This book is a record of a pleasure trip. If it were a record of a solemn scientific expedition, it would have about it that gravity, that profundity, and that impressive incomprehensibility which are so proper to works of that kind, and withal so attractive. Yet notwithstanding it is only a record of a pic-nic, it has a purpose, which is to suggest to the reader how he would be likely to see Europe and the East if he looked at them with his own eyes instead of the eyes of those who traveled in those countries before him. I make small pretense of showing anyone how he ought to look at objects of interest beyond the sea—other books do that, and therefore, even if I were competent to do it, there is no need.
I offer no apologies for any departures from the usual style of travel-writing that may be charged against me—for I think I have seen with impartial eyes, and I am sure I have written at least honestly, whether wisely or not.
In this volume I have used portions of letters which I wrote for the Daily Alta California, of San Francisco, the proprietors of that journal having waived their rights and given me the necessary permission. I have also inserted portions of several letters written for the New York Tribune and the New York Herald.
THE AUTHOR. SAN FRANCISCO.
From Page 396-7 The Life of Mark Twain: The Early Years, 1835-1871:
Charles Duncan learned the hard way, like Sam when he discovered mica in the mines, that all that glitters is not gold, Each of the celebrities he had recruited for the voyage had withdrawn. Sherman was sent west by the army to fight Indians. Maggie Mitchell simply changed her mind. The Drummer Boy married and preferred to honeymoon somewhere other than on a ship with a gaggle of evangelical Christians. Beecher protested that he needed to finish his novel Norwood but in fact dropped out because he feared the malarious air in Europe. The novel had already been published and, ironically, a copy would circulate among the Quaker City passengers. After Beecher withdrew, so did forty-five of his parishioners. They had not been required, like other prospective passengers, to deposit money to secure their places, In the end, fewer than seventy passengers—the vast majority of them men— booked passage, less than the break-even point on costs. But Duncan had spent thousands of dollars in refurbishing the ship, so canceling the cruise was not an option. His hands were tied, and while the venture would not enable him to recover from his bankruptcy, he would repeatedly trim expenses in the course of the voyage. According to Mary Mason Fairbanks, wife of Abel Fairbanks, co-owner of the Cleveland Herald, “We go without a General Sherman or a Henry Ward Beecher, but stars of lesser magnitude may come to be planets whose light shall yet dazzle.” As late as June 1, however, Sam was uncertain that the excursion would occur. He advised his family that “if the ship sails I sail on her, but I make no calculations, have bought no cigars, no sea-going clothing—have made no preparations whatever.” Despite his earlier insistence that a selection committee would vet all “applicants,” Duncan refused accommodations to no passenger with money to pay the fare and he continued to advertise the excursion literally until the day of departure. Or, as the New York Times reported, the voyage was “originally designed to embrace a select and somewhat exclusive party, but before the steamer sailed it was found necessary to lower the standard a little, and ordinary persons with $1,200 to spend were enabled to purchase tickets.”
Among them was Dan Slote, a New York stationer, who was initially assigned to share the same stateroom as Sam. “I have got a nice moral room-mate” who “has got many shirts, and a History of the Holy Land, a cribbage-board and three thousand cigars,’ Sam reported to his Alta readers with undisguised delight. “I will not have to carry any baggage at all.” In The Innocents Abroad, he described Slote as “intelligent, cheerful of spirit, unselfish, full of generous impulses, patient, considerate, wonderfully goodnatured,” Privately, he was even more candid. “I have got a splendid, immoral, tobacco-smoking, wine-drinking, godless room-mate who is as good & true & right-minded a man as ever lived—a man whose blameless conduct and example will always be an eloquent sermon to all who shall come within their influence.” Before embarking, Sam laid in a couple of cases of expensive champagne and, according to the New York correspondent of the St. Louis Times, a sufficient supply of “good liquors—wines, principally—to keep the Union Club for a twelvemonth went on board before sailing,“
In the end, Sam and Dan Slote did not share accommodations, though they doubtless shared their stores of cigars and alcohol. Sam was upgraded to Sherman's vacated stateroom, which was “furnished like a palace.”
He arrived at the pier shortly after noon the next day in time to stow his luggage and join the band of passengers “arrayed in unattractive traveling costumes’ who “were moping about in a drizzling rain and looking as droopy and woebegone as so many molting chickens,” Unbeknownst to the excursionists, Duncan had filed for bankruptcy—citing debts of twenty-five thousand dollars—a few hours before the ship was scheduled to sail. The Quaker City embarked at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 8. A crowd of well-wishers, among them Beecher, gathered to bid the “innocents” bon voyage. The congregants sang “Homeward Bound” from the Plymouth Collection of Hymns to great fanfare as the ship slipped its moorings. It sailed with the tide but against wind and rain a few miles to Gravesend Bay near Brooklyn in lower New York Harbor where, anticlimactically, it dropped anchor. At least sixteen other vessels, four of them passenger ships, including the luxury liner Arago, sailed from New York Harbor during the weekend and did not delay on account of weather—that is, Duncan seemed to have dallied from an excess of caution."