Robert M. Rodney. _Mark Twain Overseas: A Biographical Account of His
Voyages, Travels, and Reception in Foreign Lands, 1866-1910_. Washington,
Three Continents Press, 1993. Pp. xix, 349. Cloth, ISBN 0-89410-720-8,
$35.00. Paper, ISBN 0-89410-721-6, $18.00.
Mark Twain Forum subscribers are entitled to a 30 percent discount when they
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Reviewed for the Mark Twain Forum by:
Barbara W. Taylor
Copyright (c) Mark Twain Forum, 1995. This review may not be published or
redistributed in any medium without permission.
As the title suggests, _Mark Twain Overseas_ is a description of
overseas travels. Yet the book provides much more than just a chronicle of
travel adventures; it is also a research tool. It chronicles Twain's sea
voyages, overland travels, his living arrangements and his encounters with
interesting people. Furthermore it touches on both what he brought to the
countries he visited; that is, the force of his personality, his public
speaking and lecturing, his "good will Ambassador" image; and also what
traveling brought to him--new perspectives and a larger vision of the human
race. Mr. Rodney also examines Twain as a travel writer and discusses his
observations in these terms. Asserting that a writer is more than the sum of
his literary works, Rodney illustrates that much can be learned by putting
the writer's works in the context of his life.
The book opens with Mark Twain's trip to Hawaii in 1866. The text is
written as a day-to-day narrative of Twain's activities and acquaintances
during the trip. The text is illustrated with photographs, maps, and
applicable quotations from Twain.
It goes on to chronicle Twain's travels back to the "states", to the
Holy Land, to England, his around the world tour, and his late in life trips
Bermuda. Each of these chapters follows the pattern of the first by giving
the daily activities, a map and photographs of places mentioned. Rodney
quotes from notes, letters and diaries, allowing Twain to tell his own story
as much as possible.
The book, the first work to look comprehensively at Twain as
contains six appendices which include lists of friends and acquaintances, a
chronological list of his lectures abroad (i.e., his lectures in England
and around the world), a list of British tributes, and the final appendix
entitled "Mark Twain's peregrinations overseas".
This book is a useful resource for both casual Mark Twain fans and
serious Twain scholars. As a person who has read many letters by Twain, his
family and friends in non-chronological order, I must say that this is the
book that I have wished for. Reading Twain materials always left me puzzling
about the details that were left out. From reading Twain's letters, I
wondered about how the voyages fit together and what the places an
residences looked like. This book gives a visual image to scenes in Twain's
life. For the general reader this work provides glimpses into the life of
one of the most important writers of the nineteenth century as well as a
peek at life in different locations at that time. For the scholar, the book
offers a perspective about the nature of Twain's work and how that work
This is a book that is enjoyable to read and also contains a great
of information arranged in a new way. It would make a good starting point
serious scholars to begin on more concentrated investigations in related