Study Guide

Mark Twain Classics

Classics

Picture it: 1866. No television, no radio, no internet, and no telephones. People are shivering in the streets. The pigeons have revolted and taken over the White House. President Andrew Johnson is being held hostage by the pigeons. Johnson issues a desperate plea, saying it would be "coo coo to disobey our new pigeon overlords." The pigeons do not appreciate the pun. 

...Okay, most of that was fake, and clearly we have some issues with pigeons. 

However, the entertainment sources we know and love today? They were a long ways away. The only real way to get entertainment back then was to go see it live. Lectures were a popular pastime, and one in which Twain excelled. His comedic delivery was a hit with live audiences, and he kicked off a lecturing career that would span the next few decades and rival any stand-up special currently on Netflix. These lectures, along with his books, made Twain a celebrity.

In 1869, Twain published his first book, The Innocents Abroad, a nonfiction account of his travels to Europe. The book introduced readers to Twain's trademark brand of wit and observation. "The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate a-- 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 a--," he wrote. "If the case be otherwise, I beg his pardon and extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and call him brother."blank" href="https://www.shmoop.com/huckleberry-finn/">Huckleberry Finn. However, it made its mark as one of the first novels to explore time travel, and has been called one of the earliest science fiction novels. 

Twain's real-life time as a Connecticut Yankee was limited. After several bad business investments, his finances were a mess. The Clemenses sold their house in Connecticut and moved to Europe, where the living was cheaper.

We bet they bragged about it every chance they got, too. Whoop-dee-doo, you lived abroad. 

No one cares.

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