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Mark Twain, the collector of weather


Twain, in addition to being a brilliant writer, was also a diligent collector of weather patterns, which he amusingly drew in the margins of his novels.

Mark Twain liked so much the sound of the drumming of the rain on tin roofs that he covered much of his rooftop with the material. The best thing is that he did not have to wait until the rainy season to be able to hear it because the weather in New England, as he once described in detail, had a “sumptuous variety” of moods that could surprise at any time ––To the extent that the rain often “avoided falling” precisely on the part of the roof where there was tin. But more than a humorist and great appreciator of meteorology, Twain was a stubborn weather collector.

“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four-and-twenty hours,” he said in his conference “New England Weather” in 1876. For Twain, listing the weather was a way of registering, by sections, the overwhelming uncertainty of his life. He kept a selection of weather types as a stamp collector might, and in that way could to a certain extent “apprehend” the natural whims and at the same time make something of them.

From that collection of more than 100 types of weather he chose 7 for his novel Pudd’nhead Wilson, which was written during a surge of creativity inspired by his imminent bankruptcy. He needed to write a novel quickly and he used the weather types as symbols to substitute the long descriptions of the weather that were so common during that time. He also wanted to make use of his “weather seals” that he had collected so diligently. Those that he found most useful were: “sunny”, “rainy”, “snow”, “pitch dark”, “starlight”, “moonlight” and “fog.” But these could be combined with two or more symbols, as he explained to his editor in a letter.


In the original manuscript these appear here and there in the margins of the text, which by the way he managed to complete in record time. But for some unfortunate reason his editor dismissed the letter and the drawings do not appear in the published version. When he finished his book, in July 1893, he told his editor: “There ain’t any weather in it, & there ain’t any scenery—the story is stripped for flight!”

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