Mark Twain in Toronto

September 28, 2015 | Raimo

Comments (2)

Mark Twain 1884 Twain and Cable Autographed George Washington Cable Portrait 

Mark Twain, The Twins of Genius on Tour, George Washington Cable: Wikipedia Media Commons

Mark Twain visited Toronto twice during his 1884-1885 North American lecture tour to prior to the publication of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He was accompanied by fellow author George Washington Cable, on what became known as "The Twins of Genius Tour". While for Twain the tour was a promotional vehicle for Huckleberry Finn, it was also a significant source of income for the both authors. Author lectures or readings were ticketed events, and celebrity authors like Twain and Cable could draw large paying audiences. Twain's lectures were more than readings, they were entertaining performance pieces, similar perhaps to modern stand-up comedy routines and immensely popular with audiences.

  Mark Twain Mark Twain on Stage

Mark Twain on Stage and Mark Twain Portrait:  Wikipedia Media Commons


Rossin House

 Rossin House Image Toronto Public Library

While in Toronto, Twain and Cable both stayed at the upscale Rossin House Hotel at the corner of King Street and York Street. The building stood until 1969, when it was demolished to make way for the Toronto-Dominion Centre.


Allan Gardens Pavillion

Allan Gardens: Image Toronto Public Library

Twain and Cable lectured in Toronto in 1884 on December 8th and 9th. The venue was the 2,500 seat pavilion at Allan Gardens. Tickets cost 50 cents, with an extra 25 cent charge for reserved seats. Both performances were packed. "The Twins of Genius" returned February 14, 1885 for another Toronto engagement, but attendance for this third lecture was disappointing.



Twain had a very specific reason for including Toronto as part of this lecture tour. It was a calculated maneuver to protect the publishing rights to his forthcoming novel. While in Toronto he filed the Canadian and British copyrights for Huckleberry Finn. The law required him to be present in Canada to establish his copyright. As a result the most quintessential of American novels was published in Canada and the UK in 1884, a year before the first American edition appeared. This move avoided a loss of income resulting from pirated editions being published in Canada and Britain.


Copyright is a recurring theme in Twain's autobiography. He was somewhat obsessed with the shortcomings of contemporary copyright protection and lobbied at every opportunity for stronger legislation. Not only was there a lack of international copyright protection for authors, but copyrights in the United States expired 40 years after a book's publication. This situation represented a significant loss of royalties for authors. Twain dearly hoped to provide a secure financial future for his family after his death. The 40-year copyright limit essentially meant his children would not continue to benefit from future sales of his works.

Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol One Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol Two Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol Three

Of course Mark Twain still earned the modern equivalent of millions from book revenues and lecture fees during his career. Unfortunately he did not manage his money well, losing the bulk of his fortune in bad business ventures. His largest financial blunder was backing the Paige Compositor. He invested the modern equivalent of millions in inventor James Paige's mechanical typesetting machine over a period of years. But the Paige Compositor was a failure and Twain lost his investment.

Paige Compositor


















The Paige Compositor


Twain eventually declared bankruptcy in 1894. He then embarked on an around the world speaking tour to raise the funds to pay his creditors. He was able to pay his debts by 1900 and he returned to America, where he continued to accept lucrative speaking engagements.

By the time of his passing in 1910, Twain was again a wealthy man with the means to support his family for the rest of their natural lives. Sadly, Mark Twain was predeceased by three of his four children, Langdon, Susy and Jean and by his wife Olivia. Only his daughter Clara of his immediate family survived him.

  Mark Twain gravestone