The papers all around here are saying that I have a new Sunday Lecture, with a bad title. The way of it was this. A man in a neighboring city telegraphed me to know if I would deliver a “Sunday Lecture,” and telling me to choose my subject, and answer by telegraph. I thought it was some joke of the boys. The idea of me delivering a Sunday lecture was ridiculous, so, in a moment of thoughtlessness I telegraphed back, “What in the d—— do you take me for?” I supposed that that would be enough to inform the man that I was not in the business. What do you suppose he did? He telegraphed back to me as follows: “All right. We have advertised you for Sunday. Subject, ‘What the d—— do you take me for.’” You can judge something of my surprise and indignation.
That is how it was.
Newspaper reports of the proceedings of the Sunday School Association encamped on Lake Monona, at Madison, give about as many particulars of big catches of fish as of sinners. The delegates divide their time catching sinners on spoon-hooks and bringing pickerel to repentance. Some of the good men hurry up their prayers, and while the “Amen” is leaving their lips they snatch a fish-pole in one hand and a baking-powder box full of angle worms in the other, and light out for the Beautiful Beyond, where the rock bass turn up sideways, and the wicked cease from troubling.
Discussions on how to bring up children in the the way they should go are broken into by a deacon with his nose peeled coining up the bank with a string of perch in one hand, a broken fish-pole in the other, and a pair of dropsical pantaloons dripping dirty water into his shoes.
It is said to be a beautiful sight to see a truly good man offering up supplications from under a wide-brimmed fishing hat, and as he talks of the worm that never, or hardly ever dies, red angle worms that have dug out of the piece of paper in which they were rolled up are crawling out of his vest pocket. The good brothers compare notes of good places to do missionary work, where sinners are so thick you can knock them down with a club, and then they get boats and row to some place on the lake where a local liar has told them the fish are just sitting around on their haunches waiting for some one to throw in a hook.
This mixing religion with fishing for black bass and pickerel is a good thing for religion, and not a bad thing for the fish. Let these Christian statesmen get “mashed” on the sport of catching fish, and they will have more charity for the poor man who, after working hard twelve hours a day for six days, goes out on a lake Sunday and soaks a worm in the water and appeases the appetite of a few of God’s hungry pike, and gets dinner for himself in the bargain. While arguing that it is wrong to fish on Sunday, they will be brought right close to the fish, and can see better than before, that if a poor man is rowing a boat across a lake on Sunday, and his hook hangs over the stern, with a piece of liver on, and a fish that nature has made hungry tries to steal his line and pole and liver, it is a duty he owes to society to take that fish by the gills, put it in the boat and reason with it, and try to show it that in leaving its devotions on a Sunday and snapping at a poor man’s only hook, it was setting a bad example.