Reporting The Holy Land Excursion

Before Mark Twain left California for New York at the end of 1866, he secured a job as a travelling correspondent for the San Francisco Daily Alta California. In early 1867 he convinced the Alta to provide $1250 to pay his fare on the Quaker City tour of Europe and the Middle East.

Throughout the five-month trip MT sent 51 letters to the Alta, which the paper published between 2 August 1867 and 8 January 1868 under the running heading: "The Holy Land Excursion. Letter from 'Mark Twain.' Special Travelling Correspondent of the Alta." These letters, together with seven printed in two New York papers, became the basis for Innocents Abroad, written during the first half of 1868.

From correspondent for a west coast paper to author of a book aimed at the broad American reading public was a big step in MT's progress toward a literary career and celebrity status, and he revised his original letters in ways that indicate his concerns about shaping both his writing and his image to please that larger audience.

Listed below are passages from nine original letters. The account of nude bathing was omitted entirely from Innocents Abroad, but the others can be compared with the revised version MT published in the book by clicking on the COMPARE button under each passage.


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