“What in H—–do you want?”
He began with that word “H.” That’s a long word and a profane word. I don’t remember what the word was now, but I recognized the power of it. I had never used that language myself, but at that moment I was converted. It has been a great refuge for me in time of trouble. If a man doesn’t know that language he can’t express himself on strenuous occasions. When you have that word at your command let trouble come.
But later Hay rose, and you know what summit Whitelaw Reid has reached, and you see me. Those two men have regulated troubles of nations and conferred peace upon mankind. And in my humble way, of which I am quite vain, I was the principal moral force in all those great international movements. These great men illustrated what I say. Look at us great people—we all come from the dregs of society. That’s what can be done in this country. That’s what this country does for you.
Choate here—he hasn’t got anything to say, but he says it just the same, and he can do it so felicitously, too. I said long ago he was the handsomest man America ever produced. May the progress of civilization always rest on such distinguished men as it has in the past!
AtA banquet given Mr. H. H. Rogers
by the business men of
Norfolk, Va., Celebrating the opening of the Virginian railway,
April, 3, 1909
“I have often thought that when the time comes, which must come to all of us, when we reach that Great Way in the Great Beyond, and the question is propounded, ’What have you done to gain admission into this great realm?’ if the answer could be sincerely made, ‘I have made men laugh,’ it would be the surest passport to a welcome entrance. We have here to-night one who has made millions laugh—not the loud laughter that bespeaks the vacant mind, but the laugh of intelligent mirth that helps the human heart and the human mind. I refer, of course, to Doctor Clemens. I was going to say Mark Twain, his literary title, which is a household phrase in more homes than that of any other man, and you know him best by that dear old title.”
I thank you, Mr. Toastmaster, for the compliment which you have paid me, and I am sure I would rather have made people laugh than cry, yet in my time I have made some of them cry; and before I stop entirely I hope to make some more of them cry. I like compliments. I deal in them myself. I have listened with the greatest pleasure to the compliments which the chairman has paid to Mr. Rogers and that road of his to-night, and I hope some of them are deserved.
It is no small distinction to a man like that to sit here before an intelligent crowd like this and to be classed with Napoleon and Caesar. Why didn’t he say that this was the proudest day of his life? Napoleon and Caesar are dead, and they can’t be here to defend themselves. But I’m here!