Mark Twain’s Bedside Interview

Mark Twain sitting in a bed speaking to three male reporters sitting around him listening.
Mark Twain recuperating in the old Hotel Vancouver 1895 - photo by Major Ponds, Geo. T. Wadds - City of Vancouver Archives #Port P329

Working from home - circa 1895

In the 1890s, Mark Twain, an American humorist, writer, and lecturer, embarked on his “Around the World” lecture tour. During his stop in Vancouver in 1895, stress had taken a physical toll on him. Though he was feeling under the weather that morning, he still met with local newspaper reporters from his guest room bed in Hotel Vancouver. 


Below is the text from the Vancouver Daily World article published on August 19, 1895, following the interview. 


Samuel L. Clemens, Mark Twain, held what might be called an informal reception for newspapermen on Sunday morning. There were four of them present and they spent a very enjoyable half hour. It was not in the nature of an interview, it was more of a friendly chat. Mark told the boys about some of his own early experiences and they in turn regaled him with some of the odd criticisms of his entertainment that had been made by Vancouverites. This led up to a talk about the peculiarities of audiences, in reference to which the genial writer and entertainer gave some incidents in his career as a lecturer. He said that one of the hardest things to overcome was the feeling of compassion that sometimes pervades a small audience. And with audiences a subtle something seems to convey the feeling from one to another. The small audience surrounded by empty seats feels sorry for the poor man on the platform and when they are in that state of mind it is hard to get them interested. If at this stage the man on the platform gets rattled the feeling of compassion will turn to one akin to contempt, and then the lecture or entertainment is killed. The first thing for a man to do in a case of that kind is to make those present feel he is complimented by their presence and that he is sorry for those who have stayed away. He should also let them see that he has no worry over the box office returns; that he has a manager to do the worrying in that department. Once he lectured in a hall in St. Louis that would seat 1,500 people. He had an audience of 22. It was a level floored hall and as far as the eye could reach there was row after row of bare bench backs. He got the 22 people to all come up in the front seat and they just filled it nicely. It was like talking to a few disciples on the edge of the desert of Sahara but they had a good time though he was only timed for an hour and a half he talked to them for two hours. At this juncture Major Pond came in with what Mark calls his cartridge box and took a picture of the group which the reporters all want a copy of as a memento. And speaking of Major Pond it seems a pity that he should be allowed to leave the city without giving his own lecture for the illustration of which he has hundreds of lantern slides. It is called: Twenty Years as a Dealer in Other People’s Brains. The lecture relates to all the famous lecturers and entertainers that Major Pond has managed. 


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