Magazine May 4, 2020, Issue

Mark Twain in the Time of Cholera

Mark Twain in 1867 (Library of Congress/Getty Images)
The disease afflicted the author as he was writing what became The Innocents Abroad

The first time Mark Twain saw the Parthenon, he was about five or six miles away, on the deck of a ship near the Greek port of Piraeus. “Every column of the noble structure was discernible through the telescope,” he wrote in 1867. Beside it lay the city of Athens. Twain and his companions were “anxious to get ashore and visit these classic localities as quickly as possible.” “No land we had yet seen had aroused such a universal interest among the passengers.”

Then came a problem: The commandant of Piraeus placed Twain’s ship under quarantine. The Quaker City had just

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This article appears as “Twain in the Time of Cholera” in the May 4, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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