B. Scott Holmes

Just trying to stay alive and keep my sideburns too

Town Hall, Melrose, Massachusetts

February 18, 2015

Information on both Melrose Lyceum and Melrose Town Hall can be found in
The History of Melrose, County of Middlesex, Massachusetts, by Elbridge
Henry Goss available online in digital format at
https://archive.org/details/historyofmelrose02goss. Information on Lyceum
Hall, located on Main Street between Foster and Essex Street, can be found
on pages 264 & 388. The event that took place on November 10, 1884 could
not have been held at this venue, because the building burned down on
August 20, 1870, and was not rebuilt.

However, in 1873, the town voted to build a new Town Hall on the corner of
Main and Essex Street. There is a photograph of Melrose City Hall, built
in 1874, on page 394. On page 397, Goss writes "The City Hall is a brick
structure with brown-stone trimmings, of handsome architectural design,
with a large hall and convenient internal arrangements for city purposes."
(An interesting side note, when the building opened, the Melrose Public
Library occupied two of the rooms on the lower floor).

Melrose City Hall (minus the clock tower and third-story dormers - City
Hall suffered a disastrous fire in 1937 and was remodeled to its present
appearance) is still located at this site, and its function hall room is
still currently being used for city meetings and events.

Shelley O'Brien
Reference/Local History Librarian
Melrose Public Library
69 West Emerson Street
Melrose, MA 02176

"In 1874, after the new Town Hall had been built, the Lyceum was again established, and became a very popular institution. It was sustained for twenty-one consecutive years, ..."
Later on the same page he mentions Samuel L. Clemens and George W. Cable as entertainments in the Lyceum program.
Page 360 of Goss's The History of Melrose

November 10, 1884

My Transcription of the Journal Review:

MELROSE LYCEUM.
"Standing room only," was the sign which greeted the eyes of the Lyceum patrons last Monday evening when the grand "Mark Twain" - Cable Readings were given. And when the hour to commence arrived every seat was filled and a number were standing. It was indeed a unique combination and a rich literary treat to many in the hall, yet there were some who acknowledged that Mr. Cable failed to interest them. This was doubtless owing to the fact that his characters were strange to a Melrose audience and his writings which have attained a great popularity are yet unfamiliar to the majority of American readers.

Mark Twain was evidently the choice of the audience and his readings were received with hearty applause. His "Ghost Story" was especially successful, nearly everyone in the house giving a start at the sudden denoument.

He made a happy hit too when he invited the "12 or 15 from Malden" to wait and he would try to amuse them. About 1000 waited. He gavce them his famous toast on "Babies" first given at the banquet to General Grant in Chicago in 1879.

The Boston Journal reported the entertainment especially, as this was the first appearance of those artists in the vicinity of Boston. We give its report:

The union of Mark Twain and Mr. Cable in selected readings, each from his own works, is a happy one. Both authors have created styles of literature entirely distinct from each other, as well as from any other style. Their writings have marked peculiarities which from the very first were appreciated by the American literary public and which have as yet shown no sign of falling either in power from the author's pen or in influence upon the readers' minds. Mark Twain's dry, purely American humor has aroused merriment for years and has developed a field of fiction in which no other author has ventured, at least without seeking aid from some second source of literary power to conceal the weak points of his imitative "Mark Twain" style. The humor is notably Yankee; no English reader of Punch could thoroughly appreciate the rich undemonstrative humor of Innocents Abroad--that is, if he takes Punch as his standard. Mr. Cable, on the other hand, has but recently appeared to present us with a series of character sketches treating of a race which though resident upon American soil are yet but little understood or even known by Americans outside of a few Southern States. His writings are in that respect foreign, and appeal less to the natural recognition of a native American reader; for that very reason, however, the great popularity which they have gained should bring more commendation to the writer. As in their writings, so in their appearance, their manner, their style of delivery, their intonations and gestures, these two authors display pecularities different from each other, and yet both interesting and amusing.

Mr. Clemens comes slowly forward upon the stage, his shoulders slightly stooping, his head inclined forward, and his face unwrinkled with any trace of a smile, but bearing exactly that semi-solemn expression which one would expect to see in the man who could so seriously be-fool a foreign guide intent on showing "Christopher Columbus on a bust." Mr. Cable's slender form advances to the front with easy grace, while his mobile mouth responds to the warm welcome with a pleasing smile. Mr. Clemens reads, or rather recites, his bits of fun with his usual slow, cool, almost unvarying tone, moving about the stage scarcely any, and using few gestures. Mr. Cable is now here, now there, now standing, now sitting, and all the time his quick, flexible, light voice is pouring out sentence after sentence of Creole dialect, emphasized by appropriate, flowing gestures. In short, these two authors present an evening's readings which, outside of its innate interest, give an enjoyable opportunity to the hearer for comparison of the two styles of literature as well as of the creators of those styles.

The musical prelude was by Miss E. Leora Hardy who rendered in her accomplished style the following selections: Gipsy Rondo (from 5th Trio), Haydn; Scherzo, Mendelssohn; La Belle Bohemienne, Loschaeire.

Here is more material on the Melrose Lyceum provided by Melrose Public Library Reference Staff (3 attached image files):
"Looking Back At Melrose: Its People,
Places, and Pastimes" published by the Melrose Historical Society, 1985.

42.456653000000, -71.064776000000

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