Mark Twain’s first major travel book was “The Innocents Abroad” which covered his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After crossing the Atlantic and touring Europe, Twain finally sees Jerusalem for the first time.
At last, away in the middle of the day, ancient bite of wall and crumbling arches began to line the way–we toiled up one more hill, and every pilgrim and every sinner swung his hat on high! Jerusalem!
Perched on its eternal hills, white and domed and solid, massed together and hooped with high gray walls, the venerable city gleamed in the sun. So small! Why, it was no larger than an American village of four thousand inhabitants, and no larger than an ordinary Syrian city of thirty thousand. Jerusalem numbers only fourteen thousand people.
We dismounted and looked, without speaking a dozen sentences, across the wide intervening valley for an hour or more; and noted those prominent features of the city that pictures make familiar to all men from their school days till their death. We could recognize the Tower of Hippicus, the Mosque of Omar, the Damascus Gate, the Mount of Olives, the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the Tower of David, and the Garden of Gethsemane–and dating from these landmarks could tell very nearly the localities of many others we were not able to distinguish.
I record it here as a notable but not discreditable fact that not even our pilgrims wept. I think there was no individual in the party whose brain was not teeming with thoughts and images and memories invoked by the grand history of the venerable city that lay before us, but still among them all was no “voice of them that wept.”
There was no call for tears. Tears would have been out of place. The thoughts Jerusalem suggests are full of poetry, sublimity, and more than all, dignity. Such thoughts do not find their appropriate expression in the emotions of the nursery.
Just after noon we entered these narrow, crooked streets, by the ancient and the famed Damascus Gate, and now for several hours I have been trying to comprehend that I am actually in the illustrious old city where Solomon dwelt, where Abraham held converse with the Deity, and where walls still stand that witnessed the spectacle of the Crucifixion.
Twain’s words brought the Holy Land alive for readers back in the United States. His word pictures helped to “flesh out” the stories which all had learned in Sunday School.
Of course, Twain would go on to write other famous travel books such as Roughing It, and Following the Equator but The Innocents Abroad remains a favorite of many fans.