The Regular Toast. Woman--God Bless Her
Delivered at [ New England] Dinner Dec 20/82

By Mark Twain
The Regular Toast. Woman--God Bless Her (1892).


The toast includes the sex, universally: it is to Woman, comprehensively, wheresoever she may be found. Let us con- sider her ways. First, comes the matter of dress. This is a most important consideration, in a subject of this nature, & must be disposed of before we can proceed to examine the profounder depths of the theme. For text, let us take the dress of two antipodal types -- the savage woman of Central Africa, & the cultivated daughter of our high modern civilization. Among the Fans, a great negro tribe, a woman, when dressed for calling, does not wear anything at all but just her complexion. That is all; that is her entire outfit. It is the lightest cos- tume in the world, but is made of the darkest material. It has often been mistaken for mourning. It is the trimmest, & neatest, & grace- fulest costume that is now in fashion; it wears well, is fast colors, doesn't show dirt; you don't have to send it down town to wash, & have some of it come back scorched with the flat-iron, & some of it with the buttons ironed off, & some of it petrified with starch, & some of it chewed by the calf, & some of it rotted with acids, & some of it exchanged for other customers' things that & ten-twelfths of the pieces over- charged for, & the rest of the dozen And it always fits; it is the perfection of a fit. And it is the handiest dress in the whole realm of fashion. It is always ready, When you call on a Fan lady & send up your card, the hired girl never says, "Please take a seat, madam is dressing -- she will be down in three-quarters of an hour." No, madam is always dressed, always ready to receive; & before you can get the door-mat before your eyes, she is in your midst. Then again, the Fan ladies don't go to church to see what each other has got on; & they don't go back home & describe it & slander it.

Such is the dark child of savagery, as to every-day toilette; & thus, curiously enough, she finds a point of contact with the fair daughter of civilization & high fashion -- who has often has "nothing to wear;" & thus these widely separated types of the sex meet upon common ground. Yes, such is the Fan woman, as she appears in her simple, unostentatious every- day toilette. But on state occasions she is more dressy. At a banquet she bracelets; at a lecture she wears earrings & a belt; at a ball she wears stockings -- & with the true feminine fondness for display, she wears them on her arms; at a funeral she wears a jacket of tar & ashes; at a wed- ding the bride who can afford it puts on pantaloons. Thus the dark child of savagery & the fair daughter of civilization meet once more upon com- mon ground; & these two touches of nature make their whole world kin.

Now we will consider the dress of our other type. A large part of the daughter of civilization is her dress -- as it should be. Some civilized Image of page 8 of the manuscript. women would lose half their charm without dress; & some would lose all of it. The daughter of modern civilization, dressed at her utmost best, is a marvel of exquisite & beautiful art, & ex- pense. All the lands, all the climes, & all the arts are laid under tribute to furnish her forth. Her linen is from her robe is from Paris, her lace is from Venice, or Spain, or France; her feathers are from the remote regions of Southern Africa, her furs from the remoter home of the iceberg & the au- rora; her fan from Japan, her diamonds from Brazil, her bracelets from California, her pearls from Ceylon, her cameos from Rome; she has gems & trinkets from buried Pompeii; & others that graced comely Egyptian forms that have been dust & ashes, now, for forty centuries; her watch is from Geneva, her card-case is from China, her hair is from -- from -- is, her other hair -- her public hair, her Sunday hair; I don't mean the hair she goes to bed with.

Why, you know the hair I mean; it's that thing which she calls a switch, & which resembles a switch as much as it resembles a brickbat, or a shotgun, or any other thing which you correct people with. It's that thing which she twists, & then coils round & round her head, beehive- fashion, & then tucks the end in under the hive & harpoons it with a hairpin. And that reminds me of a trifle: any time you want to, you can glance around the carpet of a Pullman car & go & pick up a hairpin; but not to save your life can you get any woman in that car to acknowledge that hairpin. Now isn't that strange? But it's true. The woman who has never swerved from cast-iron veracity & fi- delity in her whole life, will, when confronted with this crucial test, deny her hair- pin. She will deny that hairpin before a hundred witnesses. I have got into more trouble, & more hot water trying to hunt up the owner of a hairpin in a Pullman car than by any other indiscre- tion of my life.

Well, you can see what the daugh- ter of civilization is, when she is dressed; & you have seen what the daughter of savagery is when she isn't. Such is Woman, as to costume. I come, now, to consider her in her higher & nobler aspects -- as mother, wife, widow, mother-in-law, hired girl, tele- graph operator, telephone helloer, book-agent, wet-nurse, step-mother, boss, pro- fessional fat woman, pro- fessional double-headed woman, professional beauty, & so forth & so on.

We will simply discuss these few -- mdash; let the rest of the sex. First in the list, of right, & first in our gratitude, comes a woman. I beg a thousand pardons. But you see, yourselves, that I had a large contract. I have accom- plished something, anyway: I have introduced my subject; & if I had till next Forefathers' Day, I am satisfied that I could discuss it as adequately & appreciatively as a so gracious & noble a theme de- serves. But as the matter stands, now, let us finish as we began -- mdash; & say, without jesting, but with all sincerity, "Woman -- God bless her!"

Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens

Hartford, May 1891.








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