Nook Farm: Mark Twain's Hartford Circle

Nook Farm: Mark Twain's Hartford Circle

Nook Farm: Mark Twain's Hartford Circle

Nook Farm: Mark Twain's Hartford Circle

Excerpt

1851-1871

The Cast of Characters

AFTER 1850 CARRIED THE NINETEENTH CENTURY OVER ITS CHRONOLOGICAL crest, a relatively quiet decade of gradual acceleration brought America closer and closer to the Civil War and the arrival of modern times. In these last years of our preindustrial period, a few individuals, who by 1871 had gathered in an apparently provincial corner of Connecticut, were growing up in the widely separated towns where their families had taken root. They were not aware of the chasm between American past and American future that their personal histories would bridge.

In 1851, Samuel Clemens, for example, was at sixteen setting type for his brother Orion's Hannibal Journal and Western Union on the Mississippi edge of Missouri. Still before him were the wanderings that were to dislodge him from his village and ultimately deposit him on the banks of the Connecticut. Between Hannibal and Hartford still lay a vast territory of experience. During the next twenty years he was to work in New York and Philadelphia as a journeyman printer, to memorize the Mississippi as a steamboat pilot, to search for silver in Nevada as a prospector and newspaperman, and to examine California and Hawaii, Europe and the Near . . .

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