Roughing It was based rather roughly on a period of Twain’s life that began in 1861, when Twain went west with his brother Orion. Orion had been appointed Secretary of the Nevada territory with the help of friend who had a friend in Lincoln’s new cabinet. Twain had just faded quietly out of the Confederate army after suffering from boils and a sprained ankle and never firing a shot. For a while out west, Twain prospected for silver around Virginia City; then for about two years he was a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. In 1864 he drifted on to San Francisco, where he was a reporter and a free-lance writer. In 1866 he was sent to the Hawaiian Islands by the Sacramento Union. The period covered by the book ends with his return to San Francisco, his first success as a lecturer, and his boarding ship for the voyage that was to take him to New York and his career as one of America’s most famous writers. The stretch between the inception and the publishing of Roughing It – from the beginning of 1870 to February 1872 – was for Twain one of protracted crisis.

Note on the Author

Joseph Yokelson is Professor of English at Bridgewater State College.