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Mark Twain on Lake Como

Mark Twain, one of the most celebrated American authors, in a poetic description of Lake Como that he visited in 1866 during a long tour of Europe

Mark Twain is noted for his novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). In Innocents Abroad – a humorous account of his trip to Europe and the Holy Land – he describes his adventures and impressions during the long trip in 1866 from New York to Europe and the Holy Land.

In his long European tour he did not miss a visit to Lake Como. Although for a start he contends that Lake Como was not the equal of Lake Tahoe, he soon switches from his usual irreverent and witty tone to a lyrical description of the lake:

From my window here in Bellagio, I have a view of the other side of the lake now, which is as beautiful as a picture. A scarred and wrinkled precipice rises to a height of eighteen hundred feet; on a tiny bench half way up its vast wall, sits a little snow-flake of a church, no bigger than a martin-box, apparently ; skirting the base of the cliff are a hundred orange groves and gardens, necked with glimpses of the white dwellings that are buried in them ; in front, three or four gondolas lie idle upon the water and in the burnished mirror of the hike, mountain, chapel, houses, groves and boats are counterfeited so brightly and so clearly that one scarce knows where the reality leaves off and the reflection begins! The surroundings of this picture are fine. A mile away, a grove-plumed promontory juts far into the lake and glasses its palace in the blue depths; in midstream a boat is cutting the shining surface and leaving a long track behind, like a ray of light; the mountains beyond are veiled in a dreamy purple haze; far in the opposite direction a tumbled mass of domes and verdant slopes and valleys bars the lake, and here indeed does distance lend enchantment to the view for on this broad canvas, sun and clouds and the richest of atmospheres have blended a thousand tints together, and over its surface the filmy lights and shadows drift, hour after hour, and glorify it with a beauty that seems reflected out of Heaven itself. Beyond all question, this is the most voluptuous scene we have yet looked upon. Last night the scenery was striking and picturesque. On the other side crags and trees and snowy houses were reflected in the lake with a wonderful distinctness, and streams of light from many a distant window shot far abroad over the still waters.

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