What a lark! What a romp! 523 pages of nearly effortless
travel! Written in 1867, Twain boards the Quaker City to tour
the most famous sites in Europe and the area of the Holy Land.
Yes, it was written in 1867, but it didn’t seem too dated—for
tourists looking at landmarks that haven’t changed for thousands
of years are pretty similar to today’s tourists looking at landmarks
that haven’t changed for thousands of years.
And you can’t hate an author who dedicates his book to . . .
his mother! So, even if he does say “aged mother” (she was 64
at the time of the writing) he gets good points for devotion.
There are 65 Americans on board the Quaker City and Twain’s
party of eight or so are Presbyterian men from the midwest. They
are scallyrags at heart and with this, and Twain’s tongue-in-cheek
humor, the book is fun to read.
Twain mocks a lot of the places they visit, but he also is fair and
mocks Americans, too! When they visit Versailles, he speaks poorly
of the people at home who spend their time hacking and chopping
at their shrubbery—a futile effect in an area as large as a dining
room. And compares it to the two hundred thousand tall forest trees
planted in a double row at Versailles. Admittedly, it is mind-boggling.
And 150 galleries of paintings in the palace . . .
Later Twain complains a bit that the tour involves visiting a lot
of churches. He says that he has been in more churches in the last couple
of weeks than all of his life–but he faithfully records the interesting
features and relics of the old churches in Milan, Genoa, Venice, Rome and
others. Most of them have a piece of the original cross of Christ,
the nails, bits of the crown of thorns—and one even has the
entire crown of thorns!
He saw the “many birthplaces” of Homer . . . and visited the grave
of Adam. The grave of Adam! He goes into an hilarious paragraph
with the mourning of this father of his he never saw–
“The tomb of Adam! How touching it was, here in a land of
strangers, far away from home, and friends, and all who cared
for me, thus to discover the grave of a blood relation. True, a
distant one, but still a relation . . .Noble old man–he did not live
to see his child . . .(and) he died before I was born–six thousand
brief summers before I was born.”
I like a book that sends you to the encyclopedia, or, let’s be
honest, to Google, to find out more information. I looked up
the Temple at Artemis—-my goodness!! and the pyramids at
Cheops—good grief! and all of this I saw without checking my
I found it helpful to use a little map I found online about the
tour route The Innocents Abroad and enjoyed using that and made
copious notes for the fun of it.
This was a good book to read! Three buttons!