OUT LOUD: Collected Lectures and Speeches
by Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (1835 – 1910)
Contents first published 1866 ~ 1923
Mark Twain is most noted for his novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "the Great American Novel." Among dozens of titles, some of his works include The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, Roughing It, Life on the Mississippi, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and many more.
“Out Loud” is an extensive collection of 150 lectures and speeches (though some are only fragments). Contents are arranged chronologically by performance date, from 1866 to 1909. It is interesting to observe the evolution from the early days of tall tales and broad burlesque, to Twain’s later life when his remarks became more thoughtful and finely honed – but never losing that delicious Twainian tang. Descriptive passages, truly poetic in nature, are noteworthy throughout his career. His lectures were, of course, most often based upon his writings; frequently the speeches touched upon them as well. Twain fans will find familiar echoes and delightful surprises.
An excerpt ~ Extracting Watermelons:
Now, here’s something else I remember. It’s about the first time I ever stole a watermelon. “Stole” is a strong word. Stole? Stole? No, I don’t mean that. It was the first time I ever withdrew a watermelon. It was the first time I ever extracted a watermelon. That is exactly the word I want — “extracted.” It is definite. It is precise. It perfectly conveys my idea. Its use in dentistry connotes the delicate shade of meaning I am looking for. You know we never extract our own teeth.
And it was not my watermelon that I extracted. I extracted that watermelon from a farmer’s wagon while he was inside negotiating with an other customer. I carried that watermelon to one of the secluded recesses of the lumber-yard, and there I broke it open.
It was a green watermelon.
Well, do you know when I saw that I began to feel sorry – sorry – sorry. It seemed to me that I had done wrong. I reflected deeply. I reflected that I was young – I think I was just eleven. But I knew that though immature I did not lack moral advancement. I knew what a boy ought to do who had extracted a watermelon – like that.
I considered George Washington, and what action he would have taken under similar circumstances. Then I knew there was just one thing to make me feel right inside, and that was – Restitution.
So I said to myself: “I will do that. I will take that green watermelon back where I got it from.” And the minute I had said it I felt that great moral uplift that comes to you when you’ve made a noble resolution.
So I gathered up the biggest fragments, and I carried them back to the farmer’s wagon, and I restored the watermelon – what was left of it. And I made him give me a good one in place of it, too.
And I told him he ought to be ashamed of himself going around working off his worthless, old, green watermelons on trusting purchasers who had to rely on him. How could they tell from the outside whether the melons were good or not? That was his business. And if he didn’t reform, I told him I’d see that he didn’t get any more of my trade – nor anybody else’s I knew, if I could help it.
You know that man was as contrite as a revivalist’s last convert. He said he was all broken up to think I’d gotten a green watermelon. He promised the he would never carry another green watermelon if he starved for it. And he drove off – a better man.
Now, do you see what I did for that man? He was on a downward path, and I rescued him. But all I got out of it was a watermelon. Yet I’d rather have that memory – just that memory of the good I did for that depraved farmer – than all the material gain you can think of. Look at the lesson he got! I never got anything like that from it. But I ought to be satisfied: I was only eleven years old, but I secured everlasting benefit to other people.
Editorial Notes --
This collection is based primarily on the 1910 edition of Mark Twain’s Speeches, with several additional pieces from the 1923 edition edited by Albert Bigelow Paine (1861 – 1937), and numerous items found in newspaper reports and transcripts online. Texts were obtained from gutenberg,org, archive.org, twain.lib.virginia.edu, and twainquotes.com.
Formatted curly quotes, emdashes, diacritics, italics. Minor punctuation and spelling changes for consistency. Renamed several pieces for clarity. Added numerous date annotations. Cross-linked story titles to html table of contents. Embedded fonts for titling, drop-caps, and small-caps.
I found some items I hadn't known about before, so this was a productive project for me. I hope you enjoy them, too.
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