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Clemens's first trip to England, in 1872, marked the beginning of his lifelong love for Great Britain and its people, who returned his affection with equal enthusiasm. He made three trips between 1872 and early 1874, spending more time abroad than at home. Although he returned often between 1879 and 1900, occasionally for an extended stay, the full extent of his popularity was most evident during his final trip in 1907, when he received an honorary degree from Oxford University.
Clemens's copy of Routledge's Guide to London and his unpublished manuscript of a guide-book parody
Clemens intended to gather material for a book when he first sailed for England in August 1872. Since the book was never written, his English journal now provides the best indication of what its contents might have been. In the journal is a draft for a guide-book parody, an idea he apparently conceived while reading Routledge's Guide to London: a few pages after the section on St. Paul's Cathedral he wrote in the margin, "Make a sham guide-book, for fun."
Upon arriving at Saint Paul's; the first thing that bursts upon the beholder is the back yard. This fine work of art is forty-three feet long by thirty-four & a half feet wide& all enclosed with real iron railings. The pavement is of fine oolite, or skylight, or some other stone of that geologic period, & is laid almost flat on the ground, in places. The stones are exactly square, & it is thought that they were made so by design; though of course, as in all matters of antiquarian science, there are wide differences of opinion about this. The architect of the pavement was Morgan Jones, of No. 4, Piccadilly, Cheapside, Islington. He died in the reign of Richard III, of the prevailing disorder. An axe fell on his neck.
Ticket to the British Museum reading room
18 September 1872
Several days after his visit to the museum, Clemens mentioned it in a speech: "The Library at the British Museum I find particularly astounding. I have read there hours together & hardly made an impression on it. I revere that library. It is the author's friend. I don't care how mean a book is, it always takes one copy. And then, every day that author goes there to gaze at that book, & is encouraged to go on in the good work. And what a touching sight it is of a Saturday afternoon to see the poor toil-worn clergymen gathered together in that vast reading-room cabbaging sermons for Sunday!"
Clemens writes to his wife about his English reception
London, 28 September 1872
Clemens was amazedand delightedby the attention he received in London. Less than a month after his arrival he wrote his wife, Olivia, about the unprecedented applause that greeted his name when the list of guests was read at a dinner hosted by the new sheriffs of London. This testimony to the popularity of his books was confirmed in November, when the Lord Chancellor told him that "when affairs of state oppress him & he can't sleep, he always has my books at hand & forgets his perplexities in reading them!"
In accordance with ancient custom, a man got up & called the names of all that immense mass of guests, beginning with the new Sheriff (a tremendous office in London) & called a horde of great names, one after another, which were received in respectful silencebut when he came to my name along with the rest, there was such a storm of applause as you never heard. The applause continued, & they could not go on with the list. I was never so taken aback in my lifenever stricken so speechlessfor it was totally unlocked-for [sic] on my part. I thought I was the humblest in that great titled assemblage& behold, mine was the only name in the long list that called forth this splendid compliment.
Clemens returned home in November 1872, planning to revisit England in the spring. In May 1873 he again sailed from New York, accompanied by Olivia, his fourteen-month-old daughter, Susy, and Clara Spaulding, a childhood friend of Olivia's.
Photograph of the Clemens family with Dr. John Brown
In mid-July the Clemenses left London for Edinburgh, "fleeing thither for rest and refuge," as Clemens later expressed it. There they met Dr. John Brown (the author of "Rab and His Friends," a popular dog story), with whom they developed a warm friendship. Here they are pictured with Dr. Brownwho, according to Clemens, had "the face of a saint at peace with all the world." Susy is in Clara Spaulding's lap.
Photograph courtesy of the Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut.
Unpublished manuscript of "The Doré Gallery"
Clemens made several visits to an art gallery in London devoted entirely to the exhibition and sales of the works of Gustav Doré. He was particularly impressed by the recently completed Christ Leaving the Praetorium, an immense painting that he described in his journal as "the greatest work of art that I have ever seen." In 1873 he drafted this humorous sketch, in which he mocks the importunate efforts of gallery employees to sell engravings to visitors.
Broadside announcement of Clemens's lectures
After a brief stop in Ireland, the Clemenses returned to London in September. In answer to repeated requests for a public appearance, Clemens agreed to a course of lectures, to begin on 13 October. His agent, George Dolby (who had formerly represented Charles Dickens), prepared this announcement for the Sandwich Islands lecture, a staple in Clemens's repertoire.
In 1907 Clemens traveled to England to receive an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford Universitya recognition that delighted him: "I never expected to cross the water again, but I would be willing to journey to Mars for that Oxford degree." From the moment of his arrival at Tilbury, where the stevedores on the dock greeted him with "a welcome which went to the marrow," people of every sort paid such affectionate tribute that he was moved to remark, "When I stand under the English flag, I am not a stranger, I am not an alien, but at home."
Photograph of Clemens in his Oxford robe
During the ceremony at Oxford on 26 June, Clemens remarked to a student, the Maharajah of Bikanir, "I like the degree well enough, but I'm crazy about the clothes! I wish I could wear 'em all day and night. . . . If there's a dearth of Maharajahs any time in India, just cable me, sir, and I'll take the next train." He enjoyed wearing the robe occasionally after he returned homedonning it even for his daughter Clara's wedding in 1909.
Banquet invitation and farewell speech
Shortly before his departure for home, Clemens attended a banquet held in his honor by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool. A member of Parliament proposed a toast to his health, which the guests enthusiastically endorsed. In response, Clemens made a lengthy speech, which was taken down verbatim and published in the newspapers. Shown here are the banquet invitation and the manuscript of the last few pages of the speech.
Many & many a year ago I read an anecdote in Dana's book, "Two Years Before the Mast." A frivolous little self-important captain of a coasting-sloop in the dried-apple & kitchen-furniture trade was always hailing every vessel that came in sight, just to hear himself talk, & air his small grandeurs. One day a majestic Indiaman came plowing by, with course on course of canvas towering into the sky, her decks & yards swarming with sailors; with macaws & monkeys & all manner of strange & romantic creatures populating her rigging; & thereto her freightage of precious spices lading the breeze with gracious & mysterious odors of the Orient. Of course the little coaster-captain hopped into the shrouds & squeaked a hail: "Ship ahoy! what ship is that, & whence & whither?" In a deep & thunderous bass came the answer back, through a speaking-trumpet: "The Begum of Bengal, 123 days out from Cantonhomeward bound! What ship is that?" The little captain's vanity was all crushed out of him, & most humbly he squeaked back: "Only the Mary Ann14 hours out from Boston, bound for Kittery Point withwith nothing to speak of!" That eloquent word "only" expressed the deeps of his stricken humbleness.
And what is my own case? during perhaps one hour in the 24not more than thatI stop & reflect. Then I am humble, then I am properly meek, & for that little time I am "only the Mary Ann," 14 hours out, & cargoed with vegetables & tin-ware; but all the other 23 my vain self-satisfaction rides high & I am the stately Indiaman, plowing the great seas under a cloud of sail & laden with a rich freightage of the kindest words that were ever spoken to a wandering alien, I think: my 26 crowded & fortunate days seem multiplied by 5, & I am the Begum of Bengal, 123 days out from Cantonhomeward bound!"
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