Roughing It

Roughing It is a book of semi-autobiographical travel literature by Mark Twain. It was written in 187071 and published in 1872,[2][3] as a prequel to his first travel book The Innocents Abroad (1869). Roughing It is dedicated to Twain's mining companion Calvin H. Higbie, later a civil engineer who died in 1914.[4]

Roughing It
Title page from first edition
AuthorMark Twain
CountryUnited States
GenreTravel literature
PublisherAmerican Publishing Company
Publication date
Media typePrint
Pages608 (including title page)
Preceded byThe Innocents Abroad (1869) 
Followed byThe Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873) 

The book follows the travels of young Mark Twain through the Wild West during the years 18611867. After a brief stint as a Confederate cavalry militiaman (not included in the account), he joined his brother Orion Clemens, who had been appointed Secretary of the Nevada Territory, on a stagecoach journey west. Twain consulted his brother's diary to refresh his memory and borrowed heavily from his active imagination for many stories in the book.

Roughing It illustrates many of Twain's early adventures, including a visit to Salt Lake City, gold and silver prospecting, real-estate speculation, a journey to the Kingdom of Hawaii, and his beginnings as a writer. This memoir provides examples of Twain's rough-hewn humor, which would become a staple of his writing in such later books as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).

U.S. astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell read Roughing It aloud to pass the time aboard NASA's Gemini VII, a 14-day-long Earth orbital mission in December 1965.[5]

In Lords of St. Thomas, a historical novel set in St. Thomas, Nevada, the main character "Little" Henry Lord is reading Roughing It when he learns that his father has fallen from the Hoover Dam.


Various sections of Roughing It were borrowed by television series such as Bonanza.[6] In 1960, an hour-long adaptation was broadcast on NBC starring Andrew Prine and James Daly.[6]

A four-hour 2002 mini-series adaptation was broadcast on Hallmark Channel. Directed by Charles Martin Smith, it starred James Garner as an elderly Samuel Clemens and Robin Dunne as a young Clemens.[6]

A gold strike by Mark Twain and Calvin Higbie, which was seized by claim jumpers ten days after it was discovered, is recounted in Roughing It. In the dedication of the book, Twain refers to Higbie as an "Honest Man, a Genial Comrade, and a Steadfast Friend … dedicated in Memory of the Curious Time When We Two Were Millionaires for Ten Days".[7] The prospecting story is also covered in a 1968 episode of the syndicated television anthology series Death Valley Days, hosted by Robert Taylor. In the television dramatization, Tom Skerritt plays Twain, and Dabney Coleman was cast as Higbie.[8]


  1. Facsimile of the original 1st edition.
  2. "Mark Twain's Most Famous Books". The Mark Twain House & Museum. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  3. Kaplan, Justin (1966). Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  4. "Mark Twain's Old Mining Partner Is Dead". Sacramento Union. September 30, 1914. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  5. "To the Moon transcript". NOVA. PBS. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  6. Rasmussen, Kent R. (1995). Critical Companion to Mark Twain. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc. p. 444. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  7. "Roughing It by Mark Twain". Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  8. "Ten Day Millionaires on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
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