A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Tina Miller

Tina earned an MFA in Creative Writing, has several published novels and short stories, and teaches English and writing.

Mark Twain's, ''A Tramp Abroad,'' takes his talents across the Atlantic to Europe. In this lesson, you will travel through his summary and review some of the more prominent quotes from the book.

Who, What, and When

In 'A Tramp Abroad,' Mark Twain is the tramp, and he and his friend, Harris, are abroad, investigating life throughout eastern and southern Europe. Published in 1880, this novel explores Twain's adventures from Germany through places like France, Italy, and Switzerland. Like many of Twain's novels, this tale intermixes Twain's real-life experiences with his creative imagination. Join our quest as we peruse the summary and explore various quotes about the tramp and his travels.


Transports, Landscapes, and Legends

Boats, trains, and Alpine litters come in quite handy for the travelers, the latter of which is a cushioned box held up by two poles and carried by groups of strong porters. As they traverse the lands, they find solace. Twain describes: ''It was all the way downhill, and we had the loveliest summer weather for it. . .we. . .stretched away on an easy, regular stride, down through the cloven forest, drawing in the fragrant breath of the morning in deep refreshing draughts, and wishing we might never have anything to do forever but walk to Oppenau and keep on doing it and then doing it over again.'' Their travels, however, were not always as pleasant. ''There was no level ground at the Kaltbad station; the railbed was as steep as a roof; I was curious to see how the stop was going to be managed. But it was very simple; the train came sliding down, and when it reached the right spot it just stopped--that was all there was 'to it'--stopped on the steep incline. . .''

Twain and Harris trek from the low lands to the highlands. Twain robustly describes the landscapes. ''The neighboring country had a very different shape, at that time--the valleys have risen up and become hills, since, and the hills have become valleys.'' He invites us into to his hotels and allows us to stroll along as he explores. Of Wimpfen, he writes, ''It was very picturesque and tumble-down, and dirty and interesting. It had queer houses five hundred years old in it, and a military tower 115 feet high, which had stood there more than ten centuries.''

Twain intermixes subtle details of the cities and towns with snippets of historical insights. He explains how Frankfort, while Charlemagne and the Saxons chased one another (the truth of whom chased and of whom was being chased is still unknown), was built to commemorate the chase. There are legends, the Lorelei, that of Dilsberg Castle, and, of course, the Rhine legends. ''All tourists mention the Rhine legends--in that sort of way which quietly pretends that the mentioner has been familiar with them all his life, and that the reader cannot possibly be ignorant of them--but no tourist ever tells them.'' Twain strives to be unlike most tourists.

Interacting with Others

Partners, Patriarchs, and People

Alas, Twain and Harris were not alone. They converge with, converse with, and canoodle with a myriad of characters. We meet Mr. X, young Z, Rev. Mr., a rich farmer and his daughter, fruit peddlers, questionable couriers, the Empress of Germany, and Mr. Baedeker, the oft incorrect writer of tourist guide books. Of the characters, Twain provides hearty description, often sprinkled with humor. ''One of these waitresses, a woman of forty, had side-whiskers reaching half-way down her jaws. They were two fingers broad, dark in color, pretty thick, and the hairs were an inch long.'' We meet shop owners who ''. . .detest the English and despise the Americans; they are rude to both, more especially to ladies of your nationality and mine.'' We find animals like the ant, which Twain observes as being so strong that ''. . .we had not suspected the presence of much muscular power before.'' We become acquainted with the chamois, ''. . .a black or brown creature no bigger than a mustard seed; you do not have to go after it, it comes after you; it arrives in vast herds and skips and scampers all over your body, inside your clothes; thus it is not shy, but extremely sociable. . .''


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