What: Mark Twain arrives in St. Paul.
When: May 21, 1882.
Take me to the river: Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi,” a memoir and travelogue, began as a series of articles for the Atlantic magazine. But he realized it wasn’t enough to recall the old days of steamboat life; he needed to get back on the water and ply the bends of the Old Miss again. So he boarded a steamer (aptly named the Minneapolis) in New Orleans and headed to St. Paul. The journey, he wrote to his wife, was a “hideous trip.” He was bored and homesick. But the sight of the bluffs above St. Paul stirred his spirits: “Where the rough broken turreted rocks stand up against a sky above the steep verdant slope, they are inexpressibly rich and mellow in color — soft dark brown mingled with dull green — the very place to make an artist worship.”
A cold welcome: Twain’s Mississippi journey ended in St. Paul, where it was 37 degrees. On May 21. “The season being far advanced when we were in New Orleans, the roses and magnolia blossoms were falling; but here in St. Paul it was the snow,” he wrote in Life magazine. “In New Orleans we had caught an occasional withering breath from over a crater, apparently; here in St. Paul we caught a frequent benumbing one from over a glacier, apparently.” Nevertheless, he liked it. He wrote in his book, “St. Paul is a wonderful town. It is put together in solid blocks of honest brick and stone, and has the air of intending to stay.”
Happy to head home: A Pioneer Press reporter went to the Metropolitan Hotel to interview an English duke who was briefly in town, and noticed that an “S.L. Clemens, Hartford” was registered. He knocked on the hotel room door, and “found the gentleman in bed at a late hour … drawling in speech, but entertaining to the highest degree.” The reporter wrote: “All along his present Mississippi River tour, Clemens has refused to be interviewed by newspapermen, on the ground that he has been misrepresented so many times, and that newspapermen in general were chronic fabricators.” The interview, however, sounds like no fabrication: “Questioned about St. Paul, Twain had nothing to say, as he had seen but little of the city, but he is disgusted with yesterday’s climate, and will leave today for his home in the East.”
A return trip: Twain returned to Minnesota in 1886. In June. When the temps were in the 70s. From the interviews he gladly gave, it seems he had no complaints.