The Boys’ Life of Mark Twain
by Paine

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Public Domain Books

XXVII. An Innocent Abroad, and Home Again

It was early in May–the 6th–that Mark Twain had delivered his Cooper Union lecture, and a month later, June 8, 1867, he sailed on the “Quaker City,” with some sixty-six other “pilgrims,” on the great Holy Land excursion, the story of which has been so fully and faithfully told in “The Innocent Abroad.”

What a wonderful thing it must have seemed in that time for a party of excursionists to have a ship all to themselves to go a-gipsying in from port to port of antiquity and romance! The advertised celebrities did not go, none of them but Mark Twain, but no one minded, presently, for Mark Twain’s sayings and stories kept the company sufficiently entertained, and sometimes he would read aloud to his fellow-passengers from the newspaper letters he was writing, and invite comment and criticism. That was entertainment for them, and it was good for him, for it gave him an immediate audience, always inspiring to an author. Furthermore, the comments offered were often of the greatest value, especially suggestions from one Mrs. Fairbanks, of Cleveland, a middle- aged, cultured woman, herself a correspondent for her husband’s paper, the “Herald”. It requires not many days for acquaintances to form on shipboard, and in due time a little group gathered regularly each afternoon to hear Mark Twain read what he had written of their day’s doings, though some of it he destroyed later because Mrs. Fairbanks thought it not his best.

All of the “pilgrims” mentioned in “The Innocents Abroad” were real persons. “Dan” was Dan Slote, Mark Twain’s room-mate; the Doctor who confused the guides was Dr. A. Reeves Jackson, of Chicago; the poet Lariat was Bloodgood H. Cutter, an eccentric from Long Island; “Jack” was Jack Van Nostrand, of New Jersey; and “Moult” and “Blucher” and “Charlie" were likewise real, the last named being Charles J. Langdon, of Elmira, N. Y., a boy of eighteen, whose sister would one day become Mark Twain’s wife.

It has been said that Mark Twain first met Olivia Langdon on the “Quaker City,” but this is not quite true; he met only her picture–the original was not on that ship. Charlie Langdon, boy fashion, made a sort of hero of the brilliant man called Mark Twain, and one day in the Bay of Smyrna invited him to his cabin and exhibited his treasures, among them a dainty miniature of a sister at home, Olivia, a sweet, delicate creature whom the boy worshiped.

Samuel Clemens gazed long at the exquisite portrait and spoke of it reverently, for in the sweet face he seemed to find something spiritual. Often after that he came to young Langdon’s cabin to look at the pictured countenance, in his heart dreaming of a day when he might learn to know its owner.

We need not follow in detail here the travels of the “pilgrims” and their adventures. Most of them have been fully set down in “The Innocents Abroad,” and with not much elaboration, for plenty of amusing things were happening on a trip of that kind, and Mark Twain’s old note-books are full of the real incidents that we find changed but little in the book. If the adventures of Jack, Dan, and the Doctor are embroidered here and there, the truth is always there, too.

Yet the old note-books have a very intimate interest of their own. It is curious to be looking through them to-day, trying to realize that those penciled memoranda were the fresh first impressions that would presently grow into the world’s most delightful book of travel; that they were set down in the very midst of that historic little company that frolicked through Italy and climbed wearily the arid Syrian hills.

It required five months for the “Quaker City” to make the circuit of the Mediterranean and return to New York. Mark Twain in that time contributed fifty two or three letters to the “Alta California” and six to the “New York Tribune,” or an average of nearly three a week–a vast amount of labor to be done in the midst of sight-seeing. And what letters of travel they were! The most remarkable that had been written up to that time. Vivid, fearless, full of fresh color, humor, poetry, they came as a revelation to a public weary of the tiresome descriptive drivel of that day. They preached a new gospel in travel literature–the gospel of seeing honestly and speaking frankly–a gospel that Mark Twain would continue to preach during the rest of his career.

Furthermore, the letters showed a great literary growth in their author. No doubt the cultivated associations of the ship, the afternoon reading aloud of his work, and Mrs. Fairbanks’s advice had much to do with this. But we may believe, also, that the author’s close study of the King James version of the Old Testament during the weeks of travel through Palestine exerted a powerful influence upon his style. The man who had recited “The Burial of Moses” to Joe Goodman, with so much feeling, could not fail to be mastered by the simple yet stately Bible phrase and imagery. Many of the fine descriptive passages in “The Innocents Abroad” have something almost Biblical in their phrasing. The writer of this memoir heard in childhood “The Innocents Abroad” read aloud, and has never forgotten the poetic spell that fell upon him as he listened to a paragraph written of Tangier:

“Here is a crumbled wall that was old when Columbus discovered America; old when Peter the Hermit roused the knightly men of the Middle Ages to arm for the first Crusade; old when Charlemagne and his paladins beleaguered enchanted castles and battled with giants and genii in the fabled days of the olden time; old when Christ and His disciples walked the earth; stood where it stands to-day when the lips of Memnon were vocal and men bought and sold in the streets of ancient Thebes.”

Mark Twain returned to America to find himself, if not famous, at least in very high repute. The “Alta” and “Tribune” letters had carried his name to every corner of his native land. He was in demand now. To his mother he wrote:

“I have eighteen offers to lecture, at $100 each, in various parts of the Union–have declined them all . . . . Belong on the “Tribune” staff and shall write occasionally. Am offered the same berth to-day on the ’Herald,’ by letter.”

He was in Washington at this time, having remained in New York but one day. He had accepted a secretaryship from Senator Stewart of Nevada, but this arrangement was a brief one. He required fuller freedom for his Washington correspondence and general literary undertakings.

He had been in Washington but a few days when he received a letter that meant more to him than he could possibly have dreamed at the moment. It was from Elisha Bliss, Jr., manager of the American Publishing Company, of Hartford, Connecticut, and it suggested gathering the Mediterranean travel-letters into a book. Bliss was a capable, energetic man, with a taste for humor, and believed there was money for author and publisher in the travel-book.

The proposition pleased Mark Twain, who replied at once, asking for further details as to Bliss’s plan. Somewhat later he made a trip to Hartford, and the terms for the publication of “The Innocents Abroad" were agreed upon. It was to be a large illustrated book for subscription sale, and the author was to receive five per cent of the selling price. Bliss had offered him the choice between this royalty and ten thousand dollars cash. Though much tempted by the large sum to be paid in hand, Mark Twain decided in favor of the royalty plan–"the best business judgment I ever displayed,” he used to say afterward. He agreed to arrange the letters for book publication, revising and rewriting where necessary, and went back to Washington well pleased. He did not realize that his agreement with Bliss marked the beginning of one of the most notable publishing connections in American literary history.


Preface  •  I. The Family of John Clemens  •  II. The New Home, and Uncle John Quarles’s Farm  •  IV. Education Out of School  •  V. Tom Sawyer and His Band  •  VI. Closing School-Days  •  VII. The Apprentice  •  VIII. Orion’s Paper  •  IX. The Open Road  •  X. A Wind of Chance  •  XI. The Long Way to the Amazon  •  XII. Renewing an Old Ambition  •  XIII. Learning the River  •  XIV. River Days  •  XV. The Wreck of the “Pennsylvania”  •  XVI. The Pilot  •  XVII. The End of Piloting  •  XVIII. The Soldier  •  XIX. The Pioneer  •  XX. The Miner  •  XXI. The Territorial Enterprise  •  XXII. “Mark Twain”  •  XXIII. Artemus Ward and Literary San Francisco  •  XXIV. The Discovery of “The Jumping Frog”  •  XXV. Hawaii and Anson Burlingame  •  XXVI. Mark Twain, Lecturer  •  XXVII. An Innocent Abroad, and Home Again  •  XXVIII. Olivia Langdon. Work on the “Innocents”  •  XXIX. The Visit to Elmira and Its Consequences  •  XXX. The New Book and a Wedding  •  XXXI. Mark Twain in Buffalo  •  XXXII. At Work on “Roughing It”  •  XXXIII. In England  •  XXXIV. A New Book and New English Triumphs  •  XXXV. Beginning “Tom Sawyer”  •  XXXVI. The New Home  •  XXXVII. “Old Times,” “Sketches,” And “Tom Sawyer”  •  XXXVIII. Home Pictures  •  XXXIX. Tramping Abroad  •  XL. “The Prince and the Pauper”  •  XLI. General Grant at Hartford  •  XLII. Many Investments  •  XLIII. Back to the River, With Bixby  •  XLIV. A Reading-Tour With Cable  •  XLV. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”  •  XLVI. Publisher to General Grant  •  XLVII. The High-Tide of Fortune  •  XLVIII. Business Difficulties. Pleasanter Things  •  XLIX. Kipling at Elmira. Elsie Leslie. The “Yankee”  •  L. The Machine. Good-By to Hartford. “Joan” Is Begun  •  LI. The Failure of Webster & Co. Around the World. Sorrow  •  LII. European Economies  •  LIII. Mark Twain Pays His Debts  •  LIV. Return After Exile  •  LV. A Prophet At Home  •  LVI. Honored by Missouri  •  LVII. The Close of a Beautiful Life  •  LVIII. Mark Twain at Seventy  •  LIX. Mark Twain Arranges for His Biography  •  LX. Working With Mark Twain  •  LXI. Dictations at Dublin, N. H.  •  LXII. A New Era of Billiards  •  LXIII. Living With Mark Twain  •  LXIV. A Degree From Oxford  •  LXV. The Removal to Redding  •  LXVI. Life at Stormfield  •  LXVII. The Death of Jean  •  LXVIII. Days in Bermuda  •  LXIX. The Return to Redding  •  LXX. The Close of a Great Life

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The boys' life of Mark Twain: The story of a man who made the world laugh and love him
By Albert Bigelow Paine
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