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Roughing It by Mark Twain

The Mark of Greatness

Roughing It by Mark Twain

A weaver of wit, sarcasm, and astute observation, Mark Twain offers this memoir as an account of his trip through Nevada, California, and the Sandwich Islands, now known as Hawaii in the mid 1800s. In 1861 Twain travels by stagecoach to Carson City, Nevada, where his brother, Orion, was appointed Territorial Secretary of Nevada. Twain recounts frontier life in Nevada with humorous tales of thieves, murderers, miners, Chinamen, buffalos, and coyotes. He tells of Mormon immigrants, of life in the desert, prospecting, and the dreary and laborious task of processing silver ore.
Although both my husband and I read this book years ago, we still laugh at the “spider” incident.  It’s also hard to forget Old Miss Wagner and her borrowed glass eye rolling around in her head and scaring all the kids. With one colorful anecdote after another, this book is pure entertainment. They say laughter is the best medicine.  So, the next time you, or someone you know, is feeling down, pick up a copy of Roughing It.  It might not cure what ails you, but it should definitely make you smile. Check out some of his witticism.

“I was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith & Wesson’s seven-shooter, which carried a ball like a homeopathic pill, and it took the whole seven to make a dose for an adult.”
Mark Twain, Roughing It(1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 3.

“And the next instant,” added my informant, impressively, “he was one of the deadest men that ever lived.”
Mark Twain, Roughing It(1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 44.

“It is chloroform in print.” (about the “Mormon Bible) 
Mark Twain, Roughing It(1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 72.

Here are some more Mark Twain works to consider:

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories (1865) – Book of humorous short stories including a frog race in Calaveras County. 

Innocents Abroad – (1869) Nonfiction travel book about Samuel Clemens’ journey through Europe on a chartered vessel.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) – Story of a cunning boy’s exploits in small river town.  

A Tramp Abroad – Nonfiction travel book. (1880)

The Prince and the Pauper (1881) – Story of a poor boy who resembles the prince so much, the prince decides to switch places with him to experience life outside the palace.

Life on the Mississippi (1883)Nonfiction musings of Samuel Clemens’ life as a riverboat pilot and what it took to navigate those precarious waters. This book is filled with not only Clemens’ personal travels, it is also aimed to be more educational, with a few facts and figures of the Mississippi and towns around it. Mainly though, Twain drew me in and kept me there with his signature clever storytelling and amusing way with words. 

“…as for the contents of his skull, they could have changed place with the contents of a pie, and nobody would have been the worse off for it but the pie.” 
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi(H.O. Houghton & Company, 1874; reprint, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers: Year Unknown), 443.

“I managed to get around this question without committing myself.”
“I crept under that one.”
“I climbed over this one.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi(H.O. Houghton & Company, 1874; reprint, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, Year Unknown), 200.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) –The story of a boy raised by a drunk father who runs away and rafts down the Mississippi with a runaway slave. 

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) – An American engineer is transported back to the time of the early Middle Ages in King Arthur’s court where he captivates the locals with his modern technology. 

Those Extraordinary Twins (1892) – A novella about conjoined twins who also appear in Puddn’head Wilson. They are accused of assault in a small town and end up in court with Puddn’head Wilson defending the twins. More about them coming up.

The £1,000,000 Bank Note and Other New Stories (1893) – More short stories, essays and reflections by Mark Twain.  

Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894) – This short novel takes Tom, Huck, and former slave Jim, cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon; destination, Africa.   They encounter new sights like the Great Pyramids and engage in wild capers. 

Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894) – A young misunderstood lawyer has a hobby of collecting fingerprints, which he later uses to solve a crime. More on that later.

Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896) – Tom solves a mysterious murder involving his uncle.  

A Double Barrelled Detective Story (1902) – Novella about Sherlock Holmes in California. 

The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories (1904) – A collection of short stories.  The $30,000 Bequestis the tale of a couple who are to receive a large inheritance and start thinking of ways spend the money. Also includes A Dog's Tale– Told from the perspective of a dog, this short story details how a dog saves a child from a burning house but is misunderstood and beaten.  

Happy reading,



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