From Berlin to Budapest in 1892 (chapter XVI)

Chapter XVI

At supper time our dining-room was crowded to overflowing and suffocation. And in the crowd at the head of one table sat Mark Twain, leading his expedition, studying his Meisterschaft system on the spot, prepared to “go grailing ” on the morrow, and looking very miserable withal! I am glad we saw him there. But for that we might wonder if he had ever been to Baireuth, so different were his impressions from ours. We can answer for the rain that Saturday afternoon when he arrived; it rained everywhere and every day in Germany last summer. But that “grand and lovely” building on high ground outside the town—where did he see it? Could he have meant the big, brick, barn-like Opera House, almost perfect inside, to be sure, but outside ugly, bare, a blot upon the landscape, despite its commanding position in the plain, which to architect of old would in itself have been an inspiration. And that“ bewilderingly beautiful scenery” that intoxicated the eye in “Parsifal”? Did he sleep through the performance and dream poet’s dreams, while we, awake and open-eyed, longed for the curtain to fall and hide architecture out of perspective and garden that might have been transported from a Surrey pantomime ?— Sir Augustus Harris, surely, would never have been guilty of such glaring gaudiness. And where was he in the intermission between the acts that he saw but one eating-house at the door of the Wagner Temple, people eating only at the tables which they had secured before hand? We can answer for having eaten sandwiches at one restaurant, cake at a second, and for having taken active part in a raid upon buffets set up all around the larger of the two, that suggested nothing but the descent of a horde of hungry travellers given five minutes for refreshments at a railway station. And that “pretty feature,”the musical call? Did he really look at the trumpeters in hats of every shape and stage of shabbiness, their umbrellas under their arms as they blew their blast, and not laugh? Of course he laughed—he was laughing all the time. He would not have been Mark Twain, our great American humorist, if he had not. And that is what makes those three recent articles of his about Baireuth so deliciously funny. They are a huge joke—ha, ha! It is true that it is not easy at first to see the point. In fact, you might take it seriously — ha, ha, ha! — when you read of the chief virtue in song, the melody, air, tune, rhythm—ha, ha !— and the music that makes you drunk with pleasure — ha, ha, ha!—if you did not know—ha, ha!—that it was Mark Twain—ha, ha, ha, ha ! Then the humour of it is exquisite—ha, ha!—only to be equalled by the “Jumping Frog” or the handwriting of Christopher Columbus—ha, ha ! Mark Twain as a critic of music! Are you not dying of laughter? And yet I have heard some helplessly dense people say that in these articles Mark Twain had tried to be serious, and was not funny at all. And this is the best joke of all—ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! The President of the United States of America has appointed Oct. 21 this year to be a general holiday, as it is the four- hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus. The Pope has addressed an encyclical letter to the Italian, Spanish, and American Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church directing mass to be specially celebrated on Oct. 12, in memory of that great event. For the August Bank Holiday the Brighton and South- Coast Railway announce that the availability of the special cheap Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday tickets to the seaside will be extended to Wednesday, Aug. 3. On Saturday a fourteen-day excursion to Paris, by the picturesque route via Dieppe and Rouen, will be run from London by the special day express service, and also by the fixed night express service on Friday. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, July 29 to Aug. 3, inclusive. Special Saturday to Tuesday tickets will also be issued from London to Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight and to Dieppe. On Bank Holiday, Monday, Aug. 1, day trips, at special excursion fares, will be run to Brighton, Worthing, Midhurst, Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight, Tunbridge Wells, Lewes, Eastbourne, Bexhill. St. Leonards, and Hastings. For the Crystal Palace holiday entertainments extra trains will be run to and from London as required by the traffic. The Brighton Company announce that their West- End offices—28, Regent Circus, Piccadilly, and 8, Grand Hotel Buildings, Trafalgar Square—will remain open until 10 p.m. on the evenings of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the sale of the special cheap tickets and ordinary tickets to all parts of the line and to the Continent, at the same fares as charged at London Bridge and Victoria. Similar tickets at the same fares may also be obtained at Cook’s Offices, Ludgate Circus, 445, West Strand, 99. Gracechurch Street. 82. Oxford Street, and Euston Road; Gaze and Son, 142, Strand, and Westbourne Grove ; Hays’s, 4, Royal Exchange Buildings ; Meyers’s Offices, 343. Gray’s Inn Road, and 1A, Pentonville Road; and Jaking’s Offices, 6, Camden Road. 96, Leadenhall Street, and 30, Silver Street, Notting Hill Gate; also at the Army and Navy Stores. Victoria Street, Westminster.

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