I acquired a copy of the review published in the La Cross Chronicle
January 23, 1885 courtesy Anita Taylor Doering, Senior Archivist &
Archives Manager La Crosse Public Library. She sent me a number of
other JPGs as well that are downloadable from my site.
Twain and Cable
An air of pleasant expectancy pervaded the fine audience that gathered
at the opera house last evening to see and hear the two most unique
characters of modern American literature, Samuel L. Clements [sic] and
George W. Cable. It was intelligent expectancy too, for the quality was
the best. No foreboding of disappointment was expressed by any face, for
to see the men was something, and to hear them tell the stories which
even in cold and stolid type are so filled with grotesque humor, with
delicate pathos—with the very breath of life, it was felt by every one
would be to better comprehend the men and their writings forever after.
An audience that expects to be bored will stupify the best entertainers
and per contra, an audience that rests secure in confidence of being
pleased must needs be pretty badly treated before its confidence is
shaken. So it was that Messrs. Twain and Cable had a fair field and the
favors all their was in La Crosse.
Probably not one person sitting in the audience was ignorant either of
the writings or general personal characteristics of the two men; yet it
might be stated at least as an equal probability. That not one fully
comprehended how strangely diverse the programme would be by reason of
the sharply contrasting elements, until the men had appeared on the
stage: Mr. Cable, slight of figure, erect, nervous, with dark hair and
beard – a type in many senses of the people among whom he was born and
an ideal exponent of the people whose life his writings have depicted;
Mr. Clements [sic], tall, stooping, shambling of gait with tumbled hair
and uncertain mustache, the counterpart of nothing except his odd self.
Such a pair—such a team, let us say—in animal life, would make a horse
laugh. But they pull well together and, to drop the simile, contrasts
fits well the digestion whether it be the grave to gay of speech, the
sunshine and shadow of the artist's summer day, or a little lemon and
The programme opened precisely at eight with the charming scene from Dr.
Sevier, where Narcisse visits the Richlings to borrow money. Let us say
here that we hope Mr. Cable will acquit our people of everything worse
than heedlessness in stringing in by the hundred after the appointed
hour, for they are accustomed to entertainments commencing half an hour
late; that they expected it on this occasion. It was annoying to
everybody, more than all to the late ones. The disturbance was
manifestly felt by Mr. Cable, but those who followed him closely will
agree that the reading was perfect in a dramatic sense, and an
interpretation of the Creole dialect that will be of value to readers of
Mr. Cable's books. His reading of the Widow Riley's scene was amusing
but of little artistic value; but the slight sketch possible of
Ristofalo was the very embodiment of his character and little less than
the perfection of art. His next number was omitted and instead, two
Creole songs given which his mellow, sympathetic voice rendered with
quite a striking effect in modulation. The closing number of his
programme, “Mary's Night Ride” is descriptive recitation purely. It was
given with strong dramatic power to which the audience responded
breathlessly, then with applause to which Mr. Cable responded by
re-appearing and bowing his thanks.
Mr. Clements [sic] opened his budget of fun with “King Sollermunn,” the
sketch printed in the January Century. Next he gave his queer
experiences with the German noun, illustrating with the “Tragic Tale of
a Fishwife.” This brought an encore to which he responded with the
sketch of the stammering man who “cured himself” by whistling. His third
number was “A Trying Situation” somewhat improved from a sketch in his
“Innocents Abroad.” Again there was a recall, and he related the story
of how the old salt shook hands with the governor. The evening closed
with the story of the ghost with the golden arm.
Mr. Clement's [sic] manner in inimitable as it is indescribable. He
comes upon the stage as though looking for a pin on a floor covered with
eggs. He disappears with a canter and if he had not said a word, there
would still be something to laugh at. His gestures have a studied
awkwardness and every movement has a purpose. Speech falls from his lips
as though against his will. Commonly the right elbow is supported by the
left hand, and when his arms fall to his side, volumes could not say
more. In respect to his part of the programme, there was no best or
worst; nothing was better than something else. He is funnier to see and
hear than to read, and to that, nothing can be added.
The entertainment is decidedly the leading success of the winter.