The Innocents Abroad

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The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims' Progress
Mark Twain - The Innocents Abroad.jpg
Innocents Abroad cover
AuthorMark Twain
CountryUnited States
GenreTravel literature
PublisherAmerican Publishing Company
Publication date
Media typePrint
Preceded byThe Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County 
Followed byRoughing It 

The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims' Progress is a travel book by American author Mark Twain. Published in 1869, it humorously chronicles what Twain called his "Great Pleasure Excursion" on board the chartered vessel Quaker City (formerly USS Quaker City) through Europe and the Holy Land with a group of American travelers in 1867.

The five-month voyage included numerous side trips on land.

The book, which sometimes appears with the subtitle "The New Pilgrim's Progress", became the best-selling of Twain's works during his lifetime,[2] as well as one of the best-selling travel books of all time.[3]


Innocents Abroad presents itself as an ordinary travel book based on an actual voyage in a retired Civil War ship (the USS Quaker City). The excursion was billed as a Holy Land expedition, with numerous stops and side trips along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, notably:

Twain reports the voyage covered over 20,000 miles of land and sea.

Twain recorded his observations and critiques of the various aspects of culture and society which he encountered on the journey, some more serious than others. Many of his observations draw a contrast between his own experiences and the often grandiose accounts in contemporary travelogues, which were regarded in their own time as indispensable aids for traveling in the region. In particular, he lampooned William Cowper Prime's Tent Life in the Holy Land for its overly sentimental prose and its often violent encounters with native inhabitants. Twain also made light of his fellow travelers and the natives of the countries and regions that he visited, as well as his own expectations and reactions.


Illustration: Leaning Tower

A major theme of the book is that of the conflict between history and the modern world. Twain continually encounters petty profiteering and trivializations of history as he journeys, as well as a strange emphasis placed on particular past events. He is either outraged, puzzled, or bored by each encounter. One example can be found in the sequence during which the boat has stopped at Gibraltar. On shore, the narrator encounters seemingly dozens of people intent on regaling him, and everyone else, with a bland and pointless anecdote concerning how a particular hill nearby acquired its name, heedless of the fact that the anecdote is, indeed, bland, pointless, and entirely too repetitive. Another example may be found in the discussion of the story of Abelard and Heloise, where the skeptical American deconstructs the story and comes to the conclusion that far too much fuss has been made about the two lovers. Only when the ship reaches areas of the world that do not exploit for profit or bore passers-by with inexplicable interest in their history, such as the early passage dealing with the ship's time at the Azores, is this attitude not found in the text.

Illustration (1855): "We reached Mount Tabor safely ... we never saw a human being on the whole route ... We climbed the steep path to its summit, through breezy glades of thorn and oak. The view presented from its highest peak was almost beautiful. Below, was the broad, level plain of Esdraelon, checkered with fields like a chess-board, and full as smooth and level, seemingly; dotted about its borders with white, compact villages, and faintly penciled, far and near, with the curving lines of roads and trails." Mark Twain, 1867[4]

This reaction to those who profit from the past is found, in an equivocal and unsure balance with reverence, in Twain's experiences in the Holy Land. The narrator reacts here, not only to the exploitation of the past and the unreasoning (to the American eye of the time) adherence to old ways, but also to the profanation of religious history. Many of his illusions are shattered, including his discovery that the nations described in the Old Testament could easily fit inside many American states and counties, and that the "kings" of those nations might very well have ruled over fewer people than could be found in some small towns. Disillusioned, he writes, "If all the poetry and nonsense that have been discharged upon the fountains and the bland scenery of this region were collected in a book, it would make a most valuable volume to burn."[5]

This equivocal reaction to the religious history the narrator encounters may be magnified by the prejudices of the time, as the United States was still primarily a Protestant nation at that point. The Catholic Church, in particular, receives a considerable amount of attention from the narrator, specifically its institutionalized nature. This is particularly apparent in the section of the book dealing with Italy, where the poverty of the lay population and the relative affluence of the church are contrasted.


A 116 minute television movie version of the book was broadcast on the PBS series American Playhouse in 1987 and directed by Peter H. Hunt.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Facsimile of the original 1st edition.
  2. ^ Norcott-Mahany, Bernard (14 November 2012) "Classic Review: Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain." The Kansas City Public Library (Retrieved 27 April 2014)
  3. ^ Melton, Jeffery Alan (The University of Alabama Press; Tuscaloosa, Alabama 2002) Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism: The Tide of a Great Popular Movement. Project MUSE (Retrieved 27 April 2014.)
  4. ^ Mark Twain (1997). Lawrence Teacher (ed.). The unabridged Mark Twain : Volume 2. Kurt Vonnegut (foreword) (Unabridged ed.). Philadelphia, Pa: Courage Books. pp. 283–284, 304, 430. ISBN 978-0762401819. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  5. ^ "Mark Twain in the Holy Land". The Attic. Retrieved 1 February 2019.

External links[edit]

As a travel book, Innocents Abroad is accessible through any one of its chapters, many of which were published serially in the United States. (A compilation of the original newspaper accounts was the subject of McKeithan (1958)). In many of the chapters, a uniquely Twainian sentence or word stands out. A sampling of chapter material appears below and includes links to visual representations as well as to dedicated Mark Twain projects that have included Innocents Abroad in their sweep:

  • Ch.1 Holy Land tour flyer reprints The Quaker City travel prospectus and comments on exclusivity in passenger selection.
  • Ch.4 Ship Routine outlines the passengers' daily routines and their affectation of sailor language.
  • Ch. 8 Tangier, Morocco "We wanted something thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign -- foreign from top to bottom -- foreign from center to circumference -- foreign inside and outside and all around -- nothing anywhere about it to dilute its foreignness -- nothing to remind us of any other people or any other land under the sun. And lo! in Tangier we have found it."
  • Ch.11 The Prado and other Marseille tourist sites. "We were troubled a little at dinner to-day, by the conduct of an American, who talked very loudly and coarsely. and laughed boisterously when all others were so quiet and well behaved. He ordered wine with a royal flourish...." Drove the Prado avenue, visited Chateau Borely, the Zoological Gardens, and the Castle d‘If. Discussed prisoner drawings created during the years Château d'If was used as a prison.
  • Ch. 12 Marseilles to Paris by Train Old Travelers; Lyon, Saône, Tonnerre, Sens, Melun, Fontainebleau "and scores of other beautiful cities"; dinner, shopping, a terrifying shave. "Occasionally, merely for the pleasure of being cruel, we put unoffending Frenchmen on the rack with questions framed in the incomprehensible jargon of their native language, and while they writhed, we impaled them, we peppered them, we scarified them, with their own vile verbs and participles."


Secondary references[edit]

Mark Twain projects[edit]

On-line snippets[edit]

Scholarly works[edit]

Primary sources[edit]