Monthly Archives: February 2014

Howells Queries: Who was the “single guest” who laughed at the Whittier Birthday DInner Speech?

Dear William Dean Howells Society:

I am writing about John Greenleaf Whittier’s 70th birthday party, at which Mr. Howells was the toastmaster, and at which Samuel Clemens gave his controversial speech.

In Mr. Howells’ account of that speech, he says that the silence “…deepened from moment to moment, and was broken only by the hysterical and blood-curdling laughter of a single guest, whose name shall not be handed down to infamy.”

My question is, is it known, now, who that guest was? I’m wondering if it showed up in any of his correspondence or personal notes.

Sincerely,

Stephen Sakellarios

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