Friday, February 13, 2015

Mark Twain, American Diplomat

Roy Morris, Jr. offers an interesting piece at on one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain.

As his fame as an author and humorist grew, Mark Twain increasingly gained access to the most glittering palaces and persons in the world. It was a long step up from the muddy streets and ramshackle riverfront docks of his boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri, but Twain viewed his ascent as little more than his natural due. He was, as he was fond of saying, “not an American, but the American,” and during his many trips abroad he functioned as a one-man diplomatic corps, employing his characteristic blend of self-deprecation and understated wit on foreign people everywhere. “Mark Twain, known by everyone, liked by all” was more than an advertising slogan on a wooden cigar box. It was a simple statement of fact, as everyone from the king of England to the lowliest railroad porter in Calcutta could attest.
Twain first entered the rarefied world of international diplomacy in the summer of 1867, while accompanying his fellow American “vandals” on the transatlantic cruise to Europe and the Holy Land that made him famous as a (comparative) innocent abroad. At that point in his career, Twain was best known nationally for his riotous tall tale, “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” which was published in the Saturday Press in 1865 and caught on with the reading public across the country. Following a six-month stay in the Sandwich Islands, as Hawaii then was known, he made his debut as a stage performer in California in the autumn of 1866, delivering a droll, deadpan lecture, “Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands,” to convulsing audiences across the West. “In October 1866, I broke out as a lecturer,” he would say later, “and from that day to this I have always been able to gain my living without doing any work.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Roy Morris, Jr. is the author of American Vandal: Mark Twain Abroad. 

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to reading the Morris book. Thank you for highlighting it.