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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 28 May 2007 09:23:30 EDT
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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I'm not certain whether Twain ever heard Dickens lecture more
than once, but the passage below describes his reaction to an
appearance at Steinway Hall in NYC, in December of 1867:

"...I called at the St. Nicholas Hotel to see my Quaker City
Excursion shipmate, Charley Langdon, and was introduced to
a sweet and timid and lovely young girl, his sister. [Livy]   The
family went to the Dickens reading and I accompanied them...
Mr. Dickens read scenes from his printed books.  From my
distance he was a small and slender figure, rather fancifully
dressed, and striking and picturesque in appearance.  He wore
a black velvet coat with a large and glaring red flower in the
buttonhole.  He stood under a red upholstered shed behind whose
slant was a row of strong lights -- just such an arrangement as
artists used to concentrate a strong light upon a great picture....
He read with great force and animation, in the lively passages,
and with stirring effect.  It will be understood that he did not  merely
read but also acted.  His reading of the storm scene in which
Steerforth lost his life [fr. David Copperfield] was so vivid and  so
full of energetic action that his house was carried off its feet, so
to speak."

He goes on to mention that Authors Readings became popular
because of Dickens, but then died out.  Others were not as
successful or perhaps adroit enough to sustain the effect that
Dickens had mastered.

The citation above comes from Charles Neider's edition of "The
Autobigraphy of Mark Twain," Perennial Library,  Harper &  Row,
NY, 1975, pp. 190-1.

So, I suppose Dickens was a hit with Clemens.  But not as big a
hit as the young lady he accompanied.  The evening made the
fortune of his life, as he would describe it.  Those "rose  colored-
glasses", recalled some forty years later, still give us a good look
at what must have been a magical night.


Roger Durrett