Third Trip to Bermuda 1907 January 4 - 7

The Bermudian made land at six o’clock on Friday morning, January 4, and approached Hamilton Harbor through Two Rock Passage, a newer and better channel than Timlins’ Narrows. It docked about nine thirty. The white houses inspired Miss Lyon to wax poetic; they had grown a thousand years ago as if plants, she wrote, and “somehow you do not feel the hand of man, because there isn’t anything inappropriate about them.” Clemens and his party registered at the Princess Hotel, which stood by the water not far west of town. It was the largest wood building on the Islands, and its structure had been advertised as “a sure guarantee against the dampness usually found in houses.” The dining hall opened through glass doors to a long and deep veranda overlooking the harbor. Another amenity, the billiard room on the ground floor, also came close to Clemens’s heart. He had been spending an immoderate amount of time at billiards. As he grew lonelier, the games got longer. They sometimes lasted for as much as ten hours.

Friday afternoon they all took a long carriage drive to Harrington Sound. “We went into the Devil’s Cave [sic],” Miss Lyon said, “where the King was interested in the great big groupers and beautiful angel fish, and butterfly fish and parrot fish. . . . But most of all, I am in heaven as I sat beside the King and drove along those beautiful roads.” On Saturday morning they chartered a boat named the Nautilus, and sailed in and out of the bays and inlets for two and a half hours. “The King smoked and smoked,” she wrote, “and talked about Marconi and Tesla and Joe Jefferson and of how 40 years ago out in Nevada when he had prospected for gold and didn’t get it after all their hard work, it was because they had turned in the wrong direction.” After lunch, she and Clemens visited the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, then on Front Street near the docks. Clemens left his visiting card. He no longer pretended to be traveling incognito, and had just been interviewed by the Colonist,…

Sunday, their last full day on the Islands, they spent riding through Paget and Warwick, then back northeast to Hamilton Parish and to Joyce’s Dock Caves, close to the Causeway. The caves that year were advertised in the Bermuda Pocket Almanack as the finest sight in Bermuda, being “brilliantly lit with acetylene gas, showing stalactites of enormous size.” (In more recent years, the principal cave has been known as Prospero’s Cave, once a nightclub and now merely on the premises of the Grotto Bay Beach Resort.) After they returned to town, Clemens set out to recover…

On the trip back to New York he dictated for his autobiography:
9 January 1907: Paragraph 8," in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2. 2013

That is a pleasant country—Bermuda—and close by and easy to get to. There is a fine modern steamer admirably officered; there is a table which even the [hypercritical] could hardly find fault with—not even the hypercritical could find fault with the [service]. [On board there] is constant communication with the several populations of the planet—if you want it—through the wireless telegraph, and the trip to Bermuda is made in two days. Many people flit to that garden in winter and spring, and heal their worn minds and bodies in its peaceful serenities and its incomparable climate, and it is strange that the people of our [Northern] coasts go there in mere battalions, instead of in armies. The place is beautiful to the eye; it is clothed in flowers; the roads and the boating are all that can be desired; the hotels are good; the waters and the land are brilliant with spirit-reviving sunshine; the people, whether white, black, or brown, are courteous and kindly beyond the utmost stretch of a New York imagination. If poverty and wretchedness exist, there is no visible evidence of it. There is no rush, no hurry, no money-getting frenzy, no fretting, no complaining, no fussing and quarreling; no telegrams, no [daily] newspapers, [no railroads, no tramways, no subways, no trolleys, no L’s,] [no Tammany], no Republican party, no Democratic party, no graft, no office-seeking, no elections, no legislatures for sale; hardly a dog, seldom a cat, only one steam-whistle; not a saloon, nobody drunk; no [[W.C.T.U.];] and there is a church and a school on every corner. The spirit of the place is serenity, repose, contentment, [tranquillity]—a marked contrast to the spirit of America, which is embodied in the urgent [and mannerless] phrase “Come step lively,” a phrase which ought to be stamped on our coinage in place of “In God [We Trust].” [The former expression is full of character, whereas the latter has nothing to recommend it but its bland and self-complacent hypocrisy.]

I think it must be the fret and fever of our American life that is responsible for our atrocious manners. No other civilized nation is so uncourteous, so hard, so ungentle, so ill-bred, as ours. We wear several impressive titles—conferred by ourselves, of course—whereby we publish to the world that we are the only free and independent nation; that our land is the special and particular land of the free and home of the brave, and so forth, and so on; but we cannot seem to get anybody outside of our frontiers to recognize these titles, except in a doubting and half-hearted way; whereas what we want, and urgently need, is a title which shall be accepted and ratified with enthusiasm by the rest of the Christian world—a title not claimable by any other nation, a title able to hold its own unchallenged in all weathers. I believe I could think up the right title if I had time. Naturally it would be a title claiming for us the distinction of being the [Unpolite] Nation, but in fairness I should be obliged to make one reserve, one exception—the cabmen of Boston. Boston is the most courteous of American cities, [perhaps,] and I think it quite likely, at least possible, that of all Boston guilds the guild of cabmen stands about at the head in this regard. Anyway, with thirty-seven years’ experience to draw upon, I have never yet encountered an uncourteous Boston cabman. Of such is the kingdom of heaven, as I look at it. I am not claiming to be courteous myself, for in truth I am not. I am an American. I am as national as the eagle itself.

What Bermuda can do for a person in three short days, in the way of soothing his spirit and setting him up physically, and in giving his life a new value by temporarily banishing the weariness and the sordidness out of it, is wonderful—if that is not too strong a word, and I think it isn’t. Bronchitis disappears there in twenty-four hours; and it is the same with [sore throats], and kindred ailments, and they do not return until the patient gets back home; yet Bermuda is neglected; not many Americans visit it. I suppose it is too [near-by]. It costs too little trouble and exertion to get to it. It ought to be as far away as Italy; then we would seek it, no doubt, and be properly thankful for its existence. However, there is this much to be said for Americans: that when they go to Bermuda once, they are quite sure to go again; and some among the especially wise acquire the habit of it. I know one American who has spent nine seasons there. Consider this—if you are tired, and depressed, and half sick: you can reach that refuge inside of two days, and a week or two there will bring back your youth and the lost sunshine of your life, and stop your doctor’s bills for a year.

Comments