Thursday, September 15, 2005

The day Mark Twain came to Australia

The Australians do not seem to me to differ noticeably from Americans, either in dress, carriage, ways, pronunciation, inflections, or general appearance.
Mark Twain, observing in Australia which he entered on September 15, 1895; More Tramps Abroad

I am a revolutionist – by birth, breeding, principle, and everything else.
Mark Twain

1895 American social activist and humourist Mark Twain (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The War Prayer) arrived in Australia on the SS Warrimoo for a three-month lecture tour.

It was part of a larger tour as told in his book, Following the Equator ...

He even wrote this about beautiful Woolgoolga, the little holiday resort noted for its large Sikh population, near Sandy Beach where I live:

In the weltering hell of the Moorooroo plain
The Yatala Wangary withers and dies,
And the Worrow Wanilla, demented with pain,
To the Woolgoolga woodlands
Despairingly flies.

What Mr Twain meant, we shall probably never know, but I assume he was just playing with Aboriginal words for the euphony. There was not much at Woopi (as Woolgoolga is known locally) then (not much now), and if he stopped in it was likely just for the steamer to take on wood and water. I haven't been able to find any other record of his visit to Woopi, though his Australian tour is quite well documented. One source is The Bulletin magazine editions of 1895.

This link will take you to many of his contemporaries in the Australian radical and artistic/literary scene, some of whom he met while in Sydney.

More on Woolgoolga, New South Wales.

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