Hal Holbrook: Mark Twain Tonight! (1967) - full transcript

Recreating the one-man show he starred in on Broadway, 'Hal Holbrook' portrays Mark Twain as a 70-year old humorist who skewers politicians, newspapermen and so-called patriots in this 90 minute monologue. Holbrook adapted Twain's own words for a commentary on slavery, religion and politics, mixing the satire with comic yarns about life on the Mississippi and a very effective ghost story. The show's highlight are the lengthy passages from "Huckleberry Finn".

Ladies and gentlemen, how solemn
and beautiful is the thought

that the earliest pioneer of
civilization is never the railroad,

never the newspaper,
never the missionary,

but whisky.

However, truth is the most
valuable thing we have

so let us economize it.

Well, I ought to thank you for
attending the services this evening.

I nearly missed them myself.

I came by railroad.

It was one of those trains that
gets tired every seven minutes,

has to stop and rest for
three quarters of an hour.

One of the passengers
advised the conductor

to take the cow catcher off the
front end and put it on the rear

because at the rate we were going,
we were not going to catch any cows

but there wasn't anything to
prevent them from climbing aboard

on the rear end.

If I have to go to heaven by
railroad I shall go the other way.

There was a dog who
came on board

along in the early
part of the morning

and barked steadily
at nothing

'til he died.

I'd never seen one
of his kind before.

He was a long, low dog
with very short legs,

something like parentheses
turned the wrong way.

It was made on the
plan of a bench, really

and it seemed to be satisfied.

I didn't ask what
kind of a dog it was

or how it came
to be deformed

but the owner was
obviously very fond of it.

He said it had taken
prizes in dog shows,

said people often stopped
on the street to look at it.

Well, this did not
seem strange to me.

Why, I could’ve told him that
if you take a great, long,

low dog like that and waddle him along
the street anywhere in the world

and not charge anything,
people will stop and look at him.

If I were built like that
I could take prizes myself.

I don’t believe he
was a dog at all.

He may have been on the
verge of being a dog.

Wasn’t a dog.

Well, I hope you won’t
mind if I smoke.

I can’t see any harm in it

so long as there are
no children present.

I never began
smoking, myself,

'til I was nine-years-old.

Even then I was not constant.

I was always ready to reform

if I could see any profit in it

but the only profit I
could ever see in it

was the heavenly pleasure
of giving up the reform

and going back to
smoking again.

I come into this world
asking for a light

and I expect to go out of
it blowing smoke rings.

Well, I think temperate
temperance is best.

Intemperate temperance is
apt to be troublesome.

When I was just a young man,
studying for the gallows

I went west on the overland
stage to San Francisco.

I arrived there with
a very bad cold.

A lady at the hotel

advised me to drink
a quart of whiskey

every 24 hours

and another friend recommended
exactly the same thing.

That made a half-a-gallon.

I’d been drunk before but
that was a masterpiece.

I went to bed early that night.

I had a terrible nightmare,
dreamt I was baptized.

About two o’clock in the
morning I had a WC call

and jumped up in the dark
and ran out into the hall

in my night shirt

without a candle.

Then it occurred to me there
was no WC on my floor.

Well, the hall was
pitch dark but I...

I groped along upstairs
and found the WC there

and then I started home. I went
upstairs and pawed along

to what I thought
was my room.

Then I remembered that I had gone
upstairs when I shoulda gone...

wait a minute, I wasn't so
sure about that either.

My mind lost confidence
and began to wander.

I was no longer sure
what floor I was on.

I was lost.

The minute I realized that
the rest of my mind went.

But a man can't stand
still in a dark hall

at two o'clock in the
morning in his night shirt,

looking like an envelope
with no address on it.

He can't do that and feel content.

He's gotta go somewhere.

I groped up and down
a couple of flights

towards lighting the
way with profanity.

You see, I couldn't go down to
the ground floor and start fresh

and count up because there was
a ball going on down there.

Whole ballroom full of young
ladies is a dangerous place

to get caught in
clothed as I was

and not in my right mind,

and pretty soon I heard those
girls coming up to bed.

Well, I didn't know if I was
on a WC floor or not

but I scampered through the
nearest door and prayed

it would be the right one.

It was.

I stood there in that
humble shelter

happy as a martyr when
the fire won't burn.

I thought how glad I should
be to live there always, and

go out no more among life's
troubles and dangers.

Several young ladies
applied for admission

but I was not receiving,

Thursdays being my day.

Well, when the house was dead and
dark, I groped down to the ground floor

and counted my
way up home.

Then my temper got
afire and I let 'er go

and right in the midst
of that great eruption

an admiring
female voice said,

"When you're through with your
prayers, I'd like to know

what you're doing
in my room."

Well, I was, uh... I was
looking for a job out there...

in San Francisco

but I was very particular about
the kind of job I would get.

I didn't want to work,

so I became a
newspaper reporter.

I hated to do it but I couldn't
find honest employment.

I've often had to
serve time that way.

When I was putting
together my first book

I did a stretch in Washington as
a newspaper correspondent

and every day I went
over to the Congress,

that grand, old, benevolent
national asylum for the helpless

and I reported on
the inmates there.

It was very entertaining. I had
never seen a body of men

with tongues so handy

and information so uncertain.

Boy, they could talk for a week
without ever getting rid of an idea.

If one of those men had been
present when the deity

was on the point of saying
"Let there be light"

we never would've had it.

Well, back then in San Francisco, I
went up into the mountains that winter

to hunt for gold.

I didn't find any gold

but I heard Jim Blaine tell
the remarkable story

of his grandfather's old ram.

Now Jim Blaine had
the kind of memory

that was so good

it defeated his every attempt
to march a straight course.

Whenever he came across the
name of a person or a thing

that had nothing to
do with his tale

he would stop and
tell all about it

and as he plodded along,
he always got

further and further away
from his grandfather's

remarkable adventure
with the ram.

I found him settin' on an empty
powder keg, smoking.

Well, my grandfather
got that old ram

from a feller out in
Siskiyou County

and fetched him home and turned
him loose in the meadow,

and next morning, he went
down to have a look at him

and accidentally dropped a
ten-cent piece in the grass

and was a-stooping over

fumbling in the
grass to get it.

and the ram, he was up
the slope taking notice,

but my grandfather
wasn't taking notice

'cause he had his back to
the ram, don't you see?

Well, now, Smith of Calaveras
was a-standing there.

Wait a minute, now, it weren't
Smith of Calaveras.

No, no, no,
he was a Baptist.

No, no, it was Smith of Tulare
County, course it was.

I remember it now,
perfectly clear.

Well, Smith of Tulare
was standing there,

and, uh...

uh, S- uh, Smith of Tulare
was a-standing there.

Smith of Tulare was...

Well, Smith of Calaveras
was a Baptist and...

Wait a minute, now, let me...

let me see. The ram was
up the slope and, uh...

Well, grandfather
was right here,

uh, bending over

uh-h, fumbling
in the grass,

and when the old
ram see 'im

in that attitude, he too
it for an invitation.

and here he come down that
slope thirty mile-an-hour

with his eye full
of business.

Well, now, you see, my
grandfather's back being to him,

and, uh...

and, uh, him a-stooping over like
that, why, o' course he, uh...

Why, sure it weren't
Smith of Tulare

No, no, no, it was, why, it
was Smith of Sacramento.

Why, Smith of Tulare
was just a nobody,

but Smith of
Sacramento, why

the Smiths of Sacramento count of the
best southern blood in United States.

Why, there weren't ever any better
blood south of the line than them, uh...

uh, Sacramento...
uh, Smiths, um.

Why, look at here. One of 'em
married a Whittaker.

What do you
say to that?

Mariah Whittaker,
there was a girl for ya.

Just as good and
sweet and lovely...

and generous...

Why, if she had a thing and you
wanted it, you could have it.

Have it and welcome.

Why, she had a glass eye...

and, um...

she used to lend it to
Flora-Anne Baxter

that hadn't any

to received
company with, uh...

Well now, Flora-Anne was
pretty large and it didn't fit.

It was a number seven

and, um...

she was excavated
for a fourteen.

That eye wouldn't lay still,
don't you know?

Every time she winked,
it would roll over.

Oh, it was a beautiful
eye, and uh...

set her off admirable because
it was painted a lovely

pale blue on the front
side, don't you know,

and, uh...

it was gilded on
the back side.

Didn't match the other eye

which was one of them
browny, yellery eyes

tranquil and quiet, you know, the
way them kind of eyes are but...

that didn't matter, they
worked together alright

and, uh...

plenty picturesque.

Why, when Flora-Anne come to
get excited, that hand-made eye

would give a whirl
and go on a-whirling

flashing first blue and then yellow
and then blue and, uh...

and the other one
would stand still.

Grown people
didn't mind it

but it 'most always
made the children cry.

No, he was a Baptist.

Flora-Anne Baxter,

she married a Hagadorn,

old Maryland,
eastern shore blood.

Ain't any better family in the
United States than them, uh...

than them Hagadorns.


little Sally, hm hm hm hm

Sally Hagadorn,
she married a missionary,

and, uh...

they went off carrying the
good news to the cannibals

out in one of them way off
islands around the world

in the middle of the
ocean somewheres,

and, um...

they at' her.

Yeah, uh...

they at' her.

At' him, too.

Well, they was...

they was dreadful
sorry about it and, uh...

Well, when their families sent down
there to fetch away their things,

why, they said so.

They said they were sorry

and apologized,

and, uh...

said it shouldn't
happen again,

said it was an accident.

Accident, that's foolishness

for you. Why, there ain't no
such thing as an accident.

There ain't nothing
happens in this world

but what's ordered just so
by a higher and wiser power

and it's always for
a good purpose.

Why, you look at my Uncle Lem.
Now, what do you say to that?

Well, you just look at my Uncle Lem
and then talk to me about accidents.

Now, my uncle Lem and his
dog was downtown one day

and he was leaning up
against a scaffold

and sick or drunk
or something and

there was an Irishman
with a hoard of bricks

up the ladder along
about the third story,

and his foot slipped
and down he come

bricks and all and hit a
stranger, fair and square,

and knocked the everlasting
aspirations out of him.

Now then, people said
it was an accident.

Well, there weren't
no accident about it.

It was a special providence

and had a mysterious and
noble intention behind it.

The idea was to
save the Irishman.

Why, if that stranger hadn't been there,
the Irishman would've been killed.

People said "Special providence"?
So, the dog was there.

Why didn't the Irishman
fall on the dog?

Why weren't the
dog appointed?"

Why, for a mighty
good reason:

the dog would have
seen him a-coming.

Why, you can't depend on no dog
to carry out a special providence.

Why you, you...

Listen, now, you couldn't hit a dog
with an Irishman because...

Well, what was
that dog's name?


Mighty fine dog
he was, too.

He weren't no common dog.

He weren't no mongrel.
He was a composite.

My uncle Lem got him
from the Wheelers.

I reckon you've heard
of the Wheelers.

Ain't any better family in
the United States than them...

than them, um...

Wheelers, um...

Old man Wheeler,

he worked in a
carpet factory.

and, uh...

One day he was a-meditating
and dreaming around and...

in the carpet factory,

and... and the machinery
made a snatch at him,

and, uh...

the first thing you know, Wheeler was
meandering all over the factory

going fast to where you
couldn't even see him.

You'd only hear him
whizz when he went by.

Well, Wheeler got wove up

into thirty-nine
yards of the best

three-ply carpeting.

His widow was sorry.

She was uncommonly
sorry and, uh...

and she'd done the best
she could for him

under the circumstances.

She took the whole piece,

thirty-nine yards,

and, uh...

she uh, she wanted
to give him

proper and honorable burial

but she couldn't bear
to roll him up,

so she... she took and
spread him out, uh...

full length, uh...

She wanted to buy
a tunnel for him, uh...

but there weren't any
tunnels for sale,

so she...

oh, my sake's alive...

she boxed him

in a beautiful box and...

and, uh...

stood him on a pedestal

on a hill

and she painted on him:

"To the loving memory of
thirty-nine yards of the best...

three-ply carpeting

containing the
mortal remains of...

of Millington...





Go thou and do likewise."

Well, at that point Jim Blaine
always fell asleep

so we never did find out what happened
to his grandfather's old ram.

Well, poor, old Wheeler.

My sake's alive,
I had an uncle

got himself killed in somewhat
the same way once.

It was on the
Fourth of July

and this uncle of mine,
full of patriotism,

opened his mouth to hurrah and a
rocket went right down his throat.

I had another uncle, too.

He was a spare uncle.

Went to visit a dentist,
a certain Dr. Tushmaker

to have his tooth out.

Well, the dentist pulled and
the tooth wouldn't come

but my uncle's right
leg come up.

Dentist said "What are
you doing' that for?"

My uncle said
"Because I can't help it!"

Dentist said "You come back at the end
of the week. I'll take care of you."

Well, during the week, the dentist
invented an instrument

combining the properties
of the screw,

the lever,

the wedge,

the hammer and
the inclined plane.

Now, my uncle came back
and sat in the chair.

One turn of the crank and
out came the tooth.

Its roots were hooked under
my uncle's right, big toe.

and his whole skeleton was
extracted with the tooth.

They had to send him
home in a pillow case.

Well, I'm going to declare a
ten-minute rest period now.

No, I won't make
it ten, I'll make it...

I'm going to declare a few
minutes rest period now.

It's a terrible death to
be talked to death.

so I pause every now and again
to allow some people to escape

and this is your
first opportunity.

Well, I've been trying to throw
variety into these services.

I recently wrote
Andrew Carnegie

requesting a hymn book.

My dear Mr. Carnegie,
I see by the papers

that you are
very prosperous.

I want to get
a hymn book.

It costs two dollars.

I will bless you,
god will bless you

and it shall do a great deal of good.
Truly yours, Mark Twain.

P.S. don't send me the hymn
book, send the two dollars.

Why, I wanted to
select it myself.

I'm not lying to you.

I don't tell lies, I differ from
George Washington.

I have a higher and grander
standard of principle.

George could
not tell a lie.

I can, but I won't.

Oh, I used to tell lies

but I've given it up.

The field is overrun
with amateurs.

Why, when I look around me and
contemplate the lumbering,

slovenly lying of
the present day,

it grieves me to see a
noble art so prostituted.

In my day a liar
was a liar!

I don't mean to suggest

that the custom of lying
has suffered any decay.

It couldn't,

for the lie is eternal.

It is man's best
and surest friend

and it cannot perish
from the earth

while Congress
remains in session.

No, when I talk
about the decay

in the art

of lying, I'm talking
about the silent lie.

It requires no art,
you simply keep still

and conceal the truth.

For example, it would
not be possible

for a humane and
intelligent person

to invent a rational
excuse for slavery

and yet in those early
days of the emancipation


in the north,

those agitators got small
help from anyone,

argue and plead and
pray as they might.

They could not break the
universal stillness

that reigned from
pulpit and press

all the way down to
the bottom of society,

the clammy


created and maintained by
the lie of silent assertion,

the silent assertion that there
wasn't anything going on

in which humane and intelligent
people ought to be interested.


when whole nations of people


to propagate gigantic,
mute lies like that one

in the interest of
tyrannies and shams,

why should we care anything about
the trifling ones told by individuals?

Why make them

Why not be honest and honorable
and lie every chance we get?

Why should we help the nation
lie the whole day long

and then object to telling
one little, insignificant,

private lie,

in our own interest?

Just for the refreshment
of it, I mean,

and to take the rancid
taste out of our mouth.

No, there's no art

to the silent lying:
it is timid

and shabby.

Well, I've been
addressing my remarks

to the young people
in this audience.

The old ones
are past saving

but I earnestly hope the young
ones will understand me.

and take heed.

I hope it

and I doubt it.

When I was a boy of fourteen,
my father was so stupid

I could scarcely stand to
have the old man around,

but by the time I got to be
twenty-one I was astonished

at how much he had learned
in the last seven years.

Well, now I wanna
bring you a selection

from Huckleberry Finn.

Now, this the
book about a boy--

some of you
have been boys,

and the rest of you have had
a good deal to do with boys.

Now, Huckleberry Finn
is the story of a boy

who lived a great
many years ago

in the Mississippi
River valley.

He was ignorant,


insufficiently fed,

but he had as good a heart
as ever any boy had,

and he was the only really
independent person--boy or man--

in the community,

and for this reason, I suppose,
he was continually


Now, in this book Huckleberry
tells his own story

all by himself.

You don't know about me without
you've read a book by the name

of "The Adventures of
Tom Sawyer."

That book was made
by a Mr. Mark Twain

and he told the truth


Well, there are some things he
stretched but mainly he told the truth.

Aww, that ain't nothing.

Well, I never seen anybody but
lied one time or another

when I was with
was Aunt Polly

or the Widow Douglas.

The Widow, she
took me for her son

and allowed she
would civilize me.

She cried over me
and called me a

poor, lost lamb.

She called me a lot
of other names, too,

but she never meant
no harm by it.

Well, then she dressed me up
in some of them new clothes

and I couldn't do nothing but sweat
and sweat and feel all cramped up.

Pretty soon I wanted to smoke but
the Widow, she wouldn't let me.

She said it was a mean
practice and weren't

clean and I should try
not to do it anymore.

Ain't that just the way with
some people, though?

They get down on a thing when
they don't know nothing about it.

She took snuff, too.

'Course that was alright 'cause
she'd done it herself.

Well, then her sister,
Miss Watson,

a tolerable, slim, old
maid with goggles on,

she was all the time sayin' "Don't put
your feet up there, Huckleberry.

Don't scrunch up like that,
Huckleberry, sit up straight.

Can't you try to behave?"

Then she told me all about the bad
place and I said I wish I was there.

She got mad, then,

but I never meant no harm,
all I wanted was a change.

All I wanted was to go
somewheres, I warn't particular.

She said she
was gonna live

so as to go to
the good place.

Well, I couldn't see no advantage
in going where she was going,

so I made up my mind
I wouldn't try for it.

Well, I'd been going to school
along about four or five months.

I learned to read
and write

and say the multiplication table up
to six times seven is thirty-five.

I don't reckon I could get ever any
further than that if I was to live forever.

And then one night
I lit my candle

and went up to my room
and there sat pap,

his own self. He tore into me
something awful for dressing up

and putting on airs
and going to school

and then he catched me
and took me up the river

to a little log cabin over
on the Illinois shore.

I never got no
chance to run off.

Pap, he was so handy
with his hick'ry,

Huck couldn't
hardly stand it.

I was all over
with welts.

Once, after he'd been
drunk over in town,

he come back and says
how folks was saying

there was going
to be another


to get me away from him and give
me to the Widow for my guardian,

and then he got to cussing.
Says he'd like to see the widow get me.

Whenever his liquor
begun to work

he most always went
for the govment.

This time he says,

Call this a govment, why, just
look at it and see what it's like.

Why, here's the law standing, ready
to take a man's son away from him,

man's own son,

which he's had all the
trouble and all the anxiety

and all the
expense of raising.

Just as that man's got
that son all raised up,

ready to go to work,
do suthin' for him

and give him a rest,

why, the law up
and goes for him.

And they call
that govment!

Why, a man can't get his
rights in a govment like this.

Why, looky here, there was a free
nigger over there from Ohio--


Most white as
a white man.

He had on the whitest
shirt you ever seen

and the shiniest hat.

He had a gold
watch and a chain.

What do you think?

Why, they said
he was a P'fessor

in the college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything.

That ain't the wust.

They said he could vote
when he was at home.

Well, that let me out.

Thinks I, what's this
country a-coming to?

Why, it was 'lection day, and I was
just about to go and vote myself,

I warn't too drunk
to get there,

when they told me there
was a state in this country

where they'd let that nigger
vote, I drawed out.

I says I'll never vote ag'in as long as
I live. Them's the very words I said;

you all heard me!

And the country may
rot for all of me!

I'll never vote ag'in
as long as I live.

Ol' Pap, he was
carrying on so

he never noticed where his old
limber legs was a-taking him

and he went head over heels
over a tub of salt pork

and barked both shins.

Rest of his speech was all
the hottest kind of language.

Then he let out all of a
sudden with his left foot

and fetched that
tub a rattling kick,

but it warn't
good judgment.

That was a boot that had
a couple of his toes

leaking out of the
ront end of it.

Well, I run off from Pap
pretty soon after that.

I hid out on
Jackson's Island.

That's where I met
Miss Watson's Jim.

He says he run off too.

Well, uh...

I promised I
wouldn't tell on him.

I knowed I done wrong.

I know folks would despise me and
call me a low-down Ab'litionist

but I didn't care. I warn't going
back there ag'in anyway.

Jim and me, we found a
empty section of log-raft.

We went off down
that river together.

We run nights and laid
up and hid day times.

We'd just let that raft float
wherever the current wanted it to.

It's lovely to
live on a raft.

We'd lay on our backs
and smoke our pipes

looking away
into the sky;

not a cloud in it.

Sky looks ever so deep when you
lay on your back in the moonshine.

I never knowed it before,

and how far a body can hear
on the water such nights.

I'd go to sleep.

Sometimes Jim wouldn't wake me
when it was my turn to stand watch.

He often done that.

Then when I woke up along
about day break

He'd be sitting there with head
down betwixt his knees,

moaning and mourning.

Well, I never took notice nor let
on but I knowed what it was for.

He was thinking about
his wife and children

way up yonder
and he was

feeling low and homesick;

'cause, you see, he hadn't ever been
away from home before in his life.

I do reckon he cared just
as much for his people

as white folks
does for their'n.

Don't seem natural
but I reckon it's so.

We kept looking for Cairo,
down at the foot of Illinois,

where the Ohio
River comes in.

We said we'd
sell the raft

and get on
a steamboat.

and go way up the Ohio amongst the
free states and then be out of trouble.

Jim, he said it made
him all over trembly

and feverish to be
so close to freedom.

He says how the first thing he'd
do when he got to a free state,

he would go to work
saving up money

and never spend
a single cent,

and when he got enough,
he would buy his uh...

h-he would buy...

he would buy his... he...

he would buy his wife,

which was owned on a
farm near Miss Watson,


then they'd both go to work
and buy the two children,

and if their master
wouldn't sell 'em

he'd get an Ab'litionist
to go and steal 'em.

Well, it 'most froze me
to hear such talk.

Well, Jim, he would never dare
talk such talk in his life before,

coming right out flat-footed and saying
that he would steal his children--

children which was owned by
a man I didn't even know;

a man who hadn't ever
done me no harm.

You see, I begun to get
it through my head

that he was 'most free--

and who was
to blame for it?


It had never come down to me before
what this thing was that I was a-doing.

My conscience got
to stirring me up

hotter and hotter and finally I says
to it, aww, let up on me, will ya?

I'll paddle ashore
at the first light

and tell.

Pretty soon one showed.

Jim, he got all excited 'cause he
thought it was Cairo but I said, no, uh...

let me paddle ashore in
the canoe and see, Jim.

It might not be,
you know.

Well, then he got the
canoe ready for me and

give me the paddle and,

and I shove out

and when I was about fifty
yards off he calls out:

"Dah you goes,

de ole true Huck;

de on'y white genlman dat ever
kep' his promise to ole Jim."

Well, I just felt sick.

Here I was paddling off, all in
a sweat to tell on him; but

when he says that, it just kinda seemed
to take the tuck right out of me.

I warn't right down certain
whether I was glad I started

or whether I warn't.

I says to myself,

I got to do it--

I can't get out of it!

Right then along
comes a skiff

with two men in it

with guns,

and they stopped

and I stopped and
one of them says:

"What's that yonder?"

A piece of raft.

"Do you belong on it?"

Yes, sir.

"Any men on it?"

Only one, sir.

"Well, there's five niggers
run off to-night up yonder,

around the head of bend.
Is your man white

or black?"

He's white.

They went off.

Well, I knowed
I'd done wrong.

Well, I guess it warn't no use
for me to learn to do right;

well, if I'd have gone to Sunday
school and learned how to behave

I'd have knowed
what to do but,

well, you see, a body that don't
get started right when he's little

just ain't got no show.

Then I says to
myself, hold on;

if you'd a done right
and give Jim up,

would you feel better
than you do now?

Well, no, I says, I'd feel bad--
I'd feel the same way I do right now.

Well, then, says I, what's the
use in you learning to do right

when it's troublesome to do right
and ain't no trouble to do wrong,

and the wages is
just the same?

Well, I was stuck.
I couldn't answer that.

So I just shoved the whole
thing right out of my head.

And I said I would take
up wickedness again

which is in my line
being brung up to it.

And for a starter, I would go to work
and steal Jim out of slavery,

and if that meant I
was going to hell,

then I would just go to hell.

Well, it's a comical invention, the
human race, any way you look at it,

but sometimes it does
seem a shame that Noah

and his party did
not miss the boat.

You've probably noticed

that the human
race is a curiosity.

Originally, man started out
a little lower than the angels,

and he's been getting a
little lower ever since.

To place him properly
at the present time,

he stands somewhere
between the angels

and the French.

Oh, man is a marvel, he is.

He's invented
himself a heaven

and emptied into it all
the nations of the earth,

all in one common jumble

and all of them on
an equality absolute.

They have to be brothers.

They have to mix together
and pray together

and harp and
hosanna together,

whites, negroes, Jews, everybody.
There's no distinctions,

and yet, down here on earth, all the nations
hate each other and fight each other and

every one of them
persecutes the Jew,

and yet, every pious person
adores that heaven

and wants to get into it.

He really does.
Now, isn't that marvelous?

And when he's
in a holy rapture

he thinks--he thinks that if
he could only get up there

he would take that whole
populace to his heart,

and hug, and
hug, and hug!

I wonder if God invented man because
he was disappointed in the monkey.

Training and association

can accomplish

strange miracles sometimes.

In my schoolboy days I had
no aversion to slavery

I was not aware that there
was anything wrong about it.

Local paper said
nothing against it.

Local pulpit taught us that
God approved of it,

that it was a holy thing,

and the doubter need
only look in the Bible

if he wished to
settle his mind.

And then the texts were read aloud
to us to make the matter sure.

If there were passages
in the Bible which

disapproved of slavery,

they were not quoted
by our pastors.

I wonder how
they could lie so.

Result of practice,
no doubt,

and the serene confidence
of a Christian

with four aces.

When I was a boy I saw a
brave gentleman deride

and insult a lynching
mob and drive it away.

For the truth is that no
mob has any sand in it

in the presence of a man
known to be splendidly brave.

But where shall such
brave men be found?

If physically brave men would
do, why, that'd be easy.

They could be
had by the cargo.

But morally brave men

and women

who can face up to

churchgoing gangs of
hooded murderers--

don't seem to be very many
morally brave people left in stock.

We appear to be in a
condition of profound

poverty there.

What we really need
is some starters.

But where shall we
get them, advertise?

Very well, then,
let's advertise.

Meanwhile, there's
another plan.

Why don't we import American
missionaries from China,

and send them into
the lynching field.

Well, there are 1,511

American missionaries out there

converting two Chinamen
apiece per annum

against an uphill birth rate
of 33,000 pagans per day.

Now, if we can offer our
missionaries as rich a field at home

at lighter expense and quite
satisfactory in the matter of danger,

why shouldn't they come back
and give us a trial?

Why, those Chinese people
are universally conceded

to be honest,



why don't we give those
poor things a rest, huh;


every convert runs the risk
of catching our civilization.

Ought to think twice before we
encourage a risk like that;

for once civilized, China

can never be
uncivilized again.

I've been thinking
about that.

O kind missionary,

O compassionate missionary,
leave China!

Come home

and convert these Christians!

Oh, what a hell of a
heaven it's going to be

when all those hypocrites
assemble there.

Man is really the most
interesting jackass there is.

It's his idea, you see,

that the deity sits up
nights to admire him.

He's the creator's pet.

Now, you may wonder why.
Well, because of his intellect.

Man is the reasoning animal.

Such is the claim.

Though I do think
that's open to dispute.

Well, I've been studying this
reasoning animal for years now

and I find the
results humiliating.

Well, for example, I experimented
with a cat and a dog,

taught them to be friends,
then I put them in a cage.

I introduced a rabbit.
In an hour they were friends.

Then I added a fox,

a goose,

a squirrel,

some doves,

a kangaroo,

and finally, a monkey.

They lived together
in peace.

Well next, I caught an Irish
Catholic and put him in a cage,

and as soon as he seemed
tame I added a Presbyterian,

and then a Turk
from Constantinople;

a Methodist from the
wilds of Arkansas;

a Buddhist from China;

and finally, a Salvation
Army Colonel.

Why, when I come back,
there wasn't a specimen left alive.

These reasoning animals had
disagreed on a theological detail

and carried the matter
to a higher court.

Because... because, you see,
man is also the religious animal.

He's the only one that's
got the true religion--

several of them.

He loves his neighbor
as himself

and cuts his throat if his
theology isn't straight.

Why, he's made a
graveyard of the globe

in trying his
honest best

to smooth his brother's
path to happiness

and heaven.

The other animals have
no religion, you know.

Going to be
left out, in the...

I wonder why.

Seems questionable taste.

Man is the only patriot.

He sets himself apart
in his own country

under his own flag and
sneers at the other nations,

keeps uniformed assassins
on hand at heavy expense

to grab slices of other
people's countries

and keep them from
grabbing slices of his,

with the result that there's not
an acre of ground on the globe

that's in possession
of its rightful owner.

And in the intervals
between campaigns,

he washes the blood
from his hands

and works for the
brotherhood of man

with his mouth.

Man is the only animal

that deals in the atrocity

of war.

He's the only one

that for sordid wages

goes forth in cold blood

to exterminate
his own kind.

He has a motto for this:

our country,


or wrong!

Any man who fails to
shout it is a traitor!

Only the others
are patriots.

Say, who is "the Country"?

Is it the government?

In a republic, the government
is merely a servant,

a temporary one.

Its function is to obey
orders, not originate them.

Only when a republic's
life is in danger

should a man uphold
his government

when it's wrong.

Otherwise, the nation has
sold its honor for a phrase.

And if that phrase needs
help it gets another one:

Even though the
war be wrong,

we are in it.

We must fight it out.

We cannot retire

without dishonor.

Why, not even a burglar
could have said that better.

Man is the only


that blushes

or needs to.

Well, you just have to remember
that man was made

at the end of
the week's work.

Well, I'm going to declare
another rest period now,

while I go back and
have a smoke.

When you come back I
wanna tell you a ghost story.

So I'm going to warn all the
nervous people to leave now

if you haven't
left already,

'cause this ghost story
scares me half to death.

So I'll see you strong hearts
in about two minutes.

When I was a boy in
Hannibal, on the river,

we used to spend part of every
year on my uncle's farm

and there was another uncle on
that farm, a middle-aged slave

by the name of
Uncle Dan'l,

who's sympathies
were wide and warm,

and every night
before going to bed,

we children used to gather
together on Uncle Dan'l's hearth

and hear him tell those immortal
tales that Uncle Remus, Joel Harris,

got together in a book by and by
and charmed the world with,

and I can still remember
the creepy joy

that quivered through me.

When the times of the
ghost story was reached,

we used to sit
there on the floor

with our knees hunched
up, hugging them,

watching the flames
shootin' up the chimney,

watching the shadows
prancing around the walls,

looking suspiciously in
all the dark corners,

listening to the wind whistle
around the edge of the house,

we'd be frightened to death
before he'd ever begin.

And then he'd
tell us a story

of the golden arm.

Once 'pon a time dey wuz
a monstus mean man,

en he live 'way out on de
prairie all 'lone by himself,

cep'd he had a wife.

En biemby she died,

en he tuck en toted her
way out dah on de prairie

en buried her.

Well, she had
a golden arm--

all solid gold, from
de shoulder down.

Oh, he wuz pow'ful mean,
dat man--pow'ful;

en dat night he
couldn't sleep,

caze he want dat
golden arm so bad.

When it come midnight
he couldn't stand it no mo';

so he git up, he did,
en he tuck his lantern

en he shove out
through de storm

en dug her up en he
got dat golden arm;

en den he bent his head
down 'gainst de wind,

en he plowed, en plowed,
en plowed through de snow.

And den all of a
sudden he stop

"My lan', what's dat."

En he listen

en de wind say,

en den, way back yonder
where de grave is,

he hear a voice--

he hear a voice all mix' up
with de storm en de wind--

you can't
tell 'em apart

and that voice say,

W-h-o -

- g-o-t -

- m-y-- g-o-l-d-e-n -

- arm? -

En den he commence to shiver
en shake, en he say, "Oh, my!

Oh, my lan'!"

en de win' blow
de lantern out,

en de snow en sleet blow in
his face en mos' choke him,

en he start a-plowin' knee-deep towards
home mos' dead, he so sk'yerd

en den biemby

he hear dat voice ag'in,

en dis time

it's a-comin' after him!

"W-h-o's-- g-o-t-- m-y
g-o-l-d-e-n-- arm?"

When he gits to de pasture
he hear it ag'in--

closer now, en comin'!--comin'
back dah in de dark en de storm,

When he gits to de house he run
up-stairs en he jump in bed

en he kiver up,
head and ear,

en he lay dah shiverin'

en shakin'

En biemby

he hear dat voice ag'in

en dis time

it's right

outside de house!

Who's got my golden arm!

Den he hear...

It's a-comin' up de stairs!

Then he hear
the latch open,

en he know dat
it's in de room!

Den he know

dat it's stannin'
by de bed!

Den he know

dat it's bendin'
down over him--

he cain't skasely git his
breath, he so sk'yerd

en den he seem to feel

suthin cold, right down
'gainst his head!

En den dat voice say,

right in his ear--

- "W-h-o's -

- g-o-t -

- m-y -

- g-o-l-d-e-n -

- a-r-m-?"

"You've got it!"'

Then that wicked old rascal
would send us up to bed.

I remember how very
dark that room was

in the dark of the moon.

I can remember the raging of the
rain on the roof summer nights

and how pleasant it was
to lie and listen to it

and enjoy the white
splendor of the lightning

and the majestic booming
and crashing of the thunder.

We were all good Presbyterian boys
when the weather was doubtful.

Along outside of the front
fence ran the country road,

dusty in the summer time
and a good place for snakes.

When there were house
snakes or garters,

we carried them home and put
them in Aunt Patsy's work basket

for a surprise.

She was prejudiced
against snakes

and always when she took
the basket into her lap

and they began to
climb out of it,

it disordered her mind.

Our school teacher,
Miss Harr,

was a stern, old
New England warrior

with eyes that turned
like pivot-guns.

She could whirl one eye rearwards
and the other forwards,

like a senator.

I didn't think I could
ever learn to like her

except on a raft at sea

with no other
provisions in sight.

When I was a boy

helping to inhabit that
little Missouri town,

my comrades
and I had one

permanent ambition:

to be a steamboatman.

Boy after boy managed
to go on the river

and by and by
I ran away too.

I said I never would come
home again till I was a pilot

and could come in glory.

I loved that profession.

Far better than any
I've followed since.

I took a measureless

pride in it,

for a pilot on a steamboat
in those days

was the only unfettered
and entirely

independent human being
that walked on the earth.

The pilot-house was a
sumptuous glass temple

offering a princely view
of the great Mississippi,

rolling its mile-wide tide
along, shining in the sun.

On the four o'clock
watch mornings

I could see the summer
sunrise on the river.

That was enchanting.

First the eloquence of silence,

then the haunting
sense of loneliness,


remoteness from the worry
and bustle of the world.

The dawn creeps
in stealthily.

Solid walls of black
forest soften to grey

and vast stretches of the river
open up and reveal themselves.

The water is
glass smooth.

Then a bird pipes up,

and when the light has
become a little stronger,

you have one of the fairest and
softest pictures imaginable.

You have the intense green of the
massed and crowed foliage nearby

and you see it paling

shade by shade
in front of you.

And all this stretch of river

is a mirror.

Well, that's all beautiful

but when the sun gets well up
and distributes a ping flush here

and a powder
of gold yonder

and a purple haze

where it will yield
the best effect,

you grant that you have seen
something that is worth


I hoped to follow the river
the rest of my days and

die at the wheel when
my mission was ended.

But by and by the war came and
commerce on the river ceased

and my occupation
was gone,

so I had to seek
another livelihood.

I joined the Confederacy,

served for two weeks,


and the Confederacy fell.

So I went west to hunt for gold.
I was going to be a millionaire.

'Course, I expected to find the gold
just laying around on the ground,

waiting for me
to shovel it in,

but I struck a
disappointment there.

That was like so many other
pipe dreams in my life,

it was all based
on rumor.

When I got out there,
I found I'd just been

drunk on the smell of
somebody else's cork.

I found you had to dig for the gold
with a long-handled shovel.

I had no use for a
long-handled shovel.

Oh, I was

willing to sit by
and admire

while other
people used one.

I would even shout
encouragement at them, too,

when I wasn't busy

catching flies.

Oh, I loved to catch flies;

didn't require any talent,
all you had to do was grab.

If I didn't get the fly I was
after, I'd get another one.

It was all the same to me.
I had no partialities.

Whichever fly I got was
the one I wanted.

Well, that California
get-rich-quick disease

of my youth
spread like wildfire.

It produced a
civilization which has

destroyed the simplicity
and repose of life,

its poetry,

its soft, romantic
dreams and visions,

and replaced them
with a money fever,

sordid ideals,

vulgar ambitions,

and the sleep which
does not refresh.

I has created a thousand

useless luxuries and turned them
into necessities and satisfied


It has dethroned God and
set up a shekel in his place.

Oh, the dreams
of our youth...

how beautiful they are;

and how perishable.

Well, last year I celebrated my
seventieth escape from the gallows.

I am approaching the
threshold of age.

In 1977,

I shall be 142-years-old.

I'm gonna leave my skull
to Cornell University

so the scientists
can examine it

and send me a report.


people call me a pessimist
in my old age but I'm not.

I am an optimist

who did not arrive.

I've had a good life. I've traveled... I've
seen all the foreign countries I care to see

except heaven and hell,

and I have only a vague
curiosity about one of them.

Though, I would like to
see my old ancestor,


I have no special
regard for Satan but I

think I can claim to have no
prejudice against him.

May even be that I
lean a little his way,

on account of his
not having a fair show.

All religions issue
bibles against him

and say the most injurious
things about him

but we never
hear his side.

We have only the evidence
for the prosecution,

and yet we have rendered the verdict.
Now, to my mind this is irregular;

it is un-English;

it is un-American;

it is French.

Without that precedent, Dreyfus
could never have been condemned.

'Course Satan
has some case,

that goes without saying.

May be a poor one,

but that can be said
about any of us.

Soon as I can
get at the facts

I intend to undertake his
rehabilitation myself.

if I can find an
unpolitic publisher.

We may not pay
him reverence,

for that would
be indiscreet,

but we can at least
respect his talents.

Any man who has
for untold centuries

maintained the imposing
position of spiritual head

of four-fifths of
the human race,

and political head
of the whole of it,

must have
executive abilities.

Well, I should
like to meet him.

I'd rather meet him and
shake him by the tail

than any other
statesman on the planet,

and I probably will.

I remember once saying to
our pastor, Joe Twitchell,

that I hope to be cremated and
he just looked at me and said,

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about
that if I had your chances."

I've heard a good
deal all my life

about heaven and hell,

and as near as
I can figure it,

if a man goes to heaven

he will put in all his time
improving himself.

He will study, and
study, and study,

and progress, and progress,
and progress,

and if that isn't hell,
I don't know what is.

Well, now it's time to go.

My feet are tired and your...

you are tired.

You know,
in the last year,

since my seventieth

birthday, I have received

hundreds of letters from
all conditions of people,

men, women, and children,

and there was in
them compliments,


and above all and better than
all, there is in them a note

of affection.

Compliment is well, praise
is well, but affection,

that is the last
and final and most

precious reward that
any man can win,

whether by character
or achievement.

I am very grateful
to have that


Many and many a year ago I
gathered an incident from Dana's

"Two Years Before the Mast"

It was like this:

There was a self-important little
skipper of a coasting sloop

engaged in the dried apple
and kitchen furniture trade,

and he was always hailing
every ship that came in sight.

He did it just to air
his small grandeur

and to hear himself talk.

One day, a majestic Indiaman
came plowing by

with course on course of canvas
towering into the skies,

her decks and yards
swarming with sailors,

her hull burdened
to the Plimsoll line

with a rich freightage
of precious spices

lading the breezes with gracious and
mysterious odors of the Orient.

It was a noble spectacle.

Well, of course
the little captain

popped into the shrouds
and squeaked out a hail,

"Ship ahoy!
What ship is that

and whence and wither?"

And the answer came back in
a deep and thunderous bass

through the

"The Begum of Bengal--

one-hundred and
forty-two days out

from Canton--

homeward bound!

What ship is that?"

Well, it just crushed that poor
little creature's vanity flat,

and he squeaked
back most humbly,

"Only the Mary Ann,

fourteen hours
out from Boston,

bound for Kittery Point

with nothing in particular!"

Oh, what an eloquent
word that "only,"

to express the depths
of his humbleness.

Well now, that
is just my case.

In just one hour of the
twenty-four--not more--

I pause and reflect

in the stillness of the night,
and then I am humble

and then I am properly


and during that little while
I am only the Mary Ann,

fourteen hours out,

cargoed with
vegetables and


but during all the
twenty-three hours

my vain self-
complacency rides high

on the white
crests of approval,

and then I am a
stately Indiaman,

plowing the great seas
beneath a cloud of canvas

and laden with
the kindest

words that have ever
been vouchsafed to any

wandering alien in
this world, I think;

and I am the Begum

of Bengal

seventy years out,

homeward bound.
Thank you and goodnight.