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A Tramp Abroad (Penguin ed.)

Mark Twain

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page























































  Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, about forty miles southwest of Hannibal, the Mississippi River town Clemens was to celebrate all his life. In 1853 he left home and earned a living as an itinerant typesetter, and four years later he became an apprentice pilot on the Mississippi, a career cut short by the outbreak of the Civil War. For five years, Clemens lived in Nevada and California, as a prospector and journalist. In February 1863 he first signed the pseudonym “Mark Twain” to a humorous travel letter. A trip to Europe and the Holy Land in 1867 became the basis of his first major book, The Innocents Abroad (1869). Roughing It (1872), his account of experiences in the West, was followed by a satirical novel, The Gilded Age (1873), Sketches: New and Old (1875), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), A Tramp Abroad (1880), The Prince and the Pauper (1882), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and his masterpiece, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Following the publication of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) and Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894), Twain was compelled by debts to move his family abroad. By 1900 he had completed a round-the-world lecture tour and, his fortunes mended, he returned to America. He was as famous for his white suit and his mane of white hair as he was for his uncompromising stands against injustice and imperialism and for his invariably quoted comments on any subject under the sun. Samuel Clemens died on April 21, 1910.

  Robert Gray Bruce and Hamlin Hill are members of the English Department at Texas A&M University. Hill is a retired Distinguished Professor who has published extensively on Mark Twain and American humor. Bruce has just completed his doctoral dissertation on black humor in American culture from the pre-Civil War period to contemporary fiction and film. Both teach courses on American humor and Mark Twain.



  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

  New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

  Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane,

  London W8 5TZ, England

  Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood,

  Victoria, Australia

  Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue,

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  Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road,

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  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:

  Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England

  First published 1880

  This edition with an introduction by

  Robert Gray Bruce and Hamlin Hill published in

  Penguin Books 1997

  Introduction copyright © Robert Gray Bruce and

  Hamlin Hill, 1997

  All rights reserved



  Twain, Mark, 1835-1910.

  A tramp abroad / Mark Twain ; with an introduction by Robert Gray Bruce and Hamlin Hall.

  p. cm.—(Penguin classics)

  eISBN : 978-1-101-17722-8

  1. Twain, Mark, 1835-1910—Journeys—Europe. 2. Europe—Description and travel. I. Bruce, Robert Gray. II. Hill, Hamlin Lewis, date. III. Title. IV. Series.

  PS1321.A1 1997

  818’.403—dc21 97-13725




  On November 30, 1835, in the tiny village of Florida, Missouri, Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born to Jane Lampton and John Marshall Clemens. His parents, aspiring to gentility, had moved to Missouri in June 1835, believing that they would somehow find the stability and affluence that had eluded them in Kentucky and Tennessee. In 1839 they moved to Hannibal, Missouri, convinced that their chances for success would be better on the banks of the Mississippi. But, however much young Sam absorbed the Clemenses’ aspirations for success and wealth, the family was held together by the thinnest of possible threads.

  In Hannibal, Sam received rudimentary formal schooling and the most famous informal education that American literature has ever savored. His experiences as a youth and young man became a major portion of American folklore. If Henry James’s art was his life, Mark Twain’s life was his art. The streets of Hannibal, the rolling hills where Tom Sawyer’s gang played and the cave in which they got lost, the River, and the steamboats that plied it, all became—no matter how softly tinted and censored—the very tissue of the American imagination, invested with idyllic charm and pastoral beauty.

  The real Hannibal belonged less to romance than to the grotesque image of the United States that Faulkner called Yoknapatawpha County, and young Sam Clemens could, when he wanted to, recollect it as it actually was—bloody, homicidal, neurotic, and bonded to the peculiar institution of slavery. In his childhood, death was ever present: death by drowning (in the case of some of his friends), death by lynching, death by disease, death by steamboat explosion (in the case of his younger brother Henry). In 1847 Sam’s life changed radically when his father died. Like Yossarian, the hero of Joseph Heller’s novel, Catch-22, who learned of life’s frailty and uncertainty when he unzipped Snowden’s flight jacket, Sam watched his father’s autopsy through a keyhole and, at age eleven, learned a lesson that all the images—of tiny toes oozing in the Mississippi mud, of communal brushes whitewashing a fence, of a free and easy life on a raft in the middle of the River—could never eradicate.

  Sam quit school shortly after his father’s death, became an apprentice to the owner of a Hannibal newspaper, and began the longest initiation into literature in American literary history. After his first stint on the Hannibal Journal, he became the assistant to his bumbling brother Orion, who edited newspapers into bankruptcy all along the Mississippi from Hannibal and Muscatine to Keokuk, starting and moving again, with the same dogged and doomed persistence that marked all of the Clemens family except Sam.

  As Orion blighted journalism along the River, Sam managed to do a little writing for his brother and to break loose from the close-knit family bond. In 1853 he traveled as an itinerant newspaperman to St. Louis, New York, and Philadelphia; in 1854 he visited W
ashington, D.C., and returned briefly to St. Louis; in 1857 he moved to Cincinnati, and later that year, after he had signed on as an apprentice pilot with Horace Bixby, Sam began to learn the River. It was alongside Bixby that he memorized the body of water that would flow beneath the majority of his most famous works. He stored up the memories that became “Old Times on the Mississippi,” got his pilot’s license in 1859, briefly attained the stature he coveted, and stayed on the River until the Civil War, when Admiral Farragut closed the waterway in 1861. The only member of the family with enough funds to pay for Orion’s trip to the Territory of Nevada, Sam managed to help his brother collect his reward for supporting Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860: an appointment as the Secretary to the Territorial Governor. As secretary to the Secretary, Sam accompanied his brother on the twenty-one-day Overland Stage trip, tried his hand briefly at silver mining, and, after a year of fruitless prospecting for instant wealth, joined the staff of the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise in August 1862.

  Out West, just as back in Hannibal and the other towns along the Mississippi, Sam failed to realize his dream of instant wealth and success: he mined, but never struck it rich; he speculated in feet of silver-mine stock, but saw his paper profits disappear. It was a trend of speculation and loss that would follow him throughout his life. At last he began writing journalistic humor to keep from starving. His chores varied from routine reporting to creating wild hoaxes. He turned out columns for the Enterprise (first using the pseudonym “Mark Twain” in February 1863) until he moved to San Francisco in 1864. There, for three years, he earned a living that contrasted dramatically with his dreams of wealth—writing for the San Francisco Call, the Golden Era, the Alta California, and the Sacramento Union. In 1867 under contract to the Alta California, he boarded the steamship Quaker City to report his assault on Europe and the Holy Land. He departed as a well-known West Coast reporter but, because his letters to the Alta were reprinted in other newspapers throughout the country, he landed in New York in mid-November as a national celebrity. In the last month of 1867, he signed a contract to “refine” his letters for publication. The Innocents Abroad (1869), a patchwork scissors-and-paste job that vaulted him to national prominence, was the result. It was the first book that Mark Twain wrote; the author of columns and pages and volumes of newspaper humor for eighteen years confronted, for the first time, the artistic dilemmas of composing full-length books.

  But the trip on the Quaker City had an even more impressive aftermath. Charles Langdon, the son of a prominent, liberal, wealthy Elmira, New York, coal magnate, had become a member of Mark Twain’s lunatic fringe on board the Quaker City. In December 1867 Clemens met Charlie’s sister, Olivia, and, after a two-year courtship, Clemens married Olivia on February 2, 1870. If there was anything approaching whirlwind proportions in the event, it was the total change in Mark Twain’s life and career. For almost two decades, he was an itinerant newspaper-man; for just as long, he earned his living on an almost hourly basis, and his success depended on topical, ephemeral, and regional literature. But after his marriage he had—for the first time in almost twenty years—a permanent mailing address; he made the commitment to book, rather than newspaper, publication; he traded his freedom for a family, a job, and a father-in-law who saddled him with a home, a mortgage, and a loan to assume part-ownership in the Buffalo, New York, Express, for which he had previously written articles. The Sam Clemens who had made his way without boss or business hours deflected his career more significantly in the early 1870s than at any other time in his life.

  The remarkable success of The Innocents Abroad convinced Twain that he could make a living by the more respectable profession of book author. He cut his journalistic ties with the Express , moved his wife and infant son, Langdon, to Hartford, Connecticut, and worked on the manuscript that was to become his reminiscence of his Western years, Roughing It.

  In the genteel Hartford literary community of Nook Farm, with Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Dudley Warner as neighbors, the Clemens family spent almost two decades. There, and on summer trips to Elmira, New York, and frequent visits to Europe, Mark Twain turned out the literature that was to make him a folk hero in his own right and the author of some of America’s most familiar books. After Roughing It, he and his neighbor Warner collaborated on the political satire The Gilded Age (1873). On his own, he harvested his childhood experiences to produce The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). Sandwiched in between these works was his comic travel book, A Tramp Abroad (1880), which in many ways is his most interesting autobiographical fantasy (Twain’s travel narratives are as “fictional” as his novels are “autobiographical”).

  Not content with the fame and considerable profit from his books, Clemens added careers as lecturer, publisher, inventor, and investor to his schedule. By the later 1880s, having attained the stature and affluence he had sought and found so elusive earlier, Mark Twain watched impotently as his world crumbled. Investments, especially in the Paige Typesetter, became bottomless pits; his publishing house, Charles L. Webster & Co., drained rather than produced income for its author-owner. He became convinced that human beings were merely machines, incapable of controlling their own destinies or acting unselfishly, and his philosophical outlook turned darker and darker. In 1889 he published A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, his doomsday novel that prophesied a chilling destruction for the world.

  Shortly afterwards, in the early 1890s, his prophecy came true: his publishing company and the Paige Typesetter sank in the Panic of 1893-94; his family moved to Europe, closing the house in Hartford that had been home for two decades. His youngest daughter, Jean, was diagnosed as epileptic; his oldest, Susy, died of spinal meningitis in 1896, while her parents were on a round-the-world lecture tour to pay off their debts. Olivia’s health failed, too, and she died in 1904 in Florence. During the last fifteen years of his life, Mark Twain reverted in curious ways to the condition of his first thirty-five: homeless and uprooted, he moved constantly throughout Europe and, after 1900, the Eastern United States. Isolated from his family by their illnesses and deaths, and his own frenzied public wandering, he had almost no domestic life. He was again, strangely, the vagabond tramp he had described in the quasi-autobiographical A Tramp Abroad.

  But he was a different vagabond, to be sure. His bitterness poured out in published works: The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894), “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg” (1900), and What Is Man? (1907). As America’s disillusioned social gad-fly, he assaulted the injustice of imperialism, colonial exploitation, and humbuggery in “To the Person Sitting in Darkness” (1901), King Leopold’s Soliloquy (1905), and Christian Science (1907). And in unfinished manuscripts like “The Mysterious Stranger,” “The Great Dark,” and “The Refuge of the Derelicts,” he worked obsessively on tortured themes. He was, himself, a stranger in an unknown world, raging against its absurdity and raging, too, against the absurdity of raging.

  On April 21, 1910, the raging ceased in Redding, Connecticut, in the only house he had owned since the one in Hartford. Not laid to rest with him were the paradoxes, contradictions and polar opposites in his nature and writing, most of which rose to the surface most conspicuously in his third travel book, A Tramp Abroad.


  On December 17, 1877, Mark Twain delivered a speech to the assembled arbiters of taste in New England on the occasion of John Greenleaf Whittier’s seventieth birthday. A raucous, Western tall-tale, “The Whittier Birthday Dinner Speech” parodied three of the honored guests at the head table—Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—portraying them as three drunken vagrants. New England newspapers were outraged at the talk, insisting that its lack of taste and its irreverence proved that Mark Twain deserved no place in the company of respectable authors. Twain responded with abject contrition, mortified at the breach of etiquette that he convinced himself he had commit
ted. He wrote letters of apology to the poets he had ridiculed, packed up his family, and sailed to Europe to enjoy, as he told his literary friend, William Dean Howells, “some of the advantages of being dead.”

  From April 1878 until August 1879, the Clemenses remained in Europe, spending their time in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, and England before returning to the United States. Shortly after reaching Europe, Mark Twain began writing, and by July he told his publisher that he had writtenone-fourth of a book, but it is in disconnected form & cannot be used until joined together by the writing of at least a dozen intermediate chapters. These intermediate chapters cannot be rightly written until we are settled down for the fall & winter in Munich. I have been gathering a lot of excellent matter here during past ten days (stuff which has never been in a book) & shall finish gathering it in a week more.

  The following month, August 1878, Joseph Hopkins Twichell, Hartford minister and close friend of Twain’s, joined him for a month-long trip into the Alps. During the trip, Twain announced that he had “invented a new and better plan for the book” and “instructed Twitchell to keep the title and plan of the book a secret.”

  The “plan” was to have the author pretend to take a walking tour in which he would travel by every known method of conveyance except his own feet. As he explained to Howells: “I allow it to appear,—casually & without stress—that I am over here to make the tour of Europe on foot. I am in pedestrian costume, as a general thing, & start on pedestrian tours, but mount the first conveyance that offers, making but slight explanation or excuse, & endeavoring to seem unconscious that this is not legitimate pedestrianizing.” Equally illegitimate would be his attempt to learn German, and to study art, producing the pictures included in this volume. They were so deliberately “primitive” that Twain would later boast to Twichell, “It gives me the belly-ache to look at them.”