A Mark Twain Pilgrimage

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  11.11.10 | 4:20 PM ET

Fresh off a trip to the grave of Robert Louis Stevenson, World Hum contributor Catherine Watson visits Mark Twain’s grave in Elmira, New York—and explains how Twain had previously flown under her radar:

America’s most American writer lies in a family plot on a gentle hillside, beside his beloved wife, Livy, surrounded by the graves of their children and her relatives—all under simple, matching headstones.

The name on his marker is the one he was born with, Samuel L. Clemens. The pen name we know him by—which he once claimed to detest—gets second-billing below.

For me, these quiet graves were the end of a quest I hadn’t planned on making. I’d always been a Hemingway fan, with runner-up passions for Robert Louis Stevenson and the Bronte sisters.

But this year—the 100th anniversary of his death—I’ve been immersed in Mark Twain. I’ve been reading almost nothing but his abundant travel writing, with side trips into biographies about him, when I needed a break.

It has felt like living with the man, and his writing is so prolific and varied—and his life so preposterously colorful—that I now wonder how I could have cared about anyone else.

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

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