Sam's Shorts

If you’ve ever wanted to dive deeper into Twain's works but haven't known where to start, Sam’s Shorts is your opportunity!

Each month, we’re bringing you a brief passage from one of his less-familiar works, including his speeches, essays, short stories, and letters, and inviting you to read, reflect, and respond. Then we’ll share what we learned from your responses, answer some of your questions, and tell you a bit more about the background and context of the piece. Your responses help us develop new programs for adults and teach Twain’s writing to students. They’ll also help us pick new shorts for you to read and enjoy!

You can also read all previous Sam’s Shorts selections with reader feedback and additional context.

From "A Curious Pleasure Excursion," New York Herald, July 6, 1874

This is to inform the public that in connection with Mr. Barnum I have leased the comet for a term of years . . . We propose to fit up comfortable, and even luxurious, accommodations in the comet . . . and make an extended excursion among the heavenly bodies. We shall prepare 1,000,000 state rooms in the tail of the comet (with hot and cold water, gas, looking glass, parachute, umbrella, &c. in each) . . . We shall have billiard rooms, card rooms, music rooms, bowling alleys and many spacious theatres and free libraries.

Hostility is not apprehended from any great planet, but we have thought it best to err on the safe side, and therefore have provided a proper number of mortars, siege guns and boarding pikes . . . We shall hope to leave a good impression of America behind us in every nation we visit, from Venus to Uranus. And, at all events, if we cannot inspire love we shall, at least, compel respect for our country wherever we go. We shall take with us, free of charge A GREAT FORCE OF MISSIONARIES and shed the true light upon all the celestial orbs which physically aglow, are yet morally in darkness. Compulsory education will be introduced . . .

FIRST CLASS FARE from the Earth to Uranus, including visits to the Sun and Moon and all principal planets on the route, will be charged at the low rate of $2 for every 50,000,000 miles of actual travel . . . This comet is new and in thorough repair and is now on her first voyage. She is confessedly the fastest on the line. She makes 20,000,000 miles a day, with her present facilities; but, with a picked American crew and good weather, we are confident we can get 40,000,000 out of her.

The entire voyage will be completed, and the passengers landed in New York again on the 14th of December, 1991. This is at least forty years quicker than any other comet can do it in . . .

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Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, and the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign and its Travelers Arts Impact Grant program with major support from The Travelers Foundation.