Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Brusque but Genial Guest


This menu comes from the Plankinton Hotel in Milwaukee on January 28, 1885. As it happens, writer Samuel Langhorne Clemens was then staying at the Plankinton. Widely known by his pen name Mark Twain, he was on a reading tour with Southern author George W. Cable who marveled at Twain’s talent as a standup comedian. In a letter to his wife Louise the next day, Cable wrote, “Mark...has worked & worked incessantly on these programs until he has effected in all of them—there are 3—a gradual growth of both interest & humor so that the audience never has to find anything less, but always more, entertaining than what precedes it. He says, ‘I don’t want them to get tired out laughing before we get to the end.’ The result is we have always a steady crescendo ending in a double climax….his careful, untiring, incessant labors are an education.” The menu, which contains a reference to the two authors, takes us back to that day in 1885.