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The Innocents Abroad, or the New Pilgrim's Progress

The Innocents Abroad, or the New Pilgrim's Progress (Paperback) by Mark Twain (Author)

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(in full The Innocents Abroad; or, The New Pilgrims' Progress) A humorous travel narrative by Mark Twain, published in 1869 and based on Twain's letters to newspapers about his 1867 steamship voyage to Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land. The Innocents Abroad sharply satirized tourists who learn what they should see and feel by reading guidebooks. Assuming the role of a keen-eyed, shrewd Westerner, Twain was refreshingly honest and vivid in describing foreign scenes and his reactions to them. He alternated serious passages--history, statistics, description, explanation, argumentation--with risible ones. The humor itself was varied, sometimes in the vein of the Southwestern yarn spinners, sometimes in that of contemporaneous humorists such as Artemus Ward and Josh Billings, who chiefly used burlesque and parody and other verbal devices.--The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Contemporary Review

A literary notice from the December 1869 issue of The Atlantic Monthly


5 out of 5 stars Take a Tour of Europe and the Holy Land with Mark Twain the inimitable Missouri traveler, November 7, 2008

By C. M Mills "Michael Mills" (Knoxville Tennessee) (TOP 500 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)    

This review is from: The Innocents Abroad (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)

Mark Twain is the Lincoln of our literature. Sam Clemens (1835-1910) wrote Huckleberry Finn in 1885 which has been acclaimed as our greatest American novel. Lesser known are his wonderful travelogues: "Roughing It' "Following the Equator"; "Life on the Mississippi and "The Innocents Abroad" published in 1869. This book is worth reading even 140 years after its publication. Twain style is a joy to read for he was a born storyteller and communicates his thoughts well on the page.

Twain was a reporter who joined the six month expedition to Europe and the Middle East on board the steamer "Quaker City." The pleasure tour had been organized by the famous pastor Henry Ward Beecher (sibling of Harriet Ward Beecher) and Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Neither of these notable made the trip citing other obligations.

Twain roomed with a young man from Elmira New York. He would later visit Elmira and meet his friend's sister Olivia. She would become his wife and the mother of the couple's three daughters.

The Innocents Abroad is a long book of 400,000 words covering over 500 densely written pages. Twain takes a sardonic, humorous view of European art as he guides us through the Louvre, Florence Italy and Rome. We visit London, Paris and meet with Czar Alexander II in the Crimea. Twain had a keen reporter's eye and a humorist's ability to paint word pictures of his fellow passengers,tour guides and natives of the fascinating cities and countries he visited on a busy itinerary.

As a Presbyterian pastor I found the most interesting part of the book dealt with Twain's tour of Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Israel. He was upset by the filth, disease and cruelty he saw in the land of Moses and Jesus Christ. Despite all his asides and digressions the observant reader can gain a good picture of what these places were like in 1869. Twain was an agnostic but knew his Bible.

Mark Twain was our greatest author. In this fine book you will get to know this fascinating man better as he shares his globe trotting journey with his readers.

5 out of 5 stars Twain, the Terrible Tourist, December 2, 2005

By Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) (TOP 100 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)       

This review is from: The Innocents Abroad (Dover Value Editions) (Paperback)

Cliches aside, retrieving the outlook of mid-19th Century isn't easy. Having successfully concluded the upheaval of the War Between the States, the people of the USA, while bruised, felt confident. Their sense of righteousness was enhanced - they'd quelled a rebellion and freed slaves. Some took that attitude to other lands. The 1867 SS Quaker City excursion to Europe and the "Holy Land" was but one of those forays. It was special in that it carried one of the more discerning observers the United States had produced - Sam Clemens of Hannibal, Missouri and points West. He was to post letters to the San Francisco newspaper "Daily Alta California" describing the journey. The trip and the account opened Clemens' eyes and those of his readers over numerous legends.

In Clemens' baggage was a strong religious sense imparted by his mother, Jane. This cargo was balanced by Twain's more worldly experience on the Mississippi and his life in the mining communities in the West. When he crossed the gangplank to board the steamer, his gaze was sceptical and his pen ascerbic. His portrayal of the Quaker City's passengers began as they traversed the Atlantic, but it is his depiction of "foreigners" in their homelands that both shocks and enlightens. Starting with the Azores stopover, Clemens' observations of the islands are a tribute to their charms. Of the people, however, he has little positive to impart. They are dirty, noisy, conniving and devious. In general, they're "not American".

The use of the "innocents" is exemplified by Twain's description of contact with the Europeans. Educated in the minimal language training of the day, the travellers struggled to impart their wishes in French shops and restaurants. Twain seems to lay responsibility for this on the French "failure to understand their own language", but his description of the exchanges makes it clear where the problem lay. There was another side to this coin, however. Europeans were caught up in their own affairs. The United States was a remote and unknown element to them - "they'd had a war with somebody recently". Twain notes his shipmates were even then tinged with the arrogance that would fully blossom later. Respect for "tradition" had a variety of expressions in the "Quaker City" passengers. Twain depicts them all with delightful detachment.

As the ship made landfall in Mediterranean ports, Clemens and his comrades visit the "standard" tourist haunts. Paris is a must, Genoa is a treat, Rome is a maze of cathedrals and art galleries. Quickly disenchanted with "guides" he renames them all "Ferguson" and rebukes them at every opportunity. Michaelangelo seems so pervasive in Rome that the Pilgrims ask if Greek or Egyptian artefacts are his work - to the consternation of the "Ferguson" of the day. Twain's flexibility and ability to adapt to events leads some of the "innocents" to take the train from Rome to Naples - a city under quarantine. While the "Quaker City" lies still in the harbour, Twain and his companions tour the city and visit Vesuvius. A similar ploy works in Greece.

It is in the "Holy Land" that Clemens' descriptive powers and distrust of "authorities" flowers most brilliantly. Like many of his fellow passengers, he's been subjected to many tales from "Scripture" and a spate of earlier travel writers in Palestine. Unable to criticise the Bible outright, he lets the words speak for themselves, allowing logic and common sense to question dogma. The effusive travel writers, who had insisted Palestine was a "paradise" are brought out in contrast with Twain's observations of the barren desolation that was the Levant. He is scathing in his criticism of people who fabricate conditions there in order to sell their books. His veracity, of course, nearly had the opposite effect. "The Innocents Abroad" manuscript was originally rejected by Twain's publisher.

Sam Clemens' reputation was "made" with this book. It touched on many aspects of how people in the United States viewed themselves and the world. The subtle, but incisive, comments on tradition and legend were seeds finding fertile ground in a dynamic nation setting the practical foremost. "Innocents" was a challenge to dogmas and a paean to the sense of "realism" that permeated the post-Civil War era. The "Romantic" Era, still evident in mid-19th Century in the earlier accounts of Palestine, would be whisked aside. "Innocents" would be instrumental in that sweeping it away. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

5 out of 5 stars The funniest book ever written-in the history of time!, November 9, 2001

By A Customer

This review is from: Mark Twain : The Innocents Abroad, Roughing It (Library of America) (Hardcover)

Ok, maybe that is a minor overstatement, but this is one hilarous book, to be read by people who have travelled, who plan to travel, and generally, people who want to laugh. A lot.

The book is also surprising for its timeless points about the journeying of certain upper white, middle class people going on a grand tour of Europe. I frequently had to remind myself that it was written in 1869 because his observations and the behavior of his shipmates is so close to the way people I studied abroad with acted-only a few years ago.

Twain also puts those "cosmopolitan" people who claim to have traveled, but don't know anything about any place they have been but and just like to lord it over everyone else that they have "travelled" and you have not.

Reading this book is like listening to a very wise, old man tell you about his adventures. Its not like a book, more like one long conversation. Twain takes nothing seriously-not himself, his fellow travelers or the places they visit. The words are another adventure-sometimes, you know he is setting you up for something, other times he is serious for a while, then you end up in the middle of a joke.

I know this is against the rules, but the other posters who don't like this book-don't be so serious and p.c. all the time. Twain is making humorous observations, at a time when a different standard was acceptable. Not to mention, he does manage to get a few zingers in there about what people are willing to accept and what they do not.

You will laugh yourself silly and want to book a trip-not to Europe, just to anywhere, after reading this book.

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