It's long been known that Twain took much creative license in the crafting of his highly entertaining, posthumously published autobiography. Now, Twain scholar Robert Stewart is challenging the author's account of his grueling trek from Aurora to Virginia City, Nevada--where, as a young man, he came to work for local newspaper the Territorial Enterprise and get his first paid writing experience.
According to Twain's dramatic account, he walked alone from one town to the other; however, Stewart's research would indicate a much more mundane version, in which Twain actually rode on a horse, and was accompanied by a friend. In general, according to Stewart, the trip was far less difficult than Twain made it sound.
Stewart postulates that, much like a lot of the author's hyperbole in his autobiography, the license was taken in order to strongly accentuate his rise from obscurity to literary prominence.
"Reality was not as impressive, but Twain was not above altering reality when a good story was more effective, and it seems probable that he was the source of this story," said Nevada state historic preservation officer Ron James to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
In a second article, Stewart displays the research which helped him ascertain the exact route the young Sam Clemens took on his visit to the Lake Tahoe Basin. Both articles, in addition to a third article by David Antonucci postulating an alternate route, can be found in the recently published Summer 2008 issue of the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly.