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The following review appeared 2 May 1995 on the Mark
Copyright © Mark Twain Forum, 1995. This review may not be published or redistributed in any medium without permission.
Barbara W. Taylor <email@example.com>
As the title suggests, Mark Twain Overseas is a description of Twain's 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
text is illustrated with photographs, maps, and applicable quotations from
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 to 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 traveler, also 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 more 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 and 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 developed.
This is a book that is enjoyable to read and also contains a great deal of information arranged in a new way. It would make a good starting point for serious scholars to begin on more concentrated investigations in related areas.