The notes for it were made on the spot, and there was plenty of fact, plenty of fresh, new experience, plenty of incident to set down. His idea of descriptive travel in those days was to tell the story as it happened; also, perhaps, he had not then acquired the courage of his inventions. We may believe that the adventures with Jack, Dan, and the Doctor are elaborated here and there; but even those happened substantially as recorded. There is little to add, then, to the story of that halcyon trip, and not much to elucidate.

The old note-books give a light here and there that is interesting. It is curious to be looking through them now, trying to realize that these 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 care-free little company that frolicked through Italy, climbed wearily the arid Syrian hills. They are all dead now; but to us they are as alive and young to-day as when they followed the footprints of the Son of Man through Palestine, and stood at last before the Sphinx, impressed and awed by its "five thousand slow- revolving years."

Some of the items consist of no more than a few terse, suggestive words-- serious, humorous, sometimes profane. Others are statistical, descriptive, elaborated. Also there are drawings--"not copied," he marks them, with a pride not always justified by the result. The earlier notes are mainly comments on the "pilgrims," the freak pilgrims: "the Frenchy- looking woman who owns a dog and keeps up an interminable biography of him to the passengers"; the "long-legged, simple, wide-mouthed, horse- laughing young fellow who once made a sea voyage to Fortress Monroe, and quotes eternally from his experiences"; also, there is reference to another young man, "good, accommodating, pleasant but fearfully green." This young person would become the "Interrogation Point," in due time, and have his picture on page 71 (old edition), while opposite him, on page 70, would appear the "oracle," identified as one Doctor Andrews, who (the note-book says) had the habit of "smelling in guide-books for knowledge and then trying to play it for old information that has been festering in his brain." Sometimes there are abstract notes such as:

How lucky Adam was. He knew when he said a good thing that no one had ever said it before.

Of the "character" notes, the most important and elaborated is that which presents the "Poet Lariat." This is the entry, somewhat epitomized:


He is fifty years old, and small of his age. He dresses in homespun, and is a simple-minded, honest, old-fashioned farmer, with a strange proclivity for writing rhymes. He writes them on all possible subjects, and gets them printed on slips of paper, with his portrait at the head. These he will give to any man who comes along, whether he has anything against him or not . . . .

Dan said:

"It must be a great happiness to you to sit down at the close of day and put its events all down in rhymes and poetry, like Byron and Shakespeare and those fellows."

"Oh yes, it is--it is--Why, many's the time I've had to get up in the night when it comes on me:

Whether we're on the sea or the land We've all got to go at the word of command--

"Hey! how's that?"

A curious character was Cutter--a Long Island farmer with the obsession of rhyme. In his old age, in an interview, he said:

"Mark was generally writing and he was glum. He would write what we were doing, and I would write poetry, and Mark would say:

"'For Heaven's sake, Cutter, keep your poems to yourself.'

"Yes, Mark was pretty glum, and he was generally writing."

Poor old Poet Lariat--dead now with so many others of that happy crew. We may believe that Mark learned to be "glum" when he saw the Lariat approaching with his sheaf of rhymes.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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