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Following the Equator, 1895-1896

"The world never seemed so big before"

In 1895, at age fifty-nine, Clemens began a "lecturing raid around the world" to pay off his substantial debts. The failure of the Paige typesetting machine, followed by the bankruptcy of his publishing firm, obliged him to "mount the platform next fall or starve." Traveling with his wife, Olivia, and daughter Clara, he opened the tour in Cleveland on 15 July 1895, then traveled across the United States and Canada before sailing on 23 August from Victoria, B.C., for Australia and thence to New Zealand, India, Ceylon, Mauritius, and South Africa, returning to England in July 1896, after a year's journey.

Broadside of the North American lecture itinerary
July-August 1895
Major James Pond, Clemens's American lecture agent and travel companion, prepared these two announcements to advertise the "Ninety Minutes of Chat and Character Sketches" that Clemens was to deliver in the United States and the British Empire over the coming year. He appeared twenty-three times during the first month, a grueling schedule that left him exhausted.
Tauchnitz edition of Huckleberry Finn, marked for public reading
Clemens's tour readings were intended to bring about the "moral regeneration" of the human race by instructing it in principles of conduct illustrated by his own stories. Among these were the "Jumping Frog" tale, the "Blue-Jay" yarn from A Tramp Abroad, and at least a dozen passages from Huckleberry Finn, for which he marked a copy of the Tauchnitz edition (Leipzig, 1885) of the book. Shown here is the passage in which Huck resolves to betray the escaped slave, Jim, to which Clemens has made several marginal additions.
Photograph of Clemens at a Norwegian shanty
Great Falls, 31 July 1895
In Great Falls, Montana, Clemens paid a visit to a family of Norwegian settlers at the outskirts of the town. According to Major Pond, " 'Mark' . . . caught a pair of kittens in his arms, greatly to the discomfort of their owner, a little girl. He tried to make friends with the child and buy the kittens, but she began to cry and beg that her pets might be liberated. He soon captured her with a pretty story."

Notebook entries about reading selections
September-October 1895
Clemens kept a record of the selections he recited, and the length of each one. Here he notes that on his first night in Melbourne he planned to read (among other pieces) the "Mexican Plug" and the "Old Ram" tales from Roughing It, the "Jumping Frog" story, the "Smallpox" episode from Huckleberry Finn, and "German Lesson" from A Tramp Abroad.

Clemens's reception in Australia confirmed that he had "established himself in the affections of millions of the English-speaking race in all climes in a way that no other living writer has managed to do," as the Melbourne Australasian claimed. After a grueling tour of more than twenty cities in Australia and New Zealand, the Clemenses embarked in early January for India.

Notebook entry about profanity, and a joke from Olivia
11 January 1896
The notebooks that Clemens used throughout his tour provided him with material for Following the Equator, written in London during the next year. Some notebook entries, however, were not intended for literary use. Here he describes an amusing incident on board the Oceana, which illustrates Olivia's sense of humor.
Swore off from profanity early this morning—I was on deck in the peaceful dawn. . . . Went down, dressed, bathed, put on white linen, shaved—a long, hot, troublesome job, & no profanity. Then started to breakfast. Remembered my tonic—. . . poured it in measuring glass, held bottle in one hand, it in the other, the cork in my teeth—reached up & got a tumbler—measuring glass sprang out of my fingers—got it, poured another dose, first setting the tumbler on washstand—just got it poured, ship lurched, heard a crash behind me—it was the tumbler, broken into millions of fragments, but the bottom hunk whole—picked it up to throw out of the open port, threw out the measuring glass instead—then I released my voice. Mrs. C. behind me in the door: "Don't reform any more, it is not an improvement."
First American edition of Following the Equator
Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1897
The book's frontispiece was made from a photograph of Clemens taken by a fellow passenger on the Warrimoo, en route to Australia. The figure of Clemens from the photograph is reproduced on the web home page of this exhibition.

After ten days of sightseeing and three lecture appearances in Bombay, the Clemenses began an extended tour of Indian cities which took them twelve hundred miles by train across the country to Calcutta, then north to Darjeeling, Delhi, and Lahore, and back again to Calcutta. They all found the country fascinating. Clemens wrote in Following the Equator that the Indians were "the most interesting people in the world—and the nearest to being incomprehensible . . . Their character and their history, their customs and their religion, confront you with riddles at every turn—riddles which are a trifle more perplexing after they are explained than they were before."

Manuscript pages discarded from Following the Equator
Several passages that Clemens drafted for his travel book he later decided to discard. Here he recounts a slightly ribald story of a non-native English speaker who confuses the two meanings of "maid."
   "What kind of a servant is it you want, sor?"
   The word Maid had slipped out of his mind for the moment, but he remembered a word which meant the same thing & would answer:
   "I want a virgin."
   "You want a what?"
   "A virgin. Are you a virgin? You do not look like a virgin."
   He is better this morning, but it is thought that he will not get well. But to return to Allahabad.

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