Following the Equator - Chapter XXV

Title

Following the Equator - Chapter XXV
Bound for Bendigo—The Priest at Castlemaine—Time Saved by Walking—Description of Bendigo—A Valuable Nugget—Perseverence and Success—Mr. Blank and His Influence—Conveyance of an Idea—I Had to Like the Irishman—Corrigan Castle, and the Mark Twain Club—My Bascom Mystery Solved
 
 

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).

 

The identity of Mr.Blank, the influential Irishman of chapter 25, is a mystery. Miriam Shillingsburg published an article on him in the Mark Twain Journal in 1993. Ms.Shillingsburg theorizes that Mr. Blank is one of three possible candidates. None of them are Mr. Charles Casey of Pollerton Castle, Carlow, Ireland. It was with Mr. Casey that Sam Clemens had correspondence, May 15, 1876.:

“Of course I don't know what you hold, but I “call” you anyway! This being translated means: Tell me about this thing. Really & truly, now, is there a Twain Club?”

This sounds just like the fellow Twain is describing in Chapter 25 of Following the Equator and ascribing to Mr. Blank.

However, looking into the scant details of Mr. Casey it seems unlikely that he would have traveled to Bendigo, Australia. Also, it seems Mr. Casey was not a bachelor but he was a most curious character. Aside from being a Mark Twain fan, he was quite interested in the Great Pyramid and published a book about its “use and meaning”. “Philitis, a condensed account of the use and meaning of the Great Pyramid”. First published in 1872, it went through several editions until the fifth in 1880. Casey had also written about Darwinism. I don't know if he was thinking about Charles Darwin or Herbert Spencer.

It's possible Mr. Casey became interested in the Great Pyramid from reading “The Innocents Abroad”. There is an entry in the “Papers of Ulysses S. Grant” dated 1873, July 4, a request from Charles Casey, Carlow, Ireland to USG: “I very much desire some official recognition of my existence as a U.S. citizen during my exile in the Island of Pigs Politics – Punch – & potatoes, and would be pleased at some unpaid appointment as that conceded to “Mark Twains' fellow passenger on the Quaker City – but not quite so wide in scope...” He remarks on having two sons, ages 8 and 6 years.

It's possible the Mr. Blank was indeed the author of the reported death of Mark Twain in Melbourne and I suppose it is possible he did sail with Henry Bascomb, around the world. But, I suspect Mark Twain conflated the Mark Twain Club of Carrington/Pollerton castle with Mr. Blanks' antics because he wanted to tell the story of the club and Mr. Blank provided a convenient Irishman for the job, nevermind that Casey was actually an American expatriot.

Ms. Shillingsburg's concluding paragraph reinforces my contention that Charles Casey is and was The Mark Twain Club of Carrington Castle and that Twain's tale in chapter 25 of "Following the Equator" is a fabrication. I suggest that the club badge is born from the Bendigo keepsake letter cover.

Casey's work on the Great Pyramid, with its series of revisions, indicates his attraction to inventing complex constructs, just the kind of thing the Mark Twain Club seems to have been. Casey's letter to U.S. Grant demonstrates his dissatisfaction with living in Ireland and his desire to be associated with some form of Americana. What better way to do that than to immerse oneself in Mark Twain.

It's possible that Casey was as much a story teller as Twain but he is registered as the owner of 5 acres of land in County Carlow and residing in Pollerton Castle. The castle remains on a 2 acre estate
and is the home of R. Healy and Son Funeral Directors. Casey was also a member of the International Institute for Preserving and Perfecting Weights and Measures, whose main purpose seems to have been preventing the use of the metric system.

 

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Comments

Submitted by scott on

Just reading some of Robert Cooper's book, "Around the World with Mark Twain" I came across this: "In 'Following the Equator', Clemens combined the story of his Irish admirer, 'Mr. Blank,' and that of Reginald Cholmondeley, who had written to Mrs. Clemens from Melbourne in 1881, offering condolences for her husband's death."

I was unaware of Reginald Cholmondeley but did remark in my commentary following my video of Chapter 25 that I thought the two things (The Fan Club and the Mistaken Death) were conflated.