Life on the Mississippi

picture courtesy of "Mark Twain in His Times"

Mississippi River
(source of inspiration and site of actual writing)
"But when I come to write the Mississippi book, then look out! I will spend 2 months on the river and take notes." letter to Olivia L. Clemens, 11.27.1871, Burlington, VT, as quoted in Mark Twain's Letters, Vol. 4

"Twichell & I have had a long walk in the woods & I got to telling him about the old Mississippi days of steamboating glory & grandeur as I saw them (during 5 years) from the pilot house...He said 'What a virgin subject to hurl into a magazine!' I hadn't thought of that before."
letter to William Dean Howells, 10.24.1874, Hartford, CT, as quoted in Mark Twain's Letters, Vol. 6

"I have a notion of going west about May 1, to make a lagging journey down the Mississippi, dining pilots and pumping stuff out of them for a book."
letter to James Redpath, 11.29.1874, Hartford, CT, as quoted in Mark Twain's Letters, Vol. 6

"Tell, now, in full, the events preceeding and following the Pennsylvania's explosion: the fight with Brown; the boat steaming down Bend of 103 with nobody at the wheel--the white aproned servants and passengers on deck applauding the fight--the prophetic talk on the levee between Henry & me that night in N.O. before PA sailed on her fateful voyage...Leave out that wonderful dream...Begin with a chapter of my experiences as a pilot?...(Place above Walnut Bend where I nearly ran into a bluff sandbar--steering on a cloud.)"
from journal entry, Mississippi, January 1882-February 1883, as quoted in Mark Twain's Notebooks and Journals, Vol. II

"Quarry Farm", Elmira, NY
(site of actual writing)
"I work all the time [on Life on the Mississippi], but accomplish very little--sometimes as little as 200 words in 5 hours. What is worse is that I find I still lack about 30,000 words, whereas a few days ago I thought it was only a third of that--dismal miscalculation! I shall peg along, day by day, but shan't be through when we leave for home 2 weeks hence." letter to James R. Osgood, 9.18.1882, Elmira, NY, as quoted in Mark Twain's Letters to His Publishers

Back to Tom Sawyer  |  On to Huckleberry Finn