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Mark Twain
American Author and Humorist

1835 - 1910

The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.

                                                —Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (pen name Mark Twain) was born on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri. Twain is considered the greatest humorist of 19th Century American literature. His novels and stories about the Mississippi River: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1894) are still popular with modern readers.

In 1839 the Clemens family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, on the Mississippi River where young Sam experienced the excitement and colorful sights of the waterfront. Like many authors of his day he had little formal education. His education came from the print shops and newspaper offices where he worked as a youth. In 1853 Clemens left Hannibal with a yearning to travel. On a trip to New Orleans he persuaded a riverboat pilot to teach him his skill. By the Spring of 1859 Clemens was a licensed riverboat pilot.

At the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861) Clemens chose not to get involved and moved to Carson City, Nevada. After an unsuccessful attempt at gold and silver mining he joined the staff of a newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada. He first wrote under the pen name, "Mark Twain" (meaning "two fathoms" in riverboat-talk) in 1863. "Twain" wrote his first popular story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County in 1865.

He continued to travel as a correspondent for various newspapers, and in 1869 his travel letters from Europe were collected into the popular book, "The Innocents Abroad." Encouraged by his success Twain married Olivia Langdon and settled down in Hartford, Connecticut to his most productive years as a writer. Between 1873 and 1889 he wrote seven novels including his Mississippi River books as well as The Prince and the Pauper (1882) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).

Some modern readers are offended by some of the language and content of Twain's books. One particularly sensitive example of this is the free use of the word "nigger" in "Huckleberry Finn." Twain used contemporary language in his books to bring his characters to life. This realistic prose style influenced numerous American writers. Ironically, for his time Twain was liberal on racial and many social issues. The underlying themes of "Huckleberry Finn" support a fundamental equality for people of all races.

As Twain's life and career progressed he became increasingly pessimistic, losing much of the humorous, cocky tone of his earlier years. More and more of his work expressed the gloomy view that all human motives are ultimately selfish. Even so Twain is best remembered as a humorist who used his sharp wit and comic exaggeration to attack the false pride and self-importance he saw in humanity.

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•  Related People in the Lucidcafé Library
•  Books By/About Mark Twain
•  Videos About Mark Twain
•  Mark Twain Images
•  Related Websites
•  eTexts of the Works of Mark Twain


  Other Authors in the Lucidcafé Library

  Related People in the Lucidcafé Library

  Book By/About Mark Twain

  • Mark Twain: A Life - Author: Ron Powers

    Powers presents the totality of the man in his many moods and phases of life: acerbic son and brother, prank-prone youth, competitive writer, demanding friend, loving husband and globe-trotting celebrity.

    Click here to purchase the Hardcover edition of "Mark Twain: A Life"

  • Inventing Mark Twain: The Lives of Samuel Langhorne Clemens - Author: Andrew Hoffman

    This biograhy describes a childhood shadowed by his father's business failures and the deaths of his father and two siblings before his 12th birthday. In addition to his fame as an adult, Clemens was dogged by financial and personal problems including failed investments, the deaths of three children, and the loss of his beloved wife. Hoffman carefully considers all these issues and comes up with the portrait of a complicated man.

    Click here to purchase the Hardcover edition of "Inventing Mark Twain"

  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Author: Mark Twain

    A seminal work of American Literature that still commands deep praise and intense controversy. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is essential to the understanding of the American soul. This unprecedented edition, which contains portion of the recently discovered first half of the orignal manuscript, is indispensable to a full understanding of the book. The changes, deletions, and additions made in the first half of the manuscript show that Twain frequently checked his impulse to write an darker, more confrontational book than the one he finally published.

    Click here to purchase the Hardcover edition of "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Author: Mark Twain

    Mark Twain's classic yarn about an orphan growing up on the Mississippi river.

    Click here to purchase the Hardcover edition of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"

  • Autobiography of Mark Twain - Author: Mark Twain, Charles Neider (Editor)

    This book of anecdotes, written as a diary at different periods of his life, provides a revealing portrait Twain's life and times.

    Click here to purchase the Paperback edition of "Autobiography of Mark Twain"

  Videos About Mark Twain

  eTexts of the Works of Mark Twain

  Related Websites

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Copyright © 1995-2016 Robin Chew
Article written by Robin Chew - November 1995