Mark Twain on the Lecture Circuit

Mark Twain on the Lecture Circuit

Mark Twain on the Lecture Circuit

Mark Twain on the Lecture Circuit

Excerpt

Mark Twain was so gifted a talker that, to those who knew him, his fame as an articulate person equalled, if it did not surpass, that of the writer. Capable of seriousness and occasionally of eloquence, he is probably best remembered for his ingenuity at provoking laughter. Timely evidence of this skill appears in the present success of Hal Holbrook, who, in "Mark Twain Tonight," impersonates the great humorist in makeup, voice, and manner. Today's audiences respond to the impersonation with the same delighted laughter that greeted Mark Twain, the same delayed reaction to a joke sprung offhandedly as an anti-climax. As of old, a minority of critics complain of what seems to them unfunny funny business, precisely as some complained of the original joker almost a century ago. These phenomena make him a living personality fifty years after his death, and testify to his ability to interest people, as one reporter put it, "in spite of themselves." Talking was an important manifestation of his character. A lecturer on the lyceum circuit, an informal monologist at home and elsewhere, an after-dinner speaker of such repute that in his heyday no consequential banquet was complete without him, he was also a sterling conversationalist undaunted by any company, and able to keep going indefinitely. This book attempts to view . . .

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