I've recently been reading Mark Twain The Fate of Humor by James M. Cox.
I've also been doing some close reading of The Innocents Abroad as I
continue to produce slideshows. I'm in agreement that The Innocents
Abroad presents a series of encounters with long held fantasies about
Europe and the Holy Land, most clearly represented by the suffering
experienced with every shave. What I'm concerned about here, though, is
Cox's take on the Pisan tear-jug. Twain writes:
“No shrewdly-worded history could have brought the myths and shadows of
that old dreamy age before us clothed with human flesh and warmed with
human sympathies so vividly as did this poor little unsentient vessel of
Cox recognizes the difficulty of interpreting this passage as “genuine
or spurious”, but concludes that it is yet another example of Twain's
burlesque. Indeed that the entire book is a burlesque. My own impression
is a bit different. The Innocents Abroad, indeed contains much that can
be described as burlesque with Twain continually facing the destruction
of youthful fancies. This provides much of the humor found in the book.
And, I believe, is the meaning of the title of the book. But I don't
think that is all that is going on here. I viewed the discussion of the
tear-jug as a counter-point to all the praise delivered unto the “Old
Masters” by his pilgrim associates, who could appreciate the Old
This tear-jug must have been of some significance to Twain as he
purchased it for four hundred and fifty dollars. That was no small bit
of change in those days (and no trifle for me today). The jug is again
mentioned on page 185 of A Tramp Abroad. He is packing his collection of
Keramics, dividing them between warehousing and “getting them into the
Grand Ducal Museum at Mannheim”.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of
in your philosophy.