Near the end of August 1872, Mark Twain traveled to England for the first time ostensibly to gather notes for a new literary project, which he would refer to over the next several months as the “English” book. Commentators from Albert Bigelow Paine to Howard Baetzhold have described the England trip of 1872 generally as a pleasurable experience for Twain. However, the fall of 1872 was an enormously turbulent time for Twain psychologically. He was in the throes of what he remembered years later as one of the darkest, most grief-filled periods of his entire life: a two-year stretch marked by an unrelenting succession of personal misfortune and tragedy. Considered from this perspective, the England trip of 1872 looks less like an enjoyable overseas excursion and more like a season in hell.

You do not currently have access to this content.