ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Mark Twain’s Unforgettable Journey To The Hawaiian Islands

Updated on May 18, 2009

Island Inspiration

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens 1835-1910) arrived via the “Ajax” on March 18, 1866 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Twain spent four months and a day on the island as a newspaper correspondent with the Sacramento Union. He was still a neophyte writer at this time and had not yet published a single book. He came to Hawaii eager and excited; afterwards, Mark Twain would go on to become a prominent journalist, author, and lecturer. When he returned to the mainland, Twain spent the better part of the next several years traveling around the United States and England speaking about his travels in the Sandwich Islands (i.e. Hawaiian Islands). Mark Twain presented a lecture on the islands for the first time on October 2, 1866 in San Francisco. A. Grove Day, who edited the 1966 edition of Mark Twain’s Letters From Hawaii, remarked that a section of the advertisement for his 1866 lecture read, “Doors open at 7 o’clock; the trouble to begin at 8.”


Mark Twain wrote about several important aspects of the islands. He observed in depth the sugar and whaling industries that were of special interest to the western American businessmen. He also wrote about the geography, climate, people, culture, religion, lore, and the government on the islands. He was charged with writing a series of travel letters for the paper that would be printed in both the daily and weekly editions. Twain wrote a total of twenty-five letters for the Union, the last of which was published on November 16, 1866. Although it was published in November, Mark Twain decided to use the date, June 3rd, for which he actually traveled to the famous Volcano House Hotel at the Kilauea Volcano. He kept very detailed records while he was on the islands. This quote from the UC Berkeley’s collection of Mark Twain's Papers offers good insight into his record keeping:

“Clemens kept copious notes on his experiences and observations in the islands, which he used for preparing his travel letters to the Union. Here he records a ‘Honolulu joke by Ed. Burlingame’ (the son of Anson Burlingame, the U.S. minister to China): ‘If a man ask thee to go with him a mile, go with him, Twain.’ Clemens was at first delighted with this joke—a pun on Matthew 5:41, ‘And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain’—and for a time used it in his lectures, but its constant repetition in the newspapers ultimately made him loathe it.”


Haunted By Hawaii

It is truly amazing that in an era where memories from the past could only be saved in one’s mind or notebook and not on a hard disc, compact disc, videocassette, or some other technological device, Mark Twain often vividly looked back at the islands he called, “the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean.” Later in his life, he toyed with the idea of writing a novel about Hawaii, and spoke to friends and family about a desire to return to the island chain. In 1889, at a dinner to recognize a baseball team that had returned from a tour of the Pacific, which included Hawaii, Mark Twain concluded his speech with these words:

“No alien land in all the world has any deep strong charm for me but one, no other land could so longingly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surfbeat is in my ear; I can see its garland crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud wrack; I can feel the spirit of its woodland solitudes, I can hear the plash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.”



Day, Grove A. (Editor) Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii. Appleton-Century; New York: 1966

Internet: Mark Twain’s Papers
The Bancroft Library at UC - Berkeley

*SPG originally wrote this article in 2005 (edited in 2007) at an ancient history forum/community.

See my other History - Archaeology - Anthropology HubPages below:



This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)