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The Innocents Abroad

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The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims' Progress is a travel book by American author Mark Twain published in 1869 which humorously chronicles what Twain called his "Great Pleasure Excursion" on board the chartered vessel Quaker City (formerly USS Quaker City) through Europe and the Holy Land with a group of American travelers in 1867. It was the best-selling of Twain's works during his lifetime, as well as one of the best-selling travel books of all time.

560 pages, Paperback

First published February 1, 1869

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About the author

Mark Twain

9,919 books17k followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads database.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to his older brother Orion's newspaper. After toiling as a printer in various cities, he became a master riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River, before heading west to join Orion. He was a failure at gold mining, so he next turned to journalism. While a reporter, he wrote a humorous story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," which proved to be very popular and brought him nationwide attention. His travelogues were also well-received. Twain had found his calling.

He achieved great success as a writer and public speaker. His wit and satire earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.

However, he lacked financial acumen. Though he made a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he squandered it on various ventures, in particular the Paige Compositor, and was forced to declare bankruptcy. With the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers, however, he eventually overcame his financial troubles. Twain worked hard to ensure that all of his creditors were paid in full, even though his bankruptcy had relieved him of the legal responsibility.

Born during a visit by Halley's Comet, he died on its return. He was lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age", and William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature".

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

Μαρκ Τουαίν (Greek)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,185 reviews
1 review2 followers
August 25, 2007
When I lived in Madrid years ago I used to buy pistachios from an Iranian refugee in Retiro Park. I don't recall his name, but I decided to call him Stan. It drove him crazy, but I called him Stan anyway. Why did I call him Stan?

One word: Ferguson.

Ferguson is every tour guide that graces the pages of Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad. The author and his cohort call their guides Ferguson, whether in Paris or in Athens. The name drives each Ferguson crazy, but they do it anyway. And regardless of the site, or museum, their attitude before the remains of some long-ago Renaissance man is the same: "Is . . . is he dead?" This also drives the Fergusons crazy.

Is this admirable? No, but it epitomizes the experience of Americans abroad. It is brash, showing at once disdain for and secret envy of the old world, its people, and its institutions.

This is the book that instilled in me a wanderlust that still afflicts me, even though I have rarely been able to satisfy it. I wanted to travel the world and call my guides Ferguson. I still do.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
December 30, 2021

Twenty-six months after Lee surrendered to Grant, the thirty-one-year-old Samuel Clemens, a ‘special traveling correspondent” for San Francisco’s Alta California newspaper, boarded the recently decommissioned USS Quaker City—a steamship once active in enforcing the Union blockade—and embarked on a five-and-a-half-month “pleasure excursion” to Europe and the Holy Land. The Alta California payed Clemen’s $1,250 fare (more than $20,000 in today’s money) in return for a series of letters describing the travelers’ adventures, but Clemens—then known only as an itinerant reporter and a minor regional humorist—got more out of the deal than just a fancy trip. Two years later he published The Innocents Abroad, or the New Pilgrim’s Progress (1869). The American public not only loved it for its humor, but also valued it as a travel guide. In spite of the classics that came after, it was always his best-selling book. By 1870, Mark Twain had become a household name.

Twain’s tone can often be uneven and problematic, and this is doubly true of Innocents. He alternates plain-spoken folksy humor with flowery praises for the scenery, and it is often difficult to tell whether Twain is satirizing the boorish American, or whether he is indeed the American boor personified. (His almost complete lack of appreciation for the paintings of Italy particularly irritated me. Yes, I know, there are a helluva lot of Madonnas, but still.) Some of the flowery passages are impressive: his descriptions of Venice and the Acropolis at midnight are excellent. But it is the blunt, skeptical Twain that is the most memorable, always suspicious of the historicity of an ancient tradition—particularly if it is being used to pick an American’s pocket. (His treatment of the landmarks and relics of the Holy Land are some of the funniest passages in the book.)

For the Twain fan, one of the interesting things about this book is its unevenness, its variability of tone. It shows us a writer who is in the process of crafting his voice, and, by the end of the journey, he has found it.

Here are few excerpts showing Twain’s range. First, Twain the skeptic’s exposes the “English Spoken Here” fraud of the shopkeepers of Paris.
In Paris we often saw in shop windows the sign “English Spoken Here,” just as one sees in the windows at home the sign “Ici on parle francaise.” We always invaded these places at once — and invariably received the information, framed in faultless French, that the clerk who did the English for the establishment had just gone to dinner and would be back in an hour — would Monsieur buy something? We wondered why those parties happened to take their dinners at such erratic and extraordinary hours, for we never called at a time when an exemplary Christian would be in the least likely to be abroad on such an errand. The truth was, it was a base fraud — a snare to trap the unwary — chaff to catch fledglings with. They had no English-murdering clerk. They trusted to the sign to inveigle foreigners into their lairs, and trusted to their own blandishments to keep them there till they bought something.
Second, Twain the romantic describes the city of Venice:
We see little girls and boys go out in gondolas with their nurses, for an airing. We see staid families, with prayer-book and beads, enter the gondola dressed in their Sunday best, and float away to church. And at midnight we see the theatre break up and discharge its swarm of hilarious youth and beauty; we hear the cries of the hackman-gondoliers, and behold the struggling crowd jump aboard, and the black multitude of boats go skimming down the moonlit avenues; we see them separate here and there, and disappear up divergent streets; we hear the faint sounds of laughter and of shouted farewells floating up out of the distance; and then, the strange pageant being gone, we have lonely stretches of glittering water — of stately buildings — of blotting shadows — of weird stone faces creeping into the moonlight — of deserted bridges — of motionless boats at anchor. And over all broods that mysterious stillness, that stealthy quiet, that befits so well this old dreaming Venice.
Third, Twain the cynic takes us on a tour of the grottos of the Holy Land:
They have got the “Grotto” of the Annunciation here; and just as convenient to it as one’s throat is to his mouth, they have also the Virgin’s Kitchen, and even her sitting-room, where she and Joseph watched the infant Saviour play with Hebrew toys eighteen hundred years ago. All under one roof, and all clean, spacious, comfortable “grottoes.” It seems curious that personages intimately connected with the Holy Family always lived in grottoes — in Nazareth, in Bethlehem, in imperial Ephesus — and yet nobody else in their day and generation thought of doing any thing of the kind. If they ever did, their grottoes are all gone, and I suppose we ought to wonder at the peculiar marvel of the preservation of these I speak of. When the Virgin fled from Herod’s wrath, she hid in a grotto in Bethlehem, and the same is there to this day. The slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem was done in a grotto; the Saviour was born in a grotto — both are shown to pilgrims yet. It is exceedingly strange that these tremendous events all happened in grottoes — and exceedingly fortunate, likewise, because the strongest houses must crumble to ruin in time, but a grotto in the living rock will last forever. It is an imposture — this grotto stuff — but it is one that all men ought to thank the Catholics for. Wherever they ferret out a lost locality made holy by some Scriptural event, they straightway build a massive — almost imperishable — church there, and preserve the memory of that locality for the gratification of future generations …. The old monks are wise. They know how to drive a stake through a pleasant tradition that will hold it to its place forever.
Oh, I almost forgot. The Quaker City cruise not only made Sam Clemens famous: it got him a wife as well. One of the friends he made on the voyage was Charles Langdon, who showed him a photograph of his sister Olivia. Twain later declared it was love at first sight. Soon after the Quaker City returned to New York, Sam and Olivia had their first date: they attended a reading by Dickens. On February 8, 1870, Sam and his beloved “Livy” were married.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,509 followers
June 18, 2017
I love certain travel books, ones that give you an inspiring window on places you’ve never been or want to revisit while holding a humbling mirror up to the perspective and culture of the traveler. “Innocents Abroad” is a classic that fulfills this goal nicely and a fun read to boot. In 1867, the nearly unknown journalist Mark Twain set out at age 32 on a chartered ship from New York with a group of Americans for a three-month tour around the Mediterranean with major overland side-trips. His itinerary overlapped some of my own school trip many years ago to educational sites Italy, Greece, and Turkey. But it also included forays into France, Russia, North Africa, and the Middle East, capped by a facinating inland trip by horse and camel from Damascus to Jerusalem. Here is a map of his journey:

I appreciate the combination of self-deprecation, wonder, slapstick humor and cynicism represented in Twain’s writing. The following quotes capture his nobler sentiments:

The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become, until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.
Human nature appears to be just the same, all over the world.

For his sense of wonder, here are a few examples of his eloquence from experience of people in the streets of Constantinople, of the ruins of the Appian way, and of the ancient Sphinx in Egypt:

People were thicker than bees, in those narrow streets, and the men were dressed in all the outrageous, outlandish, idolatrous, extravagant, thunder-and-lightning costumes that ever a tailor with the delirium tremens and seven devils could conceive of.
Gray lizards, those heirs of ruin, of sepulchres and desolation, glided in and out among the rocks or lay still and sunned themselves. Where prosperity has reigned, and fallen; where glory has flamed, and gone out; where beauty has dwelt, and passed away; where gladness was, and sorrow is; where the pomp of life has been, and silence and death brood in its high places, there this reptile makes his home, and mocks at human vanity. His coat is the color of ashes: and ashes are the symbol of hopes that have perished, of aspirations that came to nought, of loves that are buried. If he could speak, he would say, Build temples: I will lord it in their ruins; build palaces: I will inhabit them; erect empires: I will inherit them; bury your beautiful: I will watch the worms at their work; and you, who stand here and moralize over me: I will crawl over your corpse at the last.
I gave it up and walked down to the Sphynx. After years of waiting, it was before me at last. The great face was so sad, so earnest, so longing, so patient. There was a dignity not of earth in its mien, and in its countenance a benignity such as never any thing human wore. It was stone, but it seemed sentient. If ever image of stone thought, it was thinking. It was looking toward the verge of the landscape, yet looking at nothing—nothing but distance and vacancy. It was looking over and beyond every thing of the present, and far into the past. It was gazing out over the ocean of Time—over lines of century-waves which, further and further receding, closed nearer and nearer together, and blended at last into one unbroken tide, away toward the horizon of remote antiquity.

Humor is tucked into every page, providing comic relief without dominating the story. Galloping pell-mell on donkeys through the streets of a town in the Azores is one example that stands out for me. The humor often barbs both ways, as in this example
In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.

Another vein of humor comes from playing practical jokes on the tourist guides, which in every country they call “Ferguson” to save on mastering a foreign name. In one case, after getting tired of too much hype over Michelangelo’s creations, the travelers keep pestering their guide with questions about his responsibility of ancient structures like the Roman Forum. For a similar deflation of their guide’s pressures to revere Columbus, here is a joke they played on him:

He took us to the municipal palace. After much impressive fumbling of keys and opening of locks, the stained and aged document was spread before us. The guide’s eyes sparkled. He danced about us and tapped the parchment with his finger:
“What I tell you, genteelmen! Is it not so? See! handwriting Christopher Colombo!--write it himself!”
We looked indifferent--unconcerned. The doctor examined the document very deliberately, during a painful pause.--Then he said, without any show of interest:
“Ah--Ferguson--what--what did you say was the name of the party who wrote this?”
“Christopher Colombo! ze great Christopher Colombo!”
Another deliberate examination.
“Ah--did he write it himself; or--or how?”
“He write it himself!--Christopher Colombo! He’s own hand-writing, write by himself!”
Then the doctor laid the document down and said:
“Why, I have seen boys in America only fourteen years old that could write better than that."

On the negative side, personal cultural bias comes out in many places. References abound to the dirtiness of the people in many countries, hygiene issues such as mustache hair on the women, and the rapaciousness of the beggars. The great efforts to find soap at hotels throughout the journey is funny at times, but overdone. I sympathize with Twain over his cynicism over the obsessive collection and promotion of holy relics by Catholic churches. There are just too many nails he was crucified with on display and too many bones of saints honored in shrines to foster meaningful spirituality. Aristocratic excess is a perennial target for American sensibility, and so is the contrast between religious pomp of prelates and the poverty of the people. While his meeting with the Russian Czar in Yalta made Twain recognize his ordinary humanity, just thinking about the Muslim Caliph in Constantinople with hundreds of wives makes him see hypocrisy in the whole religious enterprise. Here is his anti-Catholic rant on Italy

As far as I can see, Italy, for fifteen hundred years, has turned all her energies, all her finances, and all her industry to the building up of a vast array of wonderful church edifices, and starving half her citizens to accomplish it. She is today one vast museum of magnificence and misery. All the churches in an ordinary American city put together could hardly buy the jeweled frippery in one of her hundred cathedrals. And for every beggar in America, Italy can show a hundred - and rags and vermin to match. It is the wretchedest, princeliest land on earth. …
O, sons of classic Italy, is the spirit of enterprise, of self-reliance, of noble endeavor, utterly dead within ye? Curse your indolent worthlessness, why don't you rob your church?

Despite this apparent cynicism, it was fascinating to experience Twain’s underlying reverence with respect to the sites of the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, you can feel his underlying judgment of commercial hype over supposed sites where Mary supposedly stood or stayed, where Christ rested a moment as he bore his cross toward Calvary, etc. But at many other points his awe comes through over sites that remind him how an ordinary fisherman from Nazareth who sailed the Galilee with his brothers came to change the world through his spiritual vision. In process of this read, I came to appreciate the evolution of Twain’s own sensibilities and the story-telling skills that would shape the landscape of American literature.
Profile Image for Hanneke.
326 reviews325 followers
August 19, 2021
According to what I gathered at Wikipedia, the extensive voyage that Mark Twain, then age 32, took aboard the pleasure cruiser ‘Quaker City’ took about five months. I was surprised about that relatively short time period because when reading about all those sights and extensive excursions you feel that it must have taken such a longer period of time. To me, it felt like the journey must have taken at least a year. All 65 passengers on board had never been to Europe before. In contrast, the Europeans had only seen an occasional American now and then, so the Americans themselves were considered quite a sight as well.

Mark Twain was sponsored by a local newspaper in exchange for travel newsletters which the paper then published. These travel letters were later compiled into the travelogue ‘The Innocents Abroad’.

The excursions inland all along the Mediterrean coast from Gibraltar to Egypt sometimes took Mark Twain and his small group of ship companions of about 6 people weeks away from the port where the ship was docked. I suppose it was a try-out of a new form of tourist travel where the participants stayed on the same vessel and thus were provided with accommodation aboard for the whole journey with quite a choice of optional excursions organized into the countries where the ship docked at that time. These excursions would sometimes take weeks and seemed to have been organized very professionally with train and hotel reservations to whatever the American tourists desired to see. Twain and his small group took a long trip to Paris, returned to the ship and subsequently docked again in Genoa, then took a train to Milan, on to Venice and subsequently to Florence and Rome, where they boarded their ship again to travel to the East.

I must confess that I have never read a Mark Twain novel before and I do not think I will in the future. I might consider one of his other travelogues, as I have two volumes of ‘A Tramp Abroad’. Mark Twain was a very witty writer and when the mood took him he wrote in a very beautiful style. However, I thought he was often quite unbearably grumpy and insulting and I was surprised that he felt no restriction to ventilate it in public and in writing. Granted, his insults were sometimes quite hilarious, but often quite demeaning. His likes and dislikes seemed to me to have no rational ground. Some cities he loved, like Paris, Venice and Istanbul, but lots of others he hated for no reason I could discern. And how about being always very demeaning to the local tourist guides hired, even getting so far to gang up with his little group of young men to purposely not listen to a guide who was showing them another world famous painting, thereby looking the other way and acting like they did not know who Michelangelo was. He hated most of Italy and by the time his group arrived in Rome he declared he did not want to see another Raffael or Michelangelo ever again. Hated to see the Vatican, in fact hated the whole city. Throughout Italy, he showed his loathing when seeing the poverty and destitution of the crowds in the streets, especially in Naples, and he continued to ventilate that notion on his future trips east, coming to a climax in Syria and Palestine where he remarks that the people are so degenerated that they seem to be walking skeletons and the only sound they can make is asking for bakshees. Well, the novel was written more than 150 years ago, but still I felt very uncomfortable to read his ranting remarks.

I could go into details about all the sites Twain visited, but the list is long. I am only glad and relieved to report that in the end he was smitten with Egypt, the pyramids and the Sphinx because I would have taken it very seriously against him if he had nasty remarks about those ancient sites. I feared for the worst, seeing how he had abhorred Palestine, all the so-called holy sites and was not impressed by Jerusalem.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoyed to read the reports of his excursions, as it was very interesting to hear in what condition the sites were in 1867 as I have seen most of the places he visited, except for the Crimea and Syria. This proved to be a travelogue like no other and you will surely remember having read what he told about it when seeing the places yourself in this day and age.
Profile Image for Patrick.
758 reviews5 followers
May 20, 2018
This novel is part stand-up comedy and part history lesson. Throughout the novel Twain is hysterically funny, irreverent, lampooning, and blatantly racist--a classic American traveling abroad. This travel log touches upon almost every tourist spot in Europe, North Africa, and the Holy Land. Twain covers many of the most important sites in Europe in a thorough manner. The text would become tedious if not for the wit and clever turning of phrases throughout the work. The humor does have quite an edge. The racism and bigotry showed by the author in this piece does not kill the story, in my estimation, it only makes Twain a man of his time.

Mark Twain walks up to the top inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa, visits Florence and the Vatican, sees holy sites throughout current day Israel and Jordan, and even visits the Sphinx and the pyramids. In many ways, Twain remains unchanged by his journey. He feels that the clergy at every church are trying to rip him off with fake relics; of course, often he is right. The prejudices that he carried with him do not change. He refers to Muslims as "pagans" and "savages," equating them with his low view of the Native Americans (p.406). He and his companions refused to use the names of their guides, instead refer to one and all as "Ferguson." "Of course the real name of the place is El something of other, but the boys still refuse to recognize the Arab names or try to pronounce them" (p.299).

There are some great scenes in this novel. Twain at the grave of Adam in the Holy Land, from Adam and Eve fame, is fantastic. Twain breaks down sobbing over visiting the grave of a long lost 'relative' this far from home. Adam is a relation six thousand years down the family tree, in the author's estimation, but still a kinsman. Another wonderful image is of Twain and his companions riding through the desert on battered, broken horses with purple parasols to keep the sun off of them.

Good quotes: p.311 "I could not conceive of a small country having so large a history."
p.424 "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people needed it sorely on these accounts."
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,737 reviews1,469 followers
August 18, 2017
This armchair travel guide is based on an actual journey made by Twain in 1867. He was only thirty-two. It first came out in the New York Herald, peu à peu as he sent in his journal entries. Only later in 1869 was it published as a book. The excursion route can be seen here: http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/innocen...
By clicking on the map you are linked to the text in the book referring to the particular location. In this way you can check out Twain's writing.

So what makes this a classic, and why is it so highly praised? For its humor and Twain’s delightful knack at expressing himself. He has a way with words. He is opinionated, which is quite fun; he dares to say what he thinks. Some of his views are dated and quite simply not politically correct. One does have to keep in mind that the book was published a century and a half ago. On the other hand, many cultural tendencies do not change. You recognize these and smile at the kernels of truth that lie in Twain’s observations, observations made long, long ago and yet still valid. Not all, but some.

The book has historical content. There are tons of little tidbits that are interesting. According to him, Damascus is said to be the oldest city in the world, and some think even the Garden of Eden. Twain was at the second world’s fair, The International Exposition of 1867 held in Paris. He tells of us his experiences first hand. He and some others took another side tour to Odessa on the Black Sea and there met with the Russian Czar and Czarina, Nicholas and Alexandra, in their summer palace in the Crimea. He visited the Leaning Tour of Pisa. He tells us that it feels as though, if you go to the edge, you weight will topple it over. He and three friends sneak out of the ship moored outside the port Piraeus; against imposed quarantine regulations they go into Athens, see the Acropolis by moonlight, steal grapes, are chased and finally return to the ship by dawn. Such escapades transform interesting factual details into personal tales. Twain is perceived as a friend telling you of what he saw and experienced. He is relaxed; he speaks from the heart.

Twain wonderfully captures the essence of many, many places. What makes Paris Paris and Constantinople Constantinople? Versailles, Milan, Venice, Rome, Pompeii. Don’t forget to look at the map above!

The humor is intellectual. It is for those of us who have traveled and have themselves thought about cultural peculiarities. Twain pokes fun. Sometimes at himself and sometimes at others. His travelling companions cannot be bothered to learn the names of their guides so they call them all Fergusson! This they can pronounce. Yet this also shows their ridiculous sense of self-importance. In France, none of the French understand what they say, but it never occurs to them that this is due to their own inability to speak the language properly. Such is the humor. Humor circling around culture. There are pokes at the Catholic Church and the grandiose claims made in the travel guides of his time.

I had planned on giving the book four stars. I enjoyed it all the way through until the excursion arrived in the Middle East. Here I began to have serious trouble. Twain's prejudicial view of Arabs is disturbing, at least for those of us with a modern sensibility. From this point on his deprecatory views reverberate in all that he relates. In the latter third of the book his negative views become a rant. The humor became sour and repetitive. His distaste for Arab nations and people prevented him from appreciating what these lands could have offered him. His attitude just wrecks the fun. What began as a pleasure excursion of curiosity, exploration and discovery ends as a "funeral excursion without a corpse". These are his own words, found at the book’s conclusion. I feel they appropriately capture the book’s end. I must clarify that despite numerous tribulations no one died on the trip.

The audiobook is wonderfully narrated by Grover Gardner. Easy to follow and spoken at a perfect speed. The Americans speaking French are totally hysterical. This adds to the humor. The narration is just how it should be, and so have given it five stars.

This book is interesting and very funny. Unfortunately, that ends when Twain arrives in the Middle East!
Profile Image for Tristram Shandy.
699 reviews200 followers
October 3, 2022
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

When in 1867, the American vessel Quaker City weighed anchor and started a six-month cruise towards the Mediterraneum, where passengers would have the chance to visit various places in Southern Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East, probably the best-known man on board that ship was Mark Twain, who, at that time, was 32 years old and had still not written any of the novels he is remembered for today. Nevertheless, he had already made his mark as a humourist – you may be familiar with the famous jumping frog – and that is why a newspaper he was writing for in those days, the Alta California, was willing to send him on that voyage, paying his fare of $1,250, in exchange for weekly letters in which Twain was to pen down his impressions of his travels into the Old World. Two years later, the author would revise these letters, expunging sloppy language and adding some new material, and turn them into his first travelogue The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress, a book that was to become the starting point of Twain’s career as a novelist.

The Innocents Abroad might give good insight into what would expect the traveller of those days and age in Spain, France, Italy, and Russia, as well as in the Holy Land and in Egypt, in times when travelling was still more of an adventure than it is today, but it is especially interesting for those who are curious to find out how an American citizen like Mark Twain would respond to what he saw and experienced during his various excursions. Although the author recommends travelling as an antidote to bigotry and prejudice, a lot of the humour to be found on those pages stems from the writer’s tendency to measure other cultures by American standards and his own obsession with cleanliness, comfort and what he regards as hallmarks of civilization. He was, for example, extremely annoyed at quarantine rules and measures taken by various countries in order to prevent the spread of cholera, and when he encounters these in Italy, we find a passage like this,

”However, they must keep epidemics away somehow or other, and fumigation is cheaper than soap. They must either wash themselves or fumigate other people. Some of the lower classes had rather die than wash, but the fumigation of strangers causes them no pangs.”

In France, Twain is not so much struck by the works of art he could see in the Louvre but more so by the perfect state of roads and pavements, by the spic-and-span conditions of houses and fences, and even though he regards Napoleon III. as a ruler whose very countenance must warn the on-looker not to trust him as far as they could throw him, yet he congratulates this ruler on his success at modernizing the country. By the same token, Twain is not at all impressed with the Old Masters, whose works he gets first-hand experience of in France and Italy. Standing in front of da Vinci’s mural of The Last Supper in Milan, he scoffs at his fellow-travellers’ praise of this work of art, which he regards as simply gleaned from the pages of run-of-the-mill guidebooks, and he simply states that the painting is old, its colours are faded and, all in all, it comes over as a bleak disappointment. Maybe, he was toying with the possibility of being taken for a boor, or he was poking fun at his fellow-travellers, whose cut-and-dried praise of what they saw was derived from books and not from their own thoughts and therefore branded them as Philistines – but I must confess that I went through a similar experience when years ago, I was able to clap eyes on another of da Vinci’s paintings, to wit the famous Mona Lisa in the Louvre. I had been looking forward for days to see this work of art and planned to be seduced by the mysterious hint at a smile of La Gioconda but when I eventually stood in front of it, trying to get a proper glimpse at it before elbowing my way through the crowd of loafers surrounding it, I could not help thinking that it was rather small and puny and did not offer half as much detail as the paintings by the Dutch masters I had seen before. I was unwise enough to share my thoughts with my travelling-companion, a woman who was charming, but who also possessed a guidebook, or was possessed by it, and consequently I had to bear her mild disdain for a couple of hours in the wake of my confession.

Twain also made another observation, which shows that he was a man of good sense:

” These ancient painters never succeeded in denationalizing themselves. The Italian artists painted Italian Virgins, the Dutch painted Dutch Virgins, the Virgins of the French painters were Frenchwomen — none of them ever put into the face of the Madonna that indescribable something which proclaims the Jewess, whether you find her in New York, in Constantinople, in Paris, Jerusalem, or in the empire of Morocco.”

Similarly, his jibes at religion turned into or pandering to superstition, are always great fun to read, and thought-provoking, too, as when he states that Christians from different denominations are not able to pray together in one of the holiest places of Christendom, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, because they would immediately start to fight with each other – in the name of a religion of peace. Okay, that was not great fun to read, but thought-provoking. Funnier are passages like these,

”Among the most precious of the relics were a stone from the Holy Sepulchre, part of the crown of thorns, (they have a whole one at Notre Dame,) a fragment of the purple robe worn by the Saviour, a nail from the Cross, and a picture of the Virgin and Child painted by the veritable hand of St. Luke.”

”The strangest thing about the incident that has made her name so famous, is, that when she wiped the perspiration away, the print of the Saviour’s face remained upon the handkerchief, a perfect portrait, and so remains unto this day. We knew this, because we saw this handkerchief in a cathedral in Paris, in another in Spain, and in two others in Italy. In the Milan cathedral it costs five francs to see it, and at St. Peter’s, at Rome, it is almost impossible to see it at any price. No tradition is so amply verified as this of St. Veronica and her handkerchief.”

With such an over-abundance of relics, who could still doubt the gospel truth of their testimony?

Still, for all his cultural egocentrism, Twain was also aware of the impression that his group of travellers – he usually calls them Pilgrims – must have struck on the uninitiated autochthons, and he never tires of denouncing the Pilgrims’ tendency to chisel little memoranda out of the venerable monuments and statues they encounter. One of them even climbed the serene Sphinx in order to hammer away at the monument’s face, although the Egyptian stone proved too much for him. The following passage exactly voices my sentiments on these despicable people, who have nowadays taken to making selfies in front of the sights they encumber with their presence – the selfie being, luckily, a less annoying pastime of theirs to bask in eternity,

”One might swear that all the John Smiths and George Wilkinsons, and all the other pitiful nobodies between Kingdom Come and Baalbec would inscribe their poor little names upon the walls of Baalbec’s magnificent ruins, and would add the town, the county and the State they came from — and swearing thus, be infallibly correct. It is a pity some great ruin does not fall in and flatten out some of these reptiles, and scare their kind out of ever giving their names to fame upon any walls or monuments again, forever.”

Twain also shared another sentiment with me, and possibly with many another person, to wit that in retrospect, travelling is more rewarding and valuable than it appears while the traveller is on their way, because all the petty frustrations, the annoyances rising out of bad food and lodging or of the presence of nitwits in places you’d rather be alone in to muster up your thoughts and dive into your emotions will be forgotten, and what remains is the memory of having been there and seen it with your own eyes. Now, the same sentiment may apply to some books you read, let’s say classics like Dante’s Divine Comedy in that you will not necessarily enjoy every single page you are going through but that you are sure that nevertheless, the time invested in reading these pages is well-spent because when you lay aside the perused book, you will come out of it a different person with a mind richer in thoughts and reflexions than it went in before. This can also be said of The Innocents Abroad because some of the more descriptive passages do tend to drag on a bit, but having read the entire book will probably make you enter upon your next journey with a different mindset.
Profile Image for Derek.
89 reviews26 followers
September 21, 2008
10 percent humorous versus 90 percent tedium. And that may even be a generous assessment.

The humor is actually laugh-out-loud humor - and I rarely LOL while reading - but the tedium... oh, the tedium! It became more and more of a trudge.

I may yet give this another try, as I really do *want* to read more Twain, but not in the foreseeable future.
Profile Image for RJ - Slayer of Trolls.
765 reviews179 followers
June 18, 2020
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

Twain's first published book is an account of a several weeks long ocean cruise in 1867 visiting several stops in the Mediterranean Sea including Morocco, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Russia, several countries in the Middle East ("The Holy Land") and Egypt, to name a few. Twain's biting 19th Century snark is in full effect as he trains his rapier wit on the inhabitants of each land, their customs and businesses, and especially his fellow American travelers. If you decide to take this trip along with Twain, make sure you pack your sense of humor so you can enjoy gems like this one:

"In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language."
Profile Image for Bryce Wilson.
Author 10 books155 followers
June 9, 2008
God you've got to love Twain.

A funny sacred cow roasting romp through Europe and The Middle East, taking on stereotypes, high society, and decorum with a shotgun blast to the face. However, this is young amused by humanities flaws Mark Twain, not embittered "Fuck the World." Mark Twain. So there's still plenty of room for real wonder and occasional awe.

Plus it has the best reaction to a Mummy you will ever see.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books357 followers
February 5, 2021
one of my favorite incidents from the book....

“They had just docked in Greece and the passengers learned they would be quarantined and not be allowed to go ashore...

...It was the bitterest disappointment we had yet experienced. To lie a whole day in sight of the Acropolis, and yet be obliged to go away without visiting Athens! Disappointment was hardly a strong enough word to describe the circumstances....At eleven o'clock at night, when most of the ship's company were abed, four of us stole softly ashore in a small boat, a clouded moon favoring the enterprise...Once ashore and seeing no road, we took a tall hill to the left of the distant Acropolis for a mark, and steered straight for it over all obstructions...The full moon was riding high in the cloudless heavens now. We sauntered carelessly and unthinkingly to the edge of the lofty battlements of the citadel, and looked down---- a vision! And such a vision! Athens by moonlight!”
Profile Image for Phillip Ozdemir.
16 reviews5 followers
February 10, 2017
When you read Twain you realize he is head and shoulders above other authors, even really good authors. How do you measure the level of his genius? I don't know. Physicists used to rate the genius level of other physicists on a scale of 1- 10, and then along came Dick Feynman whom everyone agreed was "off-scale". Twain's ability as a writer might just be "off-scale", too. I have seen estimates of Goethe's and Shakespeare's IQs which are at the top end of all humanity's and I'm quite sure Mark Twain is at least their equal, intellectually.

Thank god for Mark Twain, accessible to the common man, and more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

The term LOL (which means "Laugh Out Loud") takes on a whole new meaning when you read Twain. I remember the last time I laughed out loud like this was when I was commuting back and forth to work from the Upper West Side to Midtown on the IRT. As you know, Manhattan subways are pretty sober places and the cold fluorescent light and the bitter taste/smell of the lingering asbestos brake particles in the air and the other vaguely metallic and pungent smells of the underground train lair lends a sort of uber-reality to the scene (as do the grim faces of the people on the train contending as they are with the harsh business of survival in one of the roughest cities in the world) I was reading Roughing It!, one of Twain's other works, on those hard, cold grey seats on the sides of the train with people on either side of me and across from me and I would burst out laughing every page or so and people would look at me as if there was something wrong with me and I would say, "I'm sorry, this is really funny." And I would hold out the book for them to see and then they would go back to staring out into the space in front of themselves rather than looking at me like I had broken some sort of Law of the Subway. And then I would go back to reading and laughing out loud because Twain is so very, very wry.

It's too bad you can't bottle what Twain has to say, because if you could, you'd be drunker than a 100 Indians dancing in a cornfield on the first sip. It's really priceless.
Profile Image for Maggie.
884 reviews
June 28, 2011
This is one of those books which I think time has not been kind to. All of the information was interesting, the little stories were a mixture of merely amusing, hysterically funny, and over-the-top annoying, and then there were the chapters which were absolutely fabulous--so well written and beautiful that I begged for an entire book of that kind of writing.

Part of the problem here is that the world has become so politically correct that all the members of my book club agreed that we cringed at the frequent places where Twain was unkind, cruel, and usually very, very wrong about the people in the area. The Portugese, Carthegenians, and Syrians are only a few which he castigated. As a group we agreed that Twain's opinions were probably the mainstream opinions of most Americans of the time.

There are many worthwhile chapters in the book, but it should be read with the knowledge that a 19th Century man is writing it to a 21st Century audience.
Profile Image for Philip.
1,388 reviews72 followers
June 8, 2019
(APRIL '15) Absolutely excellent book - knew Twain was a great storyteller, but forgot what a good writer he is, too. That said, I'm halfway through (he's just finished Europe and heading to the Middle East), and so going to take a break before continuing. This is beautifully written - and hysterically funny - stuff, but probably better to spread it out and enjoy it, rather than race to the end like I do with fiction.

The Innocents Abroad reads like the best Bill Bryson, except even more politically incorrect and therefore even funnier. It's also surprising how current this is - except for references to things like horses and gaslights, most of this could have been written today; since basically ruins are ruins, and French and Italians are French and Italians, (or "macaroni-stuffing organ grinders," as Twain calls them in a particular fit of pique). Great, classic stuff.

(FINISHED, AUGUST '15) Aannndd...finished. Took forever, but this book is just so dense, so rich, so well-written...you really have to concentrate when you read, but you'll be rewarded with gems on almost every page. He goes on a bit when he actually gets to describing some of the temples, villages, etc. that he visits - but this is a travel book after all, and I came away not only wildly entertained, but also with a lot of new and fascinating information. Overall - and much to my surprise - I'd almost put this up there with Peter Fleming's News From Tartary, which is about the highest praise a humorous travel book can receive!
Profile Image for Negin.
613 reviews151 followers
April 1, 2018
I love Mark Twains’s wit and humor and I really wanted to like this. The cover of the edition that I have is gorgeous by the way. There were a few funny sarcastic remarks here and there, but otherwise this was probably the most boring book that I’ve read in quite a while.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“Human nature is very much the same all over the world.”

“In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.”
349 reviews56 followers
February 15, 2022
Twain's hilariously review of his cruise to Paris, Rome and the Holy Land. While in Paris he gets an inept barber for a shave that cuts him several times. When the barber asks Twain if he wants a haircut too, Twain famously replies "You have already skinned me and now you want to scalp me?" He meets the Czar of Russia, is in awe of the Holy Land and when it appears that his group is to be attacked in the desert," I moved to the rear to be sure that we would not be attacked there"-LOL!
Great fun and highly recommended.

Profile Image for Marc Weitz.
Author 3 books5 followers
June 20, 2012
I found myself anxious to read this book expecting to enjoy the application of Mark Twain's wit to traveling abroad in Europe in 1867. The wit was there but hidden away amongst loads and loads of boring descriptions and events. Reading this book was like watching soccer: there were moments of interest tucked away in long minutes of people running around in a circle. So much so, that when the funny or interesting parts came up, I found that I would miss the beginning because I had zoned out.

This book is about Mark Twain's trip to Europe in 1867 aboard a cruise ship. Surprisingly, this is one of Mark Twain's early works. A travelogue is usually the type of book written by an established author, whom the reader anticipates hearing their perspective on traveling based on being a fan of their fiction.

I'll start with the goods parts: First there are some very funny parts. Mark Twain does a great job making fun of the places he goes to and dealing with the constant cultural differences and people trying to sell them goods they don't need. Also, it interesting to read that travel 150 years ago wasn't all that different. Some of the conversations and complaints Mark Twain has with his traveling companions sound amazingly like those I have today with my friends. I viewed this period as a golden age of travel, but, for example, shops in Paris put up signs saying that they speak English, when they didn't, only to lure tourists in to buy goods. And wherever Twain goes, he is hounded by men offering to be his guide.

The bad part: Most of it. So boring that I felt like I was reading a text book. Long, long, long descriptions of the places they visited that I could care less about. This was before photography really took off, so these long descriptions were for the benefit of the reader. It's also ironic that at the end is Mark Twain's famous quote "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." because he spends almost the entire book bagging on foreigners, their culture, and comparing it to back home where things are better. I finished reading this book with the impression that everyone and everything abroad just sucks, except for a few pretty churches here and there.

Skip this boring book.
1,073 reviews104 followers
December 15, 2017
Trouble with abroad is there's too damn many furriners

Well, Mark Twain certainly had a good sense of humor. You can count on laughing out loud many times as you read this book, which, because times have changed since he wrote it in 1867, is really amazing. It's interesting to read his adventures in the Azores, Gibraltar, Morocco, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Russian Crimea, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and the Holy Land and compare the experiences with what tourists might expect to meet today. The world looks far more uniform now than it did then. A few shenanigans, a few jokes among passengers on the chartered ship that took the whole bunch of them on an extended tour overseas flesh out the volume. The famous author hoped to gain knowledge and insight, but a lot of what he saw repelled him. He could not escape the prejudices and bigotries of his time. The grandeur of ruins and the great sense of history to be found in the Old World inspired him; the order and cleanliness of France attracted him as well. But he often took the ways and tricks of those involved in the tourist trade as typical behavior of the countries involved. Like modern tourists, he did not meet cultured or disinterested people in such places---only touts, guides, servants, salesmen, and beggars.

As Twain travelled he got increasingly bogged down in minute descriptions of antiquities. By the time he got to Jerusalem, I was exhausted. While he revived my interest every now and then with another set of droll remarks or humorous observations, I admit that my will flagged somewhat towards the end of the 476 pages. Nowadays Americans are not so concerned to pinpoint the differences between the Old World and the New. Anyway, both have changed immeasurably in the last 150 years. But Twain, like many writers since--for example, Henry James, Hemingway, and Sinclair Lewis---found the comparison fascinating. Contemporary Americans more easily accept themselves for what they are, at least, they have become less defensive. They have also lost the pretense that somehow America is more innocent, a common 19th century trope. The best way to read this book is to dip into it over a period of time. I loved the sections where he took the mickey out of travel writers who waxed eloquent about the beauties of places that were anything but; recklessly trigger happy writers who claimed they'd showed the "natives" what was what (but probably did nothing of the kind). It's still a great travel book and if you ever liked Mark Twain, you should read it.
Profile Image for Theo Logos.
634 reviews102 followers
February 19, 2023
The Innocents Abroad made Mark Twain. It was his first published book, a best seller sensation (it was his best selling book during his lifetime), it established his authorial voice, and, indirectly, it landed him his wife. (Libby was the sister of a friend he made on the voyage.) Before it’s publication, he was an obscure Western humorist and journalist, little known, and little regarded in the elite East. His fame, prestige, and family can all be traced back to this epic pleasure cruise of 1867 and the book that he wrote about it. The Innocents Abroad is where Sam Clemens became Mark Twain.

This was my third read through of Innocents in the past twenty years. It fascinates me because it contains the essence of Mark Twain, both virtues and faults, already present here in his first published book. Here is his irony and sharp, sly wit, gently (and sometimes not so gently) dissecting both individuals and conventions. Here also is his self-deprecating humor, softening the razor barbs he aims at others. His scorn of romanticism and all forms of hokum are already clearly on display in these pages. His scattershot delivery, running randomly from serious descriptions, humorous asides, tall tales and shaggy dog story interjections, and full blown rants was first established here.

Also in evidence in The Innocents Abroad is Mark Twain’s ambiguous relationship with the conventions of his culture. He presents himself as an outsider, just along for the ride, and much of the humor in his book derives from his mocking of conventions and the wealthy, established “pilgrims” who were his traveling companions on The Quaker City cruise. He mocks them, and he mocks the foreign scammers ready to fleece them in their naivety. Yet he clearly shows how much of their conventional cultural prejudices he shared, particularly when he writes scathingly of the Catholics, Turks, and Arabs that he encountered. These passages are jarring to modern ears, and are a perfect window into the cultural prejudices of mid 19th century WASP American culture. The irony of Mark Twain is that he leveraged his Western, outsider capital mocking the customs of the WASP Eastern establishment to gain a prominent position within that establishment. Nowhere is that central irony of his career more in evidence than in this, his first and most successful book.
Profile Image for Clay Davis.
Author 4 books114 followers
May 13, 2018
This is the best travel story I have read. The author had great humor and biting wit to tell this story. The story is a great mix of history, politics and observations on the human condition. There were sections that were laugh out loud funny. Mark Twain is a comic genius.
Profile Image for Thom Swennes.
1,822 reviews53 followers
March 1, 2012
Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad is a travel book. I have no doubt that it is a travel book because that is exactly how Mark Twain described it. It is, however, much more than a travel book. It is a classic example of how American’s (more often than not) behave in foreign countries. The passing of 145 years (published in 1867) hasn’t changed the American mentality in the least. Twain’s pilgrimage was to southern Europe and the Holy Lands. His descriptions of fellow passengers and people they met were both colorful and humorous. As an American expatriate in Europe I can see and enjoy both sides of his described confrontations. This volume of prose also affords the reader a rare glimpse at the true Samuel Clements. Away from his native shores and surrounded by foreigners his choice of words take on a more “political correct” form and the commonly used word “nigger” is replaced with the more acceptable word “negro.” Although Samuel Clements forefathers owned slaves long before his birth (and the added fact that he enlisted for a short time in the Confederate Army) he wasn’t a slavery advocate. In fact, his descriptions of Negros, both free and slave, did as much for these groups as Stowe’s unforgettable book.
His tour of the Holy Lands, though occasionally a little long winded, is full of geographical, historical and theological facts. He points to and points out flaws in all and humorously presents logical assumptions and deductions. I have come to expect much from this reputed American author and have not been disappointed. Occasionally trifles, such as Twain’s aversion or dismissal of all European currencies as franks, but I had not problem in overlooking these. It is a lesser known masterpiece but masterpiece no less. I recommend it to everyone.
Profile Image for Becky.
5,203 reviews102 followers
March 26, 2019
First sentence: For months the great pleasure excursion to Europe and the Holy Land was chatted about in the newspapers everywhere in America and discussed at countless firesides.

Premise/plot: The Innocents Abroad is a nonfiction travel book by Mark Twain. According to the copy I read, "it was the best selling of Twain’s works during his lifetime and one of the best selling travel books of all time." Twain and his fellow passengers are traveling aboard the ship Quaker City. They'll see parts of Europe--France, Italy, Greece, Russia--and parts of the Middle East--the Holy Land--as well. The book consists mainly of his observations--the ship, the passengers, the hotels, the guides, the tourist-y sights, the smells, the modes of travel. It also includes his observations of human nature and society itself.

My thoughts: I really loved this one. I did. It was often humorous--though not always. It is an actual travel book. Some places get the travel-book-treatment better than others. I get the idea that Twain wasn't super-super impressed with all the usual tourist-y places. That is, I'm not sure Twain loved visiting art museum after art museum after art museum. But Twain isn't one to stay bored--he creates his own entertainment if none is provided. This sometimes makes for a better narrative.
Profile Image for Ann-Marie "Cookie M.".
1,110 reviews121 followers
May 23, 2021
Grover Gardner does such a good job reading this book I am now convinced Mark Twain sounded exactly like him.

Quite a people have made comments about Twain's racist and prejudicial statements in this book, including his assumption that people from just about any culture than our own are lazy, greedy and stupid. This is true, but he was a product if his time, and was fairly enlightened for that time. He let his peers in for quite a lambasting as well. He was a curmudgeon. Everyone was fair game.

His writing was poetic at times. He saw the majesty of the world where it really existed.He saw through the overblown hyping of world "treasures" pitched at tourists.

This book covered the Holy Land more than it did Europe and I am grateful for his honest, slightly cynical description of a world that both no longer exists, and also has become a parody of itself.
Profile Image for Shirley (stampartiste).
351 reviews42 followers
February 15, 2023
This was my Mark Twain selection for 2022. As the subtitle to this book is or The New Pilgrims' Progress, I wanted to read it on the heels of just having read John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1684). While Bunyan's was a spiritual journey, Twain's journey was a physical journey to see famous historical and religious landmarks.

As a travelogue of Twain's trip to Europe, the Holy Lands and Egypt right after the American Civil War, this book was such a treat to see these places before they had been permanently altered by globalization. Twain provided wonderful glimpses into the peoples, the places, the cultures and the mores of each place he visited. Each place was so unique, and it was obvious how much Twain enjoyed himself, often with his unique sense of humor.

Some of the most humorous passages related to his visits to numerous cathedrals and Christian holy places. He was always amused at how so many of these places held "the" thorn of crowns, fragments of "the" cross, "the" ashes of St. John,... He would say he didn't want to disbelieve, but it did make one wonder. However, his humorous observations were not intended to mock religion, as he himself was a believing Christian.

The sheer amount of artwork created by Italian artisans simply overwhelmed Twain. By the time he got to Florence and was told how much was credited to "Michael Angelo", Twain irreverently exclaimed, "He designed the Pope!" and "Say no more! say that the Creator made Italy from designs by Michael Angelo!" (There were times I wish I could have been one of Twain's traveling companions and experienced Europe alongside of him! That would have been a trip to remember.)

There is just so much history and interesting anecdotes in this lively 531-page book. I have only touched on a small part of the places he visited and the adventures he went on. I read it slowly and savored every page (even doing a little side research into what he was describing). I was amazed with Twain's vast knowledge at the age of 34. Several times, he would comment on how he had wanted to see one place or another since he was a child. I wondered how a child growing up in rural Hannibal, Missouri could have known so much of the world. It left me with an even deeper appreciation of Twain. He was obviously very inquisitive and an avid learner all his life.

I wish I could give this book more than 5 stars. It was fantastic!
Profile Image for Simon Robs.
436 reviews94 followers
March 16, 2021
A quite remarkable travel writing account of an 1867 trip abroad to Europe and the Middle East by America's folklorist hero and scribe early on in his writing career.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,578 reviews402 followers
August 4, 2022
Unfortunately for Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad was the book club choice amidst my months-long reading slump and it just wasn't strong enough to pull me out of it. I also couldn't find a decent audiobook, which contributed to my feeling of ambivalence.
There is no doubt this book is laugh-out-loud funny at times. It is amazing to realize how little Americans tourists have changed in over a hundred and fifty years. I found it relatable (mostly when Twain was grumbling), amusing (his running commentary about Americans whipping out weapons!), and all too familiar. My book club certainly added to the experience by pointing out scenes I missed or sharing their own travel experiences.
But...yeah, most of this book I was zoned out. The occasional funny scene was surrounded by chapters of tedious description. I was braced for Twain's bias and even racism, but his humor is frequently just mean.
I might come back to this one day for a slow read in print. But there is a reason this one hasn't gone down in the canon of American literature like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Profile Image for Daren.
1,300 reviews4,372 followers
June 19, 2017
As I made my way through the pages of this book, I became more and more concerned. I reached about halfway, and we were still in France, having departed New York, visited the Azores, Gibraltar, Spain and undertaken a sidetrip to Tangier. As I reached the three quarter mark, and we were in Venice.
I returned to the title pages, scouring for a clue as to my concern. Rechecking the published agenda of the steamship - yes, definitely a trip to the Holy Lands... Yes definitely a lot of Europe is listed, but, hell we are running out of pages!

So despite no indication to suggest this was volume 1 of The Innocents Abroad, it does in fact end as we prepare to leave Pompeii.

A little about this edition, which, despite being only half the book, is quite attractive. It is a 1910 hardcover edition with an embossed cover and spine, gold leaf on the spine. The embossed pattern is a geometric Art Nouveau pattern, and inside the cover is an amazing peacock artwork, also in Art Nouveau style with a boxed border. Part of The World Library, published by Ward Lock & Co.

I have previously read an excerpt of this book, published as a Penguin Great Journeys book called Can-Cans, Cats and Cities of Ash. It was excellent, and having read the relevant sections of the full book now, can say the excerpts were very well selected, and it really did pick some of the best writing.

As much as I enjoyed this book - and I did - the great writing, the relentless ridiculing of almost anything or anyone, the interesting side-stories, legends and local stories - what I was really looking forward to was the second part of the journey, beyond Europe. Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, Beirut, Jordan, Egypt, followed by returning again through Europe.

Some quick google found a copy of the book I could download, so the second volume beckons, but it is likely to be a slow burner, as I dislike reading from the screen. Maybe I will print it out...

Volume 1 - 4 stars.

Review of Volume 2 HERE
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
700 reviews29.1k followers
December 27, 2006
The First great Twain travel novel. The author makes fun of a bunch American tourists who travel through the Holy Land and the Near East in 1869. A must for Twain lovers and people interested in that region.
February 14, 2020
In 1867 Mark Twain had the opportunity to join a "pleasure cruise" being planned by a few select, wealthy travelers to Europe and the Holy Land. This was something new, as back then the cruise industry we know didn’t exist; people saw travel by ship as a necessity to get from place to place, not as a vacation unto itself. This book is a collection of the reports Twain wrote back home during the trip.

I haven't read much by Mark Twain. Based on this account I am sad to report that he seemed like kind of an asshole. He went through this amazing adventure apparently determined to find the worst in everyone and everything he saw, and to report that almost every experience fell short of his expectations. His descriptions were generally merciless and very, very long.

Still, there was a lot to like in this novel and I have to rate it 5 stars just because it is SO incredibly cool to have a detailed account of travel 150 years ago. Imagine being in Istanbul (then Constantinople) when it wasn't yet a modern city, but instead full of people in exotic Arabian dress, riding camels and donkeys. Imagine visiting the great Pyramids before King Tut's tomb was even discovered. Imagine Rome and Paris and other European cities before they were changed forever by the destruction of two World Wars. Imagine being taken to meet the Russian Tzar and his family, simply because travelers from the US were so rare. (Note, I imagine I would have enjoyed these things much more if cranky old Mark Twain wasn't among the party, complaining about everything.)

Twain is famous for his wit, but for the most part I founds his observations more mean-spirited than funny. However, there were three specific scenes that made me laugh so hard I cried; the kind of funny that I know will forever make me start giggling again just thinking about them - I can't help but like a book that gives me that gift.

I have been to many of the places he describes, but never to the Holy Land. He was surprisingly knowledgeable about the Bible, and his descriptions in that section alone was worth putting up with some of the more boring parts. So in short, this book is definitely not for everyone, but for me it was ultimately worth the time.

[WARNING: If you are a person who can’t cope with the fact that there was a time when no one knew what it meant to be PC, I caution that you will be violently triggered by this book. For example, I am 100% Italian, and I was informed repeatedly that Twain found us all to be lazy, dirty, smelly and stupid. He really warmed to this topic and returned to it again and again. To be fair, he was contemptuous of most of the other foreign people that he encountered, especially Muslims - he was really NOT a fan. So you will be morally obligated to condemn this book as racist and Islamophobic. Also misogynistic, because Twain thought most women of other nationalities were ugly. There was also some distressing animal cruelty. You know what, don't even bother reading it, just start demanding that it be banned.]
Profile Image for Brian Eshleman.
830 reviews103 followers
May 2, 2017
Twain's satirical take on his travels is expected. This makes his resilient positive expectation for the next experience all the more touching. Given this default to cynicism, his distinction between skewering how Christians carry out tradition and a startlingly high view of Christ and the Scriptures is compelling. He continually reminded me of C.S. Lewis's admonition that the point of seeing through things is to see something through them.

SECOND READING: Carry forward all the compliments above several years. I even thought of the same quote from Lewis. Does this mean I'm set in my ways?
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