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Map of Mark Twain’s “Great Pleasure Excursion” itinerary to Europe and the Holy Land.
Of all the topics that might have engaged young Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ imagination in 1867, none was less likely or less promising than Palestine, the Holy Land. Known for his biting satire and humorous short pieces on California and the West, Clemens (1835–1910) found the subject that would propel him to national acclaim almost by accident. His serendipitous discovery of a “pleasure cruise” to Europe and the Near East, his success at inveigling his way onto the journey, and reactions to his fellow passengers and to the people and places he visited came to happy fruition in The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress. No book of his ever sold more copies in his lifetime.
American colonists followed preacher George J. Adams from New England to Ottoman-ruled Palestine on a messianic mission to prepare the Holy Land for the return of the Jews. “We are going to become practical benefactors of the land and the people,” Adams stated, “to take the lead in developing its great resources.” A year after arriving, some of these impoverished colonists wanted a ticket home. It was at that moment that author Mark Twain came to town while on a five-month pleasure trip through Europe and the Middle East.
American literature, travel writing, and international tourism would never be the same.
The vision of the Holy Land in 19th-century America was shaped by religious and cultural sentiment, and influenced by the experiences of those groups who traveled there: missionaries, pilgrims and tourists, explorers, settlers, and consular officers, all of whom had different motives for their journey and reports.
Young Mark Twain, in Maui, on horseback, arranges to meet shipboard friends.
Twain on the heroic writing, and fantastic success, of Grant’s memoirs – Grant’s fame, he predicts, will last two-thousand years.
The shock of the earthquake which struck San Francisco on the morning of April 18, 1906 – leveling countless buildings, starting a fire that lasted three days, and taking hundreds of lives – was felt all across the country.
Arriving in Nevada Territory, Mark Twain began one of the greatest careers in the history of literature.
It’s noble to teach oneself, Mark Twain once remarked, but still nobler to teach others – and less trouble.