Mark Twain to Mrs. Fairbanks

Mark Twain to Mrs. Fairbanks

Mark Twain to Mrs. Fairbanks

Mark Twain to Mrs. Fairbanks

Excerpt

On the evening of June 7, 1867, some sixty persons, largely unknown to each other, gathered at 66 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, home of Moses S. Beach, proprietor of the New York Sun. Including the host and his young daughter Emma, they composed the passenger list of the steamship "Quaker City," scheduled to sail next day for a tour of the Mediterranean and the Holy Land. In the midst of their decorous festivities, a thin man with hawklike nose and curly carrotty hair shuffled forward with an air of melancholy diffidence and drawled, "Captain Duncan desires me to say that passengers for the 'Quaker City' must be on board tomorrow before the tide goes out. What the tide has to do with us or we with the tide is more than I know, but that is what the captain says." From such assumed ignorance about navigation, it could hardly have been guessed that he was formerly a licensed pilot on the Mississippi; from his lackadaisical appearance it might have been even harder to foretell that he would become America's best-known man of letters.

These folk were about to embark upon the first pleasure cruise from the New World to the Old -- such a voyage as the age of steamships fostered, and the affluent tranquillity of post-bellum years made possible. "A picnic on a gigantic scale," Mark Twain called it. Other Americans had traveled individually for pleasure, but the chartering of an entire ship for a junket of nearly six months, a leisurely exploration of regions the most romantic, cultural, picturesque, and hallowed, was truly novel. The price of passage, $1,250 per person, operated no less selectively than did the "Committee on Applications" whose approval had to be won before a ticket was issued. These matters had been set forth in an advertisement dated "Brooklyn, February 1st, 1867," signed by Captain Charles C. Duncan, John T. Howard, and Rufus R. Graves, all members of the Plymouth Congregational Church in that city. The idea of this cruise -- whose destination, Palestine, lent it the aspects of a Protestant pilgrimage and sancti-

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