Wednesday, April 21, 2010

R.I.P Mark Twain

Although Mark Twain died in his Reading, Connecticut home 100 years ago today, his soul can easily be found in Bermuda. The great American writer spent much of his time on the island dating back to his first visit in November 1867 when he arrived by sea on the S.S. Quaker City—a trip that inspired his book The Innocents Abroad, which gave the young writer immediate international attention. Ten years later he returned to Bermuda again, a four-day trip that resulted in a 15,000-word four-part essay titled “Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion” for the Atlantic Monthly (read part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4). He traveled quite a bit—most notably a European holiday in 1878 that inspired his non-fiction book A Tramp Abroad—but his heart always belonged to Bermuda. “I’m in search of rest, British humor, and an opportunity to appear logical in March in a white suite,” Twain said famously in a March 17, 1907 Chicago Daily Tribune article entitled “Mark Twain Seeks Place to Wear White.” That day he visited the island again, this time with Woodrow Wilson, who as President of Princeton University enjoyed vacations to Bermuda as much as Twain did. As the writer grew older he spent more and more time visiting the island—so much so that he fought to ban cars here and actively promoted Bermuda as a tourist destination to American visitors. Exactly one century later his imprint can be found everywhere: The bronze statue of him sitting on a bench in the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, another inside the Bank of Butterfield lobby plus an imposing bronze bust in the front entrance of XL Capital’s Bermudiana Road building. Twain may have passed away in Connecticut but if it were up to him, he would’ve been in Bermuda. This from the Associated Press: “He was 74 [when he died], and in failing health, his heart—his tobacco heart, he called it—so weak that he interrupted a restful cruise to Bermuda to return and die at the house on a hill built for him just two years earlier.” Clearly he was on his way back, but if his words ring true, then it really doesn’t matter where his body rests. As he famously once wrote: “You can go to Heaven if you like. I’ll stay right here in Bermuda.”

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