The Innocents Abroad

The Innocents Abroad



The Pequod Review:

The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain’s first full-length book, is a humorous travelogue of his experiences in 1869 touring France, Italy, Odessa, and the Holy Land. Twain’s narrative has a youthful exuberance, as well as a perceptive BS detector that is able to spot hucksters a mile away. His takedowns of tour guides and travel writers (who distort and simplify history in order to make it digestible to the masses) are some of the most enjoyable parts of the book. However, his broader observations of art, culture, and history are undeveloped and amateurish. For example, after visiting several museums, he tries to come up with a profound insight on visual art:

Wherever you find a Raphael, a Rubens, a Michael Angelo, a Caracci, or a Da Vinci (and we see them every day,) you find artists copying them, and the copies are always the handsomest. May be the originals were handsome when they were new, but they are not now.

But Twain is not perceptive enough or specific enough, and too many of these passages come across as attempts to be contrarian for its own sake.