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Barbara Schmidt <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 15 Mar 2006 10:38:49 -0600
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Hoffmann, Donald. _Mark Twain in Paradise: His Voyages to Bermuda_.
University of Missouri Press, 2006. x + 185 pages. Cloth. $29.95. ISBN

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Reviewed for the Mark Twain Forum by:
Barbara Schmidt

Between 1867 and 1910 Mark Twain spent a total of 187 days in Bermuda, an
island cluster located in the Atlantic Ocean about 700 miles southeast of
New York and 568 miles east of North Carolina. Donald Hoffmann's
well-researched volume examines the reasons behind Twain's eight trips to
Bermuda, where he went, where he stayed, how he spent his time, who he met,
and charitable activities in which he participated. The book contains eight
chapters with reference notes and an appendix of dates for each voyage.
Numerous black and white photos, many of which are contemporary to the time
Twain visited Bermuda, are included.

Hoffman states that in writing his book, "I have favored facts, direct
observation, primary sources, and various extracts in order to steer clear
of secondary commentary, contrived interpretations, and the claptrap that
comes from pretending to have delved successfully into someone else's
unconscious" (ix). Hoffmann's primary sources include letters, diaries,
newspaper reports, and Mark Twain's own autobiography. When he does venture
into offering his own personal theories, such as equating a voyage to
Bermuda to the "sense of enlarged freedom that soon became the manifold
theme of his masterwork, _Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_: the freedom from
slavery, from the genteel, the indoors and all 'the shackles of
civilization'" (p. 26) readers are easily convinced that he is right on

Twain's first visit to Bermuda came in November 1867 at the tail end of the
five-month _Quaker City_ excursion to the Holy Land. The passengers spent
four days in Bermuda, a land mass of less than twenty square miles. Twain
was apparently travel weary when he visited Bermuda and only briefly
mentioned Bermuda and Bermudians in _Innocents Abroad_, the book that
resulted from the trip: "We bade good-bye to 'our friends the Bermudians,'
as our programme hath it--the majority of those we were most intimate with
were negroes... I said the majority. We knew more negroes than white
people, because we had a deal of washing to be done..." (p. 24).

Throughout his book, Hoffmann places Twain's activities into historical
context. He wisely and efficiently uses the 1867 voyage to introduce his
readers to Mark Twain and to the history of Bermuda, a British colony that
had openly supported the Confederacy in the American Civil War and a place
that few Americans visited in the postwar years. Charles M. Allen had
served as President Abraham Lincoln's wartime consul in Bermuda in 1861. He
remained in Bermuda after the war and eventually came to know Twain.
Allen's son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter Helen Allen would later find
themselves closely associated with Mark Twain's dying days.

Twain's longest body of commentary regarding Bermuda came a decade later
after his May 1877 visit with Reverend Joseph Twichell. Hoffmann offers no
clear reason for the 1877 excursion or the selection of Bermuda as the
destination where Twain and Twichell stayed four days in a private boarding
house. The trip resulted in Twain's 15,000-word sketch "Some Rambling Notes
of an Idle Excursion" which was published in four installments in the
_Atlantic Monthly_ from October 1877 through January 1878. Hoffmann devotes
two chapters to this trip, one of which analyzes the trip and the resulting
sketch and another chapter which focuses on Twain's notebook entries that
did not make it into the final magazine installments.

Bermuda increased in popularity as a travel destination after Twain's
_Atlantic Monthly_ articles. The Princess Hotel opened in 1884 and became a
haven for wealthy American travelers. However, it would be another thirty
years before Twain returned. In January 1907, Twain and Twichell returned
to Bermuda for three days. Twain, widowed in 1904, was accompanied on this
trip by his secretary Isabel Lyon. In reconstructing this trip Hoffmann
relies on Isabel Lyon's journal, at least one interview in the Bermuda
_Royal Gazette_, and Twain's own autobiographical dictations. The reader
senses that this trip was not as idyllic as it had been thirty years
earlier. Lyon's journal indicates Twain felt a certain amount of
aggravation with Twichell and Hoffmann also hints of that possibility
stating that after returning stateside "On January 26, Clemens mailed a
foul-worded poem to Twichell, saying 'all the periodicals' had rejected it,
and pretending it should be published in the _Hartford Courant_" (p. 169).

Almost as soon as Twichell, Twain and Lyon returned from Bermuda, Twain
began planning a return trip--a voyage of four days at sea for twenty-four
hours on the island March 18-19. On this trip, Paddy Madden, a young school
girl Twain had met on his previous return voyage from Bermuda accompanied
Twain and Lyon back to Bermuda. Madden was only one of several young school
girls linked with Twain's Bermuda trips between 1907 and 1910. Hoffmann
again relies on both Lyon's diaries and Twain's own autobiography for
insight into the efforts Twain was making to "appease a restlessness which
invades my system" (81). Hoffmann also points out the historical context of
this trip with Twain's meeting of wealthy industrialist Thomas D. Peck who
was "uneasily married" to Mary Allen Hulbert Peck, who had "met and
enchanted" future president of the United States Woodrow Wilson a few
months earlier (p. 79).

Twain planned several more trips to Bermuda in 1907 after his return from
Oxford, England during the summer of that year. Those plans all fell
through--until January 1908, when he recruited Ralph Ashcroft to accompany
him on a seven-day visit. On this trip Twain met writer Upton Sinclair, the
author of _The Jungle_ (1906), which had just caused a national sensation;
dined with Mrs. Peck and Woodrow Wilson; and formed a friendship with
Elizabeth Wallace, dean at the University of Chicago who also vacationed in
Bermuda. Wallace kept a journal, and later wrote a book about her Bermuda
experiences with Twain. Hoffmann pulls material from Wallace's memoirs as
well as Twain's autobiography. Twain felt that Bermuda was rejuvenating his
health and grieved that his dead wife Livy never had the opportunity to
share the Bermuda paradise with him. He wrote, "It grieves me, and I feel
reproached, that I allowed the physicians to send Mrs. Clemens on a
horrible ten-day sea journey to Italy when Bermuda was right here at hand
and worth a hundred Italies, for her needs . . . [F]or climate Florence was
a sarcasm as compared with Bermuda" (p. 101).

Almost as soon as Twain and Ashcroft returned to the states in February
1908, Twain did an about face and again returned to Bermuda. Accompanied by
Henry H. Rogers, Rogers's son-in-law William Benjamin, Rogers's valet
(unnamed), and Isabel Lyon, Twain spent forty-seven days on the islands
from February 24-April 11. Hoffmann again relies on Lyon's journal and
Elizabeth Wallace's memoirs to add insight to this trip. Both women weighed
in on Mrs. Peck. Lyon referred to the enchanting Mrs. Peck as "a snare for
men folk" and Wallace saw in Peck "a little restless look of unfulfilment
[sic] about her eyes and mouth that gave grounds for romantic speculation"
(p. 107). On this trip Twain met thirteen-year-old Helen Allen,
granddaughter of Charles Allen. Helen's grandmother had known Livy as a
child and Twain visited with Grandmother Allen and talked about the Langdon
family and friends in Elmira, New York. Helen's mother Marion Schuyler
Allen began a memoir of Twain's visits to the family home and Hoffmann
relies on the Allen memoir to help piece together activities with the Allen

When Twain's health began its decline in November 1909, he returned to
Bermuda for twenty-six days, this time in the company of his biographer
Albert Bigelow Paine. He returned stateside in time for Christmas 1909.
After the sudden death of his daughter Jean Clemens on Christmas Eve 1909,
Twain once again sought healing and solace in Bermuda. This final visit to
Bermuda, in the company of his French butler Claude Beuchotte, lasted
ninety-five days. (Hoffmann misspells Beuchotte as "Benchotte" copying the
spelling error first made by Hamlin Hill in _God's Fool_ and duplicated by
Karen Lystra in _Dangerous Intimacy_.) Twain lodged with the Allen family
while Beuchotte resided at the local Hamilton hotel. The Bermuda _Royal
Gazette_ reported Twain played miniature golf with Woodrow Wilson. He
crossed paths again with a young schoolgirl named Dorothy Quick. He wrote
letters, one of which contained an angry response to Elizabeth Wallace who
had tried to reassure him of an afterlife. Once again, Hoffmann pieces
together primary sources from those involved to give readers a close
account of Twain's mindset during his final trip to Bermuda. Twain departed
Bermuda for the last time on April 12, 1910.

Hoffmann is to be commended for providing readers with a clear and concise
study of Twain's connection to the Bermuda island paradise. However, there
are shortcomings in his work that will leave some readers wanting more
information. The dust jacket text of his book states the author has culled
information from Twain's "unpublished" autobiographical dictation. And
herein lies one shortcoming of Hoffmann's book. He uses blanket reference
notes to account for almost all quotations that are pulled from Mark
Twain's letters and manuscripts. Thus one footnote suffices for most
quotations from Twain's letters: "All quotations for Clemens's
correspondence can be located in the electronic editions of his published
and unpublished letters in the Mark Twain Papers, the Bancroft Library" (p.
159). And one footnote suffices for most of the quotes from
autobiographical dictation: "Typescripts of all his dictations are in the
Mark Twain Papers, Bancroft Library" (p. 160). This method of footnoting
and referencing also applies to most of the other sources Hoffmann
utilizes--after referencing a source once in a note, he quotes from it
without further footnoting of the source or page number. A reader who jumps
into Hoffmann's book in the middle may be lost when trying to nail down
where a quoted passage originated. The lack of full citations for each
quote and reference to its previous publication (if any) might be forgiven
if the book had included a formal bibliography, but it does not. Since the
book claims publication of previously unpublished Twain material, the
general citations make it impossible to identify new text.

Since many readers may not be familiar with the geography of Bermuda, a
good, easy-to-read map would have been helpful. The map included is
half-page size of approximately 3" x 4" from _Harper's_ March 1874 with
tiny typeface, some of which is difficult to decipher. This book will be a
"must have" for any scholar planning a trip to Bermuda to recreate Twain's
treks around the island paradise and a larger map would be helpful.

_Mark Twain in Paradise_ is a valuable addition to Twain studies. Readers
will come away from Hoffmann's book with a clearer understanding of the
series of trips Twain made to Bermuda--from the brief visit in 1867 where
Twain did his washing to voyages that might best be characterized as
escapes and searches for something that was missing toward the end of his
life. An insightful and informative read, _Mark Twain in Paradise_ is one
to add to the Twain bookshelf.