Tremendously interesting question, and perhaps I betray my own ignorance
by speculating on what might have happened: Had he, at the time, written
anything that pressed him hard, emotionally? Such an experience might
well have shown him the possible strengths in the writing he could
This sort of thing is reported by Joseph Conrad, who, after
completing The Nigger of the Narcissus, understood that he must leave the
sea and become a writer. It was at that time that he wrote his famous
preface to that story; a sort of confession and dedication to the art.
Maybe something similar happened with Twain?
On Sun, 29 Sep 1996, Mike Lankford wrote:
> 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
> in Clemens' life is so rarely mentioned, or even recognized. I'm
> about Sam's 'walk in the desert' and what sort of change came over him.
> 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
> 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?