“With Mark Twain You Can Get Away With Murder”

The man who has lived with him nearly as long as Samuel Clemens did tells why Twain still has the power to delight—and to disturb

Beginning with a lecture in St. Louis in 1867, Mark Twain’s famous career as a public speaker spanned about 40 years. But thanks to his avatar Hal Holbrook, he has gone on amusing and instructing and scolding us for another half-century on stages all over the world. Though Holbrook has now lived longer than Twain did, he continues to portray the old man with undiminishcd vitality and even eerier authenticity in his one-man show, Mark Twain Tonight! Read more »

Lost Horizon

A hundred and fifty years ago, a sea of grass spread from the Ohio to the Rockies; now only bits and pieces of that awesome wilderness remain for the traveler to discover.

Behind my grandparents’ house, the house in which I was born, rose a high pasture, little used in my boyhood and then only for grazing a few head of cattle. Crowned by tall weeds and scarred by runoff gullies, it was my first prairie, the one that still drifts behind all my images and notions of that phenomenon even though it was only forty or fifty acres bounded by timber and bean fields.Read more »

Fairmount

How the Philadelphia waterworks became a potent symbol of our lost belief that nature and technology could live together in harmony

Charles Dickens apparently found little to beguile him when he visited Philadelphia in the 1840’s. He gave scarcely a page to the city in his American Notes , and was sourly amused at being overcome with “Quakery feelings,” which manifested themselves in an urge to invest in the corn exchange. But when he got to the banks of the Schuylkill, he was deeply impressed: “Philadelphia is most bountifully provided with fresh water, which is showered and jerked about, and turned on, and poured off, everywhere.Read more »

148 Charles Street

The Literary Lights Were Always Bright at

Everyone wanted to be invited to 148 Charles Street, where Charles Dickens mixed the punch and taught the guests parlor games, John Greenleaf Whittier and Harriet Beecher Stowe vied in telling ghost stories, and Nathaniel Hawthorne paced the bedroom floor one unhappy night in the final miserable year of his life.Read more »