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 previous Sam’s Shorts selections with reader feedback and additional context, and learn more with our companion podcast.

Excerpt from "History 1,000 Years from Now," written 1901

The completion of the twenty-ninth century has had at least one effect which was no doubt common to the completion of all the centuries which have preceded it: it has suddenly concentrated the thoughts of the whole thinking and dreaming world upon the past.  To-day no subject but the one—the past—can get much attention . . . men are reading histories who never cared for them before, and men are writing them who had found no call to work such veins previously. Every day brings forth a new history—or shall we say a dozen new ones? Indeed we are floundering in a flood of history.

It will be difficult to condense these narratives into a sketch, but the effort is worthwhile . . . This sketch must be drawn, fact by fact, trifle by trifle, from the great general mass, therefore it will not be possible to quote the authorities, the number of names and books would be too great for that.

It is now a thousand years since the happy accident—or series of accidents—occurred which after many years rescued our nation from democracy and gave it the blessed refuge and shelter of a crown. We say a thousand years, and it was in effect that, though the histories are not agreed as to the dates. Some of them place the initial events at nine centuries ago, some at ten, others at eleven. As to the events themselves, however, there is less disagreement.

It is conceded that the first of these incidents was the seizure, by the government in power at the time, of the group of islands now called the Vashington Archipelago. Vashington—some say George, some say Archibald—was the reigning President, hence the name.  What the group was called before is not now known with certainty, but there is a tradition that our vast Empire was not always called Filipino . . . The universal destruction of historical records which occurred during the long and bloody struggle which released us from the cruel grip of democracy makes our history guess-work mainly—alas that it should be so!—still, enough of apparently trustworthy information has survived to enable us to properly estimate the grandeur of that conquest and to sketch the principal details of it with a close approach to exactness.

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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.