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Mike Lankford <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 29 Sep 1996 19:22:56 -0500
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I've only been on the list a short time so I hope this question has not
been covered before.

I've wondered for years why it is that-- what seems to me-- a seminal event
in Clemens' life is so rarely mentioned, or even recognized.  I'm wondering
about Sam's 'walk in the desert' and what sort of change came over him.  If
I've got my facts right, he'd been living extremely poor and failing as a
miner, his life was at a crisis point and he was 30 years old (fairly aged
at the time) when he decided to walk to Virginia City, and along the way
chose finally to take a job as a reporter, to pin his hopes on being a
writer, a complete reversal in his life.  Up to this point he had
considered success only in terms of 'striking it rich' in gold or silver.
He had sworn not to return to Missouri until he was a 'made man.'  All
those dreams had to be abandoned in order to give himself wholeheartedly to
an new endeavor, and a new identity.

Doesn't it stand to reason that Clemens was somewhat depressed and
disillusioned when starting out on that rather arduous journey walking
through the desert, and given that he came out the other side of the
journey with a new resolve--then my question is: what happened in the

Okay, so nobody knows.  I understand the difficulty of the question.
Perhaps I'm only registering my surprise that in a field as thoroughly
scoured as Twain studies, why has no one written about such a seminal
event, what might be described from the outside as perhaps a 'breakdown?'
Or am I just advertising my ignorance in billboard size letters?