Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was born Nov. 30, 1835. His first popular story was “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” written in 1865 while he was in San Francisco.
In 1866, as a reporter for the Sacramento Union, Mark Twain traveled to the Sandwich Islands (present-day Hawaii). In 1867, a newspaper funded Mark Twain’s voyage to the Mediterranean, which he recorded in his book, “Innocents Abroad,” 1869. While on this trip, Mark Twain saw the picture of his friend’s sister, Olivia Langdon of Elmira, New York, and he fell in love. Immediately upon his return, he met and married Olivia.
In “Innocents Abroad,” 1869, which established his reputation as a writer, Mark Twain described Syria under the Ottoman Turkish Empire: “Then we called at the tomb of Mahomet’s children and at … the mausoleum of the five thousand Christians who were massacred in Damascus in 1861 by the Turks. They say those narrow streets ran blood for several days, and that men, women and children were butchered indiscriminately and left to rot by hundreds all through the Christian quarter; they say, further, that the stench was dreadful. All the Christians who could get away fled from the city, and the Mohammedans would not defile their hands by burying the ‘infidel dogs.’ The thirst for blood extended to the high lands of Hermon and Anti-Lebanon, and in a short time twenty-five thousand more Christians were massacred and their possessions laid waste. …”
Mark Twain added: “How they hate a Christian in Damascus! – and pretty much all over Turkeydom as well. And how they will pay for it when Russia turns her guns upon them again! It is soothing to the heart to abuse England and France for interposing to save the Ottoman Empire from the destruction it has so richly deserved for a thousand years. …”
Mark Twain continued: “It hurts my vanity to see these pagans refuse to eat of food that has been cooked for us; or to eat from a dish we have eaten from; or to drink from a goatskin which we have polluted with our Christian lips, except by filtering the water through a rag which they put over the mouth of it or through a sponge! … These degraded Turks and Arabs. … When Russia is ready to war with them again, I hope England and France will not find it good breeding or good judgment to interfere. …”
Mark Twain wrote in “Innocents Abroad,” chapter XLII: “If ever an oppressed race existed, it is this one we see fettered around us under the inhuman tyranny of the Ottoman Empire. I wish Europe would let Russia annihilate Turkey a little – not much, but enough to make it difficult to find the place again without a divining-rod or a diving-bell.”
Mark Twain wrote in “Innocents Abroad,” chapter LVI: “Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies … about whose borders nothing grows but weeds, and scattering tufts of cane, and that treacherous fruit that promises refreshment to parching lips, but turns to ashes at the touch. … Palestine is desolate and unlovely. …”
In “Innocents Abroad,” chapter LIII, Mark Twain described the condition of Jerusalem under Ottoman Muslim rule: “Rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt, those signs and symbols that indicate the presence of Moslem rule more surely than the crescent-flag itself, abound. … Jerusalem is mournful, and dreary, and lifeless. I would not desire to live here. … The Moslems watch the Golden Gate with a jealous eye, and an anxious one, for they have an honored tradition that when it falls, Islamism will fall and with it the Ottoman Empire. It did not grieve me any to notice that the old gate was getting a little shaky.”
Mark Twain wrote in “Innocents Abroad,” chapter LVI: “Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur … the wonderful temple which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone, and the Ottoman crescent is lifted above the spot where, on that most memorable day in the annals of the world, they reared the Holy Cross.”
In chapter XLVII of “Innocents Abroad,” 1869, Mark Twain described the land of Israel: “We dismounted on those shores which the feet of the Saviour had made holy ground. … We left Capernaum behind us. It was only a shapeless ruin. It bore no semblance to a town. But, all desolate and unpeopled as it was, it was illustrious ground. From it sprang that tree of Christianity whose broad arms overshadow so many distant lands today. Christ visited his old home at Nazareth, and saw His brothers Joses, Judas, James, and Simon. … Who wonders what passed in their minds when they saw this brother (who was only a brother to them, however He might be to others a mysterious stranger; who was a God, and had stood face to face with God above the clouds) doing miracles, with crowds of astonished people for witnesses? … One of the most astonishing things that has yet fallen under our observation is the exceedingly small portion of the earth from which sprang the new flourishing plant of Christianity. The longest journey our Saviour ever performed was from here to Jerusalem – about one hundred to one hundred and twenty miles. … Leaving out two or three short journeys, He spent His life, preaching His Gospel, and performing His miracles, within a compass no larger than an ordinary county of the United States. …”
Of the Bible, Mark Twain wrote in “Innocents Abroad,” 1869: “It is hard to make a choice of the most beautiful passage in a book which is so gemmed with beautiful passages as the Bible; but it is certain that not many things within its lids may take rank above the exquisite story of Joseph. Who taught those ancient writers their simplicity of language, their felicity of expression, their pathos, and above all, their faculty of sinking themselves entirely out of sight of the reader and making the narrative stand out alone and seem to tell itself? Shakespeare is always present when one reads his book; Macaulay is present when we follow the march of his stately sentences; but the Old Testament writers are hidden from view.”
Mark Twain wrote in “Innocents Abroad,” 1869: “In the starlight, Galilee has no boundaries but the broad compass of the heavens, and is a theatre meet for great events; meet for the birth of a religion able to save the world.”
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