Samuel Langhorne Clemens -aka- Mark Twain

Born November 30, 1835 in Missouri and died April 21, 1910, Clemens lived through some very significant changes in the world. His best known works are, I believe, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I read this books as a child and have read and reread them. They are on my Nook. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is another I have read and reread.

The adventures of Tom and Huck are set on the middle Mississippi during the slave days before the Civil War, a period and locale Twain knew well from his own childhood.

I have just finished The Innocents Abroad and have just started on Roughing It.

In 1861 Twain traveled with his older brother from Missouri to Nevada, from which he traveled the west gathering background for Roughing It. In 1867 he was on the first cruise ship from America to the Holy Land and later that year meets Olivia Langdon his future wife (and grand-aunt of a future president of the Rock Island -- but I digress). The Innocents Abroad was published in 1870. the year after the trans-continental railroad was completed but nine years after Twain's own trans-continental journey by stage-coach was undertaken. Two years later Roughing It was published after Twain had made trans-continental trips by train to compare with his first trip from Missouri to Nevada.

I like Twain's style of writing and it has influenced my own - not that I am trying to put myself in his category, far from it. But I do like run-on sentences.

The following paragraph from early on in Roughing It caught my eye as I was reading today. For fifty pages he has been narrating the stage journey and today he has reached the crest of South Pass, one of the lowest and best crossings of the Continental Divide. I am going to split Twain's paragraph into separate paragraphs, one whole paragraph per sentence by Twain.

    We bowled along cheerily, and presently, at the very summit [of South Pass] (although it had been all summit to us. and all equally level, for half an hour or more), we came to a spring which spent its water through two outlets and sent it in opposite directions.

The conductor [of the stage-coach] said that one of those streams which we were looking at, was just starting on a journey westward to the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean, through hundreds and even thousands of miles of desert solitudes.

He said that the other was just leaving its home among the snow-peaks on a similar journey eastward--and we knew that long after we should have forgotten the simple rivulet it would still be plodding its patient way down the mountain sides, and canyon-beds, and between the banks of the Yellowstone;and by and by would join the broad Missouri and flow through unknown plains and deserts and unvisited wildernesses; and add a long and troubled pilgrimage among snags and wrecks and sand-bars; and enter the Mississippi, touch the wharves of St. Louis and still drift on, traversing shoals and rocky channels, then endless chains of bottomless and ample bends, walled with unbroken forests, then mysterious byways and secret passages among woody islands, then the chained bends again, bordered with wide levels of shining sugar-cane in place of the sombre forests; then by New Orleans and still other chains of bends--and finally, after two long months of daily and nightly harassment, excitement, enjoyment, adventure, and the awful peril of parched throats, pumps and evaporation, pass the Gulf and enter into its rest upon the bosom of the tropic sea, never to look upon its snow-peaks again or regret them.

The romance of that paragraph by Twain is so enticing. So much better than, for instance: The water split into two streams, one to the Pacific and the other to the Gulf of Mexico.

Yes Twain is a favorite author and I love to read and reread his books.
70+, M
1 Response Jan 13, 2013

Good story, thanks for sharing. Wow, that's a run on sentence! I've
read a couple of his books but not that one. I agree that the amount
of description was wonderful. If it was me though I would have broken
it up into separate sentences more. Not that I think any less of him
as an author, it's a difference of period. In his time many writers used
long sentences like that. I've read and enjoyed much older literature,
and never minded the longer sentences myself. Seanonamous

Roughing it has a section on Twain's tour of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and one chapter discuses his night time visit to Kilauea crater on Mauna Loa on the island of Hawaii. His words in black on white evoke the wonder and majesty of the molten lave even more than than seeing a video on television.

If I had written the paragraph on the waters' divide in South Pass it would have had way more sentences, much shorter and way less beautiful.