Mark Twain on Small-Town Southern Journalism

twainFebruary 1, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mark Twain wrote the following short story 140 years ago. Some details are perhaps exaggerated, but modern-day readers of the Cape Charles Wave nevertheless may draw some parallels. The story has been condensed for modern attention spans.

Journalism in Tennessee
By Mark Twain

I was told by my physician that a Southern climate would improve my health, and so I went down to Tennessee, and got a berth on the Morning Glory and Johnson County War-Whoop as associate editor.

When I went on duty the chief editor told me to take the exchanges and skim through them and write what seemed of interest.

I wrote as follows:

“The editors of the Semi-Weekly Earthquake evidently labor under a misapprehension with regard to the Dallyhack railroad. It is not the object of the company to leave Buzzardville off to one side. The gentlemen of the Earthquake will, of course, take pleasure in making the correction.

* * *

“John W. Blossom, Esq., the able editor of the Higginsville Thunderbolt and Battle Cry of Freedom, arrived in the city yesterday. He is stopping at the Van Buren House.

* * *

“We observe that our contemporary of the Mud Springs Morning Howl has fallen into the error of supposing that the election of Van Werter is not an established fact, but he will have discovered his mistake before this reminder reaches him, no doubt.

* * *

“It is pleasant to note that the city of Blathersville is endeavoring to contract with some New York gentlemen to pave its well-nigh impassable streets. The Daily Hurrah urges the measure with ability, and seems confident of ultimate success.

* * *

I passed my manuscript over to the chief editor. He glanced at it and his face clouded. Presently he sprang up and said:

“Thunder and lightning! Do you suppose my subscribers are going to stand such gruel as that? Give me the pen!”

While he was in the midst of his work, somebody shot at him through the open window, and marred the symmetry of my ear. [Read more…]


SATURDAY 2/9: Free Talent Show at Palace Theatre

“I Played the Palace”: At 7 p.m. Saturday, February 9, the stage of the Historic Palace Theatre in Cape Charles will be filled with a lighthearted, non-competitive show of talent as local singers, actors, dancers or poets perform on the stage. [Read more…]