Monday, December 9, 2019

MARK TWAIN and the Holy Land: The First Tourism Trip in American History: Review By Polly Guerin

The Legendary American writer Mark Twain 
JOURNEY ABROAD WITH AN AMERICAN LEGEND on THE FIRST ORGANIZED TOURISM TRIP IN AMERICAN HISTORY. The quintessential American writer Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910)--known professional as Mark Twain---set the bar with high standards in his legendary travelogues. With keen observations, "He set sail from New York for a great adventure abroad whilst capturing the feelings and reactions of many Americans exploring beyond their borders and thereby inspired generations of travelers to document their voyages," stated Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New York Historical Society where the exhibition is on view through February 2, 2020.
      The new exhibition, MARK TWAIN AND THE HOLY LAND, traces the legendary American humorist's 1867 voyage to the Mediterranean and his subsequent 1869 book--The Innocents Abroad or, The New Pilgrim's Progress---through original documents, artwork, photographs, and costumes as well as an interactive media experience. MARK TWAIN departed New York harbor on the steamship QUAKER CITY for a five-and-a-half-month excursion, the first of its kind in world travel. Known at that point for his biting satire and humorous short pieces on California and the West, Clemens had serendipitously discovered a "pleasure cruise" to Europe and the Near East,  and successfully inveigled his way onto the journey with an assignment from the San Francisco newspaper Alto California. Twain was to supply the paper with weekly columns about the trip and his fellow passengers. THE QUAKER CITY TRIP WAS THE FIRST ORGANIZED TOURISM TRIP IN AMERICAN HISTORY . The steamship was opulently outfitted with a library, printing press, piano, and pipe organ. A Quaker City passenger list, an oil painting of the ship are on display as well as a journal entry by Mark Twain.
       
Mark Twain's /Quaker City Ticket
THE INCARNATION OF THE INNOCENTS ABROAD When Twain returned to New York and then to Washington, D.C. he began reshaping those columns and other notes made during the trip into a book, The Innocents Abroad (1869), It was this work that catapulted Twain to national fame, selling more copies during his lifetime than any other book he ever wrote. Musing about the voyage in a passage later published in Innocents Abroad, Twain so aptly noted: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness." That his travelogue espoused such a liberal sentiment is the very reason we can find Twain;s biting perspective as relevant today. THE HOLY LAND After stops in Europe travelers were greet in Beirut by a grand caravan of horses and mules for a journey of 155 miles to "Baalbec, Damascus, the sea of Tiberias, and thence southward by way of the scene of Jacob's Dream and other notable Bible localities to Jerusalem. But the pomp was in strong contrast to the reality of a small barren land, which was not the vast and monumental landscape suggested by the Bible.  image: THE HOLY LAND
Twain was disappointed that "a fast walker could go outside the the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely around the city in an hour." Then too, adding to the artifacts on display a manuscript leaf features Twain's withering satirical soliloquy about the Tomb of Adam at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. "The Tomb of Adam how touching that it was here in a land of strangers, far from home, and friends, and all who cared for me, thus to discover the grave of a blood relation."  TWAIN'S CAUSTIC VIEW OF THE HOLY LAND WITH ITS NOMADS, BEGGARS AND RUINS WAS THE AUTHOR'S WAY OF PROCLAIMING THE ARRIVAL OF THE NEW AMERICAN TRAVELER, SOMEONE WHO SAW THE WORLD FOR WHAT IT WAS, WITHOUT THE DISTORTING LENSES OF TRADITION AND PERCEIVED AUTHORITY. TWAIN HAD SAMPLED THE GUIDES AND TRAVEL VOLUMES AND FOUND THEM ALLWITHOUT FOUNDATION.
    TA TA DARLINGS!!! After this incredible trip to the Holy Land I'm just about ready to fly
back home.  Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's other Blogs at 
www.pollytalk.com and click in the left-hand column to links to visionary men, women determined to succeed, the fashion historian and poetry.
         

1 comment:

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