Samuel Clemens, ""who was always partly Tom Sawyer"", made his first public speech at school in Hannibal, Mo. Recitation of verses and ""compositions"" were weekly commonplaces in the town square, and young Sam starred in company with Will Nash and others who were to grow famous. His career as a storyteller dates from his attempts to liven up those Friday afternoons. At one time he entertained the idea of studying for the ministry, believing that sermons would be more attractive if preachers would learn the art of public speaking. His offer of a job from the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise saved him from the pulpit at the crucial moment. The lyceum circuit, a wholly American development from scholarly European pretentions, was the perfect background for Twain's versatility. ""He was not merely a jester, but an earnest advocate of theories philosophical, historical, political and humane"". Fatout has traced Twain's travels by the path of his formal speaking engagements, with stops along the way for an occasional after-dinner speech. Highlights from all of Twain's early career, and the period during which he gathered material for his best books, are woven together with vitality and erudition: Fatout's writing smacks of a love of the flavor of long words that belied Twain's folksy constructions. Reading this book is splendid way to make friends with Twain for the first time, but it is sufficiently substantial to attract old fans and owners of Twain and Americana home libraries.