Following the Equator: Chapter XVI


Following the Equator: Chapter XVI
Melbourne and its Attractions—The Melbourne Cup Races—Cup Day—Great Crowds—Clothes Regardless of Cost—The Australian Larrikin—Is He Dead?—Australian Hospitality—Melbourne Wool-brokers—The Museums—The Palaces—The Origin of Melbourne

Text and images from The Oxford Mark Twain and The Gutenberg Project.
Locations and dates for the most part are from Mark Twain Day By Day, a massive work by David Fears
(See notes marked MTDBD).


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Submitted by scott on

I suspect the phrase originated with his book "The Innocents Abroad", in Chapter 27:

"There is one remark (already mentioned,) which never yet has failed to disgust these guides. We use it always, when we can think of nothing else to say. After they have exhausted their enthusiasm pointing out to us and praising the beauties of some ancient bronze image or broken-legged statue, we look at it stupidly and in silence for five, ten, fifteen minutes--as long as we can hold out, in fact--and then ask:

"Is--is he dead?"

That conquers the serenest of them. It is not what they are looking for--especially a new guide. Our Roman Ferguson is the most patient, unsuspecting, long-suffering subject we have had yet. We shall be sorry to part with him. We have enjoyed his society very much. We trust he has enjoyed ours, but we are harassed with doubts."

Submitted by scott on

She notes on page 65 of At Home Abroad something from Argus, 28 Sept. , p7. "It was an admirer paying back on him the mystification he inflicted on the poor guide who showed him the statute [sic] of Christopher Columbus. 'Is the gentleman dead?" It may in fact be the doctor, that joined Sam as he toured Italy, who used the phrase. He remarks a bit earlier in the text:

"The doctor asks the questions, generally, because he can keep his countenance, and look more like an inspired idiot, and throw more imbecility into the tone of his voice than any man that lives. It comes natural to him."

Submitted by scott on

This entry for October 4 Friday from MTDBD – The Clemens party was still at the Menzies Hotel in Melbourne. Sam’s carbuncle problem caused the cancellation of a performance planned for Bendigo’s Masonic Hall. Dr. N.T. Fitzgerald froze, lanced, injected opium, and prescribed plasters for Sam’s carbuncle, which Livy dutifully applied for several weeks. Sam stayed out of the public eye and recovered enough to travel by Oct. 11 [Shillingsburg, “Down Under” 12; At Home 72].

Shillingsburg does not mention the opium in "At Home" and I don't currently have access to the "Down Under" volume.