Mark Twain died in his home in Redding, Connecticut, on 21 April 1910. As he put down his copy of Thomas Carlyle's French Revolution and gently slipped away in his sleep, the world was on the brink of some huge changes. World War I was looming with its horrific mass slaughter facilitated by mechanization and industrial innovation. The United States was about the replace the old colonial powers as the world's great driving force in politics and social affairs. Air travel was about make huge distances seem much smaller. The few remaining unexplored corners of the world were being explored.
If we could step into HG Wells' time machine and bring Twain to the 21st century, then he'd be astounded by the changes. He was familiar with change and would probably handle the culture shock with aplomb. During his life, he was an early adopter of new technologies - he tried the typewriter, he installed a telephone and he allowed Thomas Edison to record him walking around his home with a newfangled movie camera.
Mark Twain, that great traveler who crossed the Atlantic 29 times on steamships, would be thrilled by air travel and the fact he could fly from New York to his beloved London in just eight hours (not including time spent in security line-ups). He had wearied of travel toward the end of his life, probably because several of his epic lecture tours had been forced upon him by a necessity to pay off his debts. As a man who talked as much as he wrote, Twain would probably appear on every great TV chat show of the world.
He would be saddened to see that the Mississippi is no longer America's highway. He would be intrigued to see that the wagon tracks connecting America's Midwest with its West Coast had evolved into a network of huge highways carrying millions of automobiles every day. Twain was concerned by the rapid development of the automobile - on his beloved island of Bermuda, he had campaigned against the introduction of cars. We're sure he'd be deeply saddened by the fact that so few people now experience the sensation of floating down that great river and contemplating life along the way.
Twain would have loved the Internet. In fact, he would have invested in countless start-ups in the communications sector. Remember he owned a publishing company. The amount of information available would probably seem overwhelming at first to someone used to libraries of leather-bound books. Twain was always a man of the people who had a huge amount of time for his fans, so he would almost certainly be connecting with readers on Facebook and Twitter.
John Steinbeck's books would knock his socks off. F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby would leave him cold. Twain would thoroughly enjoy the writing of John Updike's Rabbit novels and Updike's insights into the life of the common man. To Kill a Mockingbird with its themes of race and childhood would fascinate him. He'd be thrilled to see a black man had reached the White House but saddened that a woman has never been US president - for years he had supported universal suffrage for women.