Thursday, February 18, 2016

Visiting Hannibal, Missouri & Mark Twain's House

"Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates."

Get ready to be pirates, guys.  Or at least runaways on the Mississipi!  As it's the book birthday of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which was first published in the US on February 18, 1885), I thought today would be the perfect day to share our travel adventures in Hannibal, MO last summer - the hometown and boyhood house of the one and only Mark Twain.

"Ain't everyday a boy gets to whitewash a fence..."

There are of course nods to Mark Twain and his characters all over ("Mark Twain's Famous Fried Chicken" was one of our favorites...).  This "Welcome to Hannibal" sign is by the river, where there's a nice little park with the man himself...

Hello, Sam.  I like your hometown a lot.  I'm awful glad you set it down a book for us all to enjoy.  And the nice part is it's still here to enjoy in person too!

The people who inspired the characters in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may be gone, but there's one character who's still here - the Mississippi River!

I love the way Twain describes the river in his novels - it must have been so exciting, all the traffic that would go through in those days.  The Mississippi was the way to transport goods, people, practically everything - this was the highway of its day!  And it's clear how much Twain loved it from the way he wrote about it.

One of my favorite Mississippi quotations is about sunrise, so of course I tried to get up to watch the sunrise!  Unfortunately it was a grey day, but I still read out the scene in my vlog. :)

You can see it better in the video, but Mark Twain's house was actually very close to the Mississippi - about a block away - he could've stepped out his front door and looked down the street to it.  

The young Samuel Langhorn Clemens dreamed of becoming a steamboat pilot - and in fact he did become one as a young man.  And then of course he went on to become one of the most beloved authors in American history. NBD.

Much as I enjoyed the riverside park, the signs weren't exactly welcoming.  I somehow feel like Mark Twain would have gotten a kick out of them...

...and would have some rather snarky things to say about them. ;)

Another lovely park Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn lovers will enjoy is this one, set into the hill at the end of Hannibal's historic Main Street.

Up at the top of those steps is Becky's Butterfly Garden!

Looking down Main Street - the buildings and shops were all charming!

Looks a lot like a Main Street USA. :)

Sam Clemens' house wasn't on the main street but is set quietly off to the side.  All the historic houses are in the same area - here's Mark Twain's father's law office.

...and Becky Thatcher's house!

...and finally Mark Twain's house!

...with, of course, that famous fence!  This is a recreation, but it's in the same spot. :)

Luckily they had a bucket and paintbrushes at hand...

This is hard work, y'all...

...maybe I'll just get some help here... ;)

Now let's make our way through those white fences and into the house!

"The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum"

You start your tour of the house by going through a short exhibit with some background on Mark Twain and his family.  The place is delightfully littered with quotes from the books and especially Mark Twain's Autobiography.

I recently finished a book called The Bohemians which tells the story of the literary circle that Mark Twain moved in when he lived in San Francisco as a young writer.  I loved learning more about his life, and I desperately want to read the Autobiography, especially remembering all the wonderful quotations from this exhibit!  I loved what his mother said about him: "I discount him 90% for embroidery, and what is left is perfect and priceless truth, without a flaw in it anywhere."


One quote told of a convenient lightning rod the young Mark Twain could get down - we looked for it when walking around the house, but I think it must have been removed.  I believe they aren't sure which room was which, but they've carefully refurnished it with period pieces - they read newspapers of the era to decide which carpet to pick.

Channeling Tom Sawyer.

The gift shop was filled with all the Mark Twain!

We only had a short time in Hannibal, but I loved visiting Mark Twain's hometown so much.  Literary travels are some of favorite sorts of sojourns.  It gives you a whole new view on the book to experience the place that inspired the author. :)

Other Bookish Travels:

Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey
Jane Austen's Lyme Regis

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