As to age, the fact that I am nearly seventy-two years old does not clearly indicate how old I am, because part of every day—it is with me as with you, you try to describe your age, and you cannot do it. Sometimes you are only fifteen; sometimes you are twenty-five. It is very seldom in a day that I am seventy-two years old. I am older now sometimes than I was when I used to rob orchards; a thing which I would not do to-day—if the orchards were watched. I am so glad to be here to-night. I am so glad to renew with the Savages that now ancient time when I first sat with a company of this club in London in 1872. That is a long time ago. But I did stay with the Savages a night in London long ago, and as I had come into a very strange land, and was with friends, as I could see, that has always remained in my mind as a peculiarly blessed evening, since it brought me into contact with men of my own kind and my own feelings.
I am glad to be here, and to see you all again, because it is very likely that I shall not see you again. It is easier than I thought to come across the Atlantic. I have been received, as you know, in the most delightfully generous way in England ever since I came here. It keeps me choked up all the time. Everybody is so generous, and they do seem to give you such a hearty welcome. Nobody in the world can appreciate it higher than I do. It did not wait till I got to London, but when I came ashore at Tilbury the stevedores on the dock raised the first welcome —a good and hearty welcome from the men who do the heavy labor in the world, and save you and me having to do it. They are the men who with their hands build empires and make them prosper. It is because of them that the others are wealthy and can live in luxury. They received me with a “Hurrah!” that went to my heart. They are the men that build civilization, and without them no civilization can be built. So I came first to the authors and creators of civilization, and I blessedly end this happy meeting with the Savages who destroy it.
Mr. Clemens was the guest of honor at a dinner given by the Pleiades Club at the Hotel Brevoort, December 22, 1907. The toastmaster introduced the guest of the evening with a high tribute to his place in American literature, saying that he was dear to the hearts of all Americans.
It is hard work to make a speech when you have listened to compliments from the powers in authority. A compliment is a hard text to preach to. When the chairman introduces me as a person of merit, and when he says pleasant things about me, I always feel like answering simply that what he says is true; that it is all right; that, as far as I am concerned, the things he said can stand as they are. But you always have to say something, and that is what frightens me.