Mark Twain on Hartford



"CITY OF HARTFORD" SPEECH


[delivered at a reception for the visiting military group of Worcester Continentals October 19, 1882]

Mr. Commander and Ladies and Gentlemen:

His honor, the mayor, deputes me to speak for him in answer to the toast to the city of Hartford. He is in politics a delicate situation at all times, -- (laughter) -- where exceeding caution is necessary. I admire his prudence as much as I admire my own intrepidity, because, although he is not willing to answer for Hartford and to endorse it, I am. (Laughter.) I will back up Hartford in everything else if he will be responsible for the weather. (Great laughter). I am sorry that the mayor imported such detestable weather as this. I wish we had had clear weather, and hope your gentlemen of Worcester won't go away without seeing our city. Now, as I am talking for Hartford, I will talk earnestly but modestly. There is much here to see -- the state house, Colt's factory and the place where the Charter Oak was. And we have an antiquity here -- the East Hartford bridge. (Laughter.) Now let me beseech you, don't go away without seeing that tunnel on stilts. You may think it a trifle, but go see it! Think what it may be to your posterity, generations hence, who come here and say, "There's that same old bridge," (Laughter.) It is coeval with the flood and will be coexistent with the millennium. Hartford has a larger population than any city in America except New York. It is more beautiful than any other city excepting Worcester and it is the honestest city in the world. (Laughter.) Well, that will do for Hartford. I will rest my case there. When asked to respond I said I would be glad to, but there were reasons why I could not make a speech. But I said I would talk, I never make a speech without getting together a lot of statistics and being instructive. The man who starts in upon a speech without preparation enters upon a sea of infelicities and troubles. I had thought of a great many things that I intended to say. In fact, nearly all these things I have heard said here to-night I had thought of. (Laughter.) Get a man away down here on the list and he starts out empty. (Laughter.) I was going to say something about prominent people and about the Foot Guard who have seen everything that has happened for 111 years. Five years they fought for King George and 106 for liberty. They fought 111 years and never lost a man. (Laughter.) And the enemy never lost a man. (Renewed laughter.) What I mean, is to compliment the Foot Guards and I hope I have done so. One reason I didn't like to come here to make a prepared speech was because I have sworn off. I have reformed. I would not make a prepared speech without statistics and philosophy. The advantage of a prepared speech is that you start when you are ready and stop when you get through. If unprepared, you are all at sea, you don't know where you are. I thought to achieve brevity, but I was mistaken. A man never hangs on so long on his hind legs as when he don't know when to stop.

I once heard of a man who tried to be reformed. He tried to be brief. A number of strangers sat in a hotel parlor. One sat off to one side and said nothing. Finally all went out except one man and this dummy. Then the dummy touched this man on the shoulder and whistled. He touched again and said: "I think I have seen (whistle) you before."

"What makes you whistle?" asked the other man.

"I used to stammer, and the doctor (whistle) told me when I wanted (whistle) to speak and stammered to whistle. I did (whistle) and it cured me. (Great laughter.) So it is with a man who makes an unprepared speech. He tries to be brief and it takes him longer. I won't detain you. We welcome you with cordial hospitality, and if you remain, we will try to furnish better weather tomorrow.

- speech "The City of Hartford," October 19, 1882. Published in Hartford Daily Courant, October 20, 1882, p. 2, "The Visiting Soldiery"