MT's second and last set of lectures in the West where he'd gotten his start as both a newspaper correspondent and a standup humorist was the result of a hastily arranged trip back to California in the spring, 1868. He was living in Washington, D.C, and far along in the manuscript of Innocents Abroad when he becane alarmed by reports that the San Francisco Alta, which had paid his expenses on the Quaker City pilgrimage, was planning to publish their own edition of his letters from the trip. To prevent that, and to get the Alta's formal permission to use the letters himself, he returned to the spot where he gave his first professional lecture two years earlier.
He returned as a local celebrity, mainly because his letters from abroad had been so widely read. On April 3 the Alta reported his arrival, and noted his plans to lecture in the city "in a few days." He had many friends (and a few enemies) among the press out west, and the papers gave him lots of publicity. The controversy about his satiric treatment of Christians and the Holy Land was one hook on which the stories were hung: MARK TWAIN AT CHURCH, published in the San Francisco Call on May 20, suggests even ministers kept his name before their audiences. If most of MT's audiences enjoyed the humor with which he treated "sacred" matters, the editor of The Marin County Journal was "sickened" by MT's success (as you can read for yourself among the PUBLICITY NOTICES below.
MT lectured 10 times during the last two weeks of April, in 8 cities and towns. Because he asked reporters not to publish any synopses of the talk, his exact text doesn't survive, but his "Lecture on Pilgrim Life" was derived from the one he'd given in Washington in early January. His first performance, at San Franciso's Platt's Hall, drew mixed reviews, but packed the house and (at $1 a ticket) earned him $1600. So many were turned away that he repeated the show the next night, and according to the reviewers was now at the top of his form. From San Francisco he went east, by train, stage coach, wagon and on foot, back over the snow-covered mountains to the mining towns of Nevada, renewing acquaintances and delighting audiences.
He also worked steadily at completing revisions for Innocents Abroad. Just before his return by steamer to the East, he gave one final lecture in San Francisco, titled "Venice: The Oldest of the Republics." Like "Pilgrim Life," it was taken from his book manuscript, but there is no record that he ever gave any version of it again. On the other hand, he was so happy with the success of "Pilgrim Life" that he immediately began making plans "to preach in the States all winter" (as he put it in a letter from May 12). That ambition led to his first eastern tour, in which "Pilgrim Life" became "The American Vandal Abroad." Curiously, he never returned to the West.