Synopses & Reviews
How I did loath that journey around the world--except the sea-part & India.- Mark Twain, letter to W. D. Howells, 4/2/1899
Following The Equator is an account of Mark Twain's round-the-world lecture tour of 1895/96. The book opens in Paris, from which Twain sets out on his journey. In New York, his wife, Olivia, and daughter Clara decide to continue on the tour with Twain. The family sets out from New York accompanied by Major Pond, the tour manager for the North American leg. Following a stop in British Columbia, the travelers set sail on the Pacific Ocean.
After avoiding Hawaii due to a cholera epidemic, the ship lands at Suva, part of the Fiji Islands. After a short stay, Twain moves on to Australia, with his first stop in Sydney. Here he spends considerable space telling about Australian history, society, and people. A stop in Wagga-Wagga brings up the story of the Tichborne Claimant. In Melbourne, Twain relates the story of how Olivia once received a letter in which is discussed Twain's death on a lecture tour in Australia. The author makes numerous stops in mining regions of Australia, including Stawell, Ballarat, and Bendigo. In the latter stop, Twain encounters Mr. Blank, the sole member of the Mark Twain Club, of Corrigan Castle, Ireland. He is also the man who wrote the letter to Olivia about Twain's death.
The travelers next stop briefly at Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, and then move on to several towns in New Zealand. In Nelson, the group learns of the Maungatapu Murders, the sole event of historical importance to occur in the town. After a quick stop in Auckland, the capital, Twain visits Wanganui, where the Maori people and culture are discussed. The party returns to Australia to spend Christmas in Melbourne and New Year's at Adelaide, before setting sail for Ceylon, India.
The first stop in India is Bombay, which Twain finds to be a fabulous city of great contradictions: great wealth and extreme poverty, ornate palaces and ramshackle hovels. Twain gives a lengthy description of hisinteresting experiences while taking in Bombay, including a religious ceremony, the wedding of a 12-year-old girl, and a murder trial. The party takes the train to Baroda, where Twain rides an elephant. A longer train ride to Allahabad - the City of God - follows, where a religious ceremony is being held. Next stop is Benares, an important religious center, where they take a cruise on the Ganges. The journey through India continues, with stops in Calcutta, Darjeeling, and numerous other cities. At this point, Twain relates the history of the Great Mutiny of 1857, in which the Indian people revolted against the British.
Upon leaving India, the party heads for Durban, South Africa, after a brief stop at Mauritius and Mozambique. Brief stops at Johannesburg, Cape Town, and other towns round out the relatively brief South Africa portion of the book. The lecture tour here ends, and the travellers head back to Southampton, England.
The personalities of the ship's crew and passengers, the poetry of Australian place-names, and the success of women's suffrage in New Zealand, among other topics, are the focus of his wry humor and redoubtable powers of observation. Following the Equator is an evocative and highly unique American portrait of nineteenth-century travel and customs.
About the Author
was the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Often called America's greatest satirist, he is best known for his novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper
, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
. Born in 1835, Twain died in 1910.