Utah History Lecture to cover Mark Twain’s views on the Beehive State

What: Utah History Lecture: “Mark Twain’s Stagecoach Ride Through Utah” with Matthew Nagel

When: 4-5:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23

Where: Park Meadows Country Club, 2000 Meadows Drive

Cost: Free, but RSVPs are required


In 1872, Samuel Clemens, known to the world by his pen name Mark Twain, published “Roughing It.”

The book was a retelling of a cross-country stagecoach trip West he took with his older brother, Orion, who had been appointed secretary of the Nevada Territory, and which led to his spending five years in the American West. Matthew Nagel, an English teacher at Park City High School, is set to speak on the Utah leg of Twain’s trip on Friday as part of the Utah History Lecture series.

The presentation, which takes place at 4 p.m. at the Park Meadows Country Club, is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. To RSVP, email

“He met Brigham Young and wrote about that experience,” Nagel said. “He also wrote down passages from the Book of Mormon, which he referred to as ‘chloroform in print.’”

It’s kind of like those Netflix shows where you will see chefs travel the world and visit exotic places and learn about exotic foods…”Matthew Nagel,Park City High School English teacher

What interested Nagel in “Roughing It” was the book’s mixture of genres and humorous take on personal interactions with historical figures.

“It’s a memoir and autobiographical, but it has historical value because he describes meeting historical figures,” he said. “There’s some hilarious storytelling.”

Though it features Twain’s signature style of prose, the book is ultimately travel literature, according to Nagel.

“That’s the function it served, because it informed people about the intermountain West and how crazy it was,” he said. “It’s kind of like those Netflix shows where you will see chefs travel the world and visit exotic places and learn about exotic foods.”

Nagel will also use his presentation to evaluate the practice of storytelling and how narratives are created, and look at the differences between narrative as history versus narrative as fiction.

“While I’m not a Twain scholar, I’m a high school English teacher,” he said. “In my academic history, I spent a lot of time studying and thinking about the nature of narratives. Recognizing who Twain is and his purpose as a writer and storyteller is the way to evaluate what he says.”

According to Nagel, Mark Twain’s literature combines elements of multiple types of narratives, and not just those on paper.

“Travel literature is one kind of storytelling,” he said. “Fiction is another type and speaking on stage is still another kind of storytelling. I’m interested in where all of those overlap. And Clemens is perfect because he did them all at once.”

Nagel hopes the post-presentation Q and A will shed light on narratives and Clemens’ observations of the Beehive State.

“Or, it will be a total train wreck, and I will never be invited back to do this again,” he said with a laugh.


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