The Innocents Abroad is Mark Twain's greatest book of travel. The critical and the pure in speech may object to this verdict. Brander Matthews regards it second to A Tramp Abroad, the natural viewpoint of the literary technician. The 'Tramp' contains better usage without doubt, but it lacks the "color" which gives the Innocents its perennial charm. In the Innocents there is a glow, a fragrance, a romance of touch, a subtle something which is idyllic, something which is not quite of reality, in the tale of that little company that so long ago sailed away to the harbors of their illusions beyond the sea, and, wandered together through old palaces and galleries, and among the tombs of the saints, and down through ancient lands. There is an atmosphere about it all, a dream-like quality that lies somewhere in the telling, maybe, or in the tale; at all events it is there, and the world has felt it ever since. Perhaps it could be defined in a single word, perhaps that word would be "youth." That the artist, poor True Williams, felt its inspiration is certain. We may believe that Williams was not a great draftsman, but no artist ever caught more perfectly the light and spirit of the author's text. Crude some of the pictures are, no doubt, but they convey the very essence of the story; they belong to it, they are a part of it, and they ought never to perish. 'A Tramp Abroad' is a rare book, but it cannot rank with its great predecessor in human charm. The public, which in the long run makes mistakes, has rendered that verdict. The Innocents by far outsells the Tramp, and, for that matter, any other book of travel.


It is curious to reflect that Mark Twain still did not regard himself as a literary man. He had no literary plans for the future; he scarcely looked forward to the publication of another book. He considered himself a journalist; his ambition lay in the direction of retirement in some prosperous newspaper enterprise, with the comforts and companionship of a home. During his travels he had already been casting about for a congenial and substantial association in newspaperdom, and had at one time considered the purchase of an interest in the Cleveland Herald. But Buffalo was nearer Elmira, and when an opportunity offered, by which he could acquire a third interest in the Buffalo Express for $25,000, the purchase was decided upon. His lack of funds prompted a new plan for a lecture tour to the Pacific coast, this time with D. R. Locke (Nasby), then immensely popular, in his lecture "Cussed Be Canaan."

Clemens had met Nasby on the circuit, and was very fond of him. The two had visited Boston together, and while there had called on Doctor Holmes; this by the way. Nasby was fond of Clemens too, but doubtful about the trip-doubtful about his lecture:

Your proposition takes my breath away. If I had my new lecture completed I wouldn't hesitate a moment, but really isn't "Cussed Be Canaan" too old? You know that lemon, our African brother, juicy as he was in his day, has been squeezed dry. Why howl about his wrongs after said wrongs have been redressed? Why screech about the "damnable spirit of Cahst" when the victim thereof sits at the first table, and his oppressor mildly takes, in hash, what he leaves? You see, friend Twain, the Fifteenth Amendment busted "Cussed Be Canaan." I howled feelingly on the subject while it was a living issue, for I felt all that I said and a great deal more; but now that we have won our fight why dance frantically on the dead corpse of our enemy? The Reliable Contraband is contraband no more, but a citizen of the United States, and I speak of him no more.

Give me a week to think of your proposition. If I can jerk a lecture in time I will go with you. The Lord knows I would like to. --[Nasby's lecture, "Cussed Be Canaan," opened, "We are all descended from grandfathers!" He had a powerful voice, and always just on the stroke of eight he rose and vigorously delivered this sentence.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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