree of Doctor of Laws was formally conferred upon Mark Twain, Gardner Lathrop read a statement introducing the author to the audience, containing many references to his work and characteristics of his genius.
Mr. Clemens stepped to the centre of the stage and paused. He seemed to be hesitating whether to make a talk or retire with a few remarks. Suddenly, and without a signal, the great audience arose as one man and stood in silence at the feet of the man who wrote “Tom Sawyer.” Mr. Clemens bowed and remained silent.
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.