YOUNG WORLD

Twain and his way with words

Stories of Mark Twain are legion. Some true and some not. But decidedly all funny.

S. RAGHUNATH

TWAIN: A ready answer always.

TWAIN: A ready answer always.  

"When your audience is restive," a lecture manager once advised a client, "it's always a good idea to tell a story about Mark Twain." New stories about Twain keep popping up, old ones are refurbished and since the great humorist is in no position to repudiate them, the Twain legend continues to grow.

At a banquet in New York, Twain was seated next to the guest of honour who decided to test on him some of the stories he intended to use in his speech. "I hope you haven't heard this one," he would begin and continue without waiting for Twain's, "No I don't think I have."

As the 14th story began, Twain lost his temper. "Sir," he said, "your previous 13 stories were old and very badly told, but at this one I positively draw the line. Not only have I heard it 13 times previously, but I invented it." The guest of honour, crushed, declared, " I was afraid of addressing this hypocritical audience, but you have now destroyed the last vestiges of self-respect."

"Don't worry," said Twain, "just remember they expect very little of you."

A businessman boasted, "Before I die, I plan to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I'll climb Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud."

"I've a better idea," said Twain. "Why don't you stay right here in Boston and keep them?"

In Richmond, Virginia, Twain complained of a severe pain in the head. "It can't be the food you eat or the air you breathe in Richmond," said a local boastfully. "Why, we're the healthiest city in the U.S. and our death rate is already down to a person a day."

"Run down to the newspaper office," begged Twain, "and see if today's victim has died yet."

A journalist visiting Twain's old haunts in Hannibal, Missisippi, met an old crony who discounted his former classmate's fame. "Shucks," he said, "I knew just as many stories as Sam Clemens did. He just wrote them down."

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) would have agreed.

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