Mark Twain

(1835 – 1910)

Mark Twain: Biographical Sketch

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Florida, MO, USA, November 30, 1835 – Redding, CT, USA, April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), which is often called (or at least, one of several hot contenders for the title of) “the Great American Novel.” Twain maintained that his primary pen name came from his years working on Mississippi riverboats, where two fathoms, a depth indicating safe water for passage of boat, was measured on the sounding line. Twain is an archaic term for “two;” and the riverboatman’s cry was “mark twain” or, more fully, “by the mark twain”, meaning “according to the mark [on the line], [the depth is] two [fathoms],” that is, “The water is 12 feet (3.7 m) deep and it is safe to pass.”

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which provided the setting for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, whose title character was modeled on Twain as a child, with traces of two schoolmates, John Briggs and Will Bowen, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, whose eponymous hero was based on Twain’s boyhood friend Tom Blankenship. In 1865, his humorous story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was published, based on a story he heard at Angels Hotel in Angels Camp California where he had spent some time as a miner. The short story brought international attention, even being translated to classic Greek.

Twain began his career writing light, humorous verse and travelogues, but evolved into a chronicler of the vanities, hypocrisies and murderous acts of mankind. At mid-career, with Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he combined rich humor, sturdy narrative and social criticism. Originally an offshoot of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the book, whose main premise is the young boy’s belief in the right thing to do though most believed that it was wrong, has become required reading in many schools throughout the United States.

Twain was a master at rendering colloquial speech and helped to create and popularize a distinctive American literature built on American themes and language. His wit and satire, in prose and in speech, earned praise from critics and peers. At the same time, many of Twain’s works have been suppressed at times for various reasons. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been repeatedly restricted in American high schools, not least for its frequent use of the word “nigger,” which was in common usage in the pre-Civil War period in which the novel was set.

Though Twain earned a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he invested in ventures that also lost a great deal of money; notably the Paige Compositor (a mechanical typesetting machine), which failed because of its complexity and imprecision. In the wake of these financial setbacks he sought protection from his creditors via a bankruptcy filing, and with the help of his friend, the industrialist and financier Henry Huttleston Rogers, leader at Standard Oil, eventually overcame his financial troubles. Twain chose to pay all his pre-bankruptcy creditors in full, though he had no responsibility to do this under the law.

Twain was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists and European royalty. Born during a visit by Halley’s Comet, he predicted that he would “go out with it,” too. He died the day following the comet’s return. In his obituary in the New York Times, he was lauded as the “greatest American humorist of his age,” and William Faulkner called Twain “the father of American literature.”

Read more about Mark Twain on Wikipedia.

 

Bibliography

Novels and Novellas
  • The Gilded Age (1873)
    – With Charles Dudley Warner.
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
  • The Prince and the Pauper (1881)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
  • An American Claimant (1892)
  • Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)
  • The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)
  • Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)
  • Extracts From Adam’s Diary (1904)
  • A Dog’s Tale (1904)
  • Eve’s Diary (1906)
  • A Horse’s Tale (1907)
Short Stories
  • Curing A Cold (1862-1864)
  • The Killing of Julius Caesar “Localized” (1862-1864)
  • Lucretia Smith’s Soldier (1862-1864)
  • The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches (1867)
  • Journalism in Tennessee (1869)
  • A Day at Niagara (1869)
  • A Medieval Romance (1870)
  • Mark Twain’s Sketches (1874)
  • Sketches, New and Old (1875)
  • A True Story Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It (1877)
  • The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut (1877)
  • Punch, Brothers, Punch! and Other Sketches (1878)
  • 1601: Conversation, as it Was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors (1880)
  • The Stolen White Elephant (1882)
  • The Private History of a Campaign That Failed (1885)
  • Merry Tales (1892)
  • The 1,000,000 Bank Note (1893)
  • The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories and Essays (1900)
  • A Double-Barrelled Detective Story (1902)
  • The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories (1906)
  • Extract From Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven (1909)
  • The Curious Republic of Gondour and Other Whimsical Sketches (1919)
  • The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories (1922)
  • Early Tales & Sketches (1979 – 1981)
  • Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer among the Indians, and Other Unfinished Stories (1989)
Addresses, Satires, Essays, Travelogues, Memoirs
  • Innocents Abroad (1869)
  • Political Economy (1870)
  • How I Edited An Agricultural Paper Once (1870)
  • Mark Twain’s (Burlesque) Autobiography and First Romance (1871)
  • Roughing It (1872)
  • Old Times on the Mississippi (1875)
  • A Tramp Abroad (1880)
  • The Journals of Germany (1880)
  • On th Decay of the Art of Lying (1882)
  • Life on the Mississippi (1883)
  • Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses (1895)
  • How to Tell a Story and Other Essays (1897)
  • Following the Equator (1897)
  • English As She Is Taught (1900)
  • A Salutation Speech from the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth (1900)
  • To the Person Sitting in Darkness (1901)
  • Edmund Burke on Croker and Tammany (1901)
  • My Debut as a Literary Person, with Other Essays and Stories (1903)
  • King Leopold’s Soliloquy (1905)
  • What Is Man? (1906)
  • Christian Science (1907)
  • Is Shakespeare Dead? (1909)
  • Letters From The Earth (1909)
    – Published 1962.
  • Mark Twain’s Speeches (1910)
  • As Regards Patriotism (1923)
  • Mark Twain’s Letters (1917)
  • Europe and Elsewhere (1923)
  • Mark Twain’s Speeches (1923)
  • Mark Twain’s Autobiography (1924)
  • The Adventures of Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass (1928)
  • Mark Twain’s Notebook (1935)
  • Mark Twain in Eruption (1940)
  • Mark Twain of the Enterprise (1957)
  • The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959)
  • Mark Twain – Howells Letters: The Correspondence of Samuel L. Clemens and William Dean Howells, 1872 – 1910 (1960)
  • Contributions to the Galaxy, 1868-1871 (1961)
  • Mark Twain: Life as I Find It (1961)
  • Letters from the Earth (1962)
  • Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii (1966)
  • Mark Twain’s Letters to His Publishers, 1867 – 1894 (1967)
  • Mark Twain’s Satires & Burlesques (1967)
  • Mark Twain’s Which Was the Dream? And Other Symbolic Writings of the Later Years (1967)
  • Mark Twain’s Correspondence With Henry Huttleston Rogers, 1893 – 1909 (1969)
  • Mark Twain’s Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts (1969)
  • Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Huck and Tom (1969)
  • Clemens of the Call: Mark Twain in San Francisco (1969)
  • Mark Twain’s Fables of Man (1972)
  • Mark Twain’s Notebooks & Journals (1975)
  • Mark Twain Speaking (1976)
  • Mark Twain’s Letters (1988)
  • Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review (1990)
  • Mark Twain’s Aquarium: The Samuel Clemens – Angelfish Correspondence, 1905 – 1910 (1991)
  • Mark Twain’s Weapons of Satire: Anti-Imperialist Writings on the Philippine – American War (1992)
  • The Bible According to Mark Twain: Writings on Heaven, Eden, and the Flood (1995)
  • Mark Twain at the Buffalo Express (1999)
Online editions of Mark Twain’s works:

 

A Selection of Quotes

Pudd’nhead Wilson

“A home without a cat – and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat – may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?”

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”

Tom Sawyer Abroad

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”

The Innocents Abroad

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Roughing It

“It was a splendid population – for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained sloths stayed at home – you never find that sort of people among pioneers – you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this day – and when she projects a new surprise the grave world smiles as usual and says, ‘Well, that is California all over.'”

Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World

“There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages.”

“Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.”

Life on the Mississippi

“I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.”

Notebook

“If man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.”

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Unsourced/Attributed:

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

“A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.”

“God created war so that Americans would learn geography.”

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”

Find more quotes by Mark Twain on Wikiquote and Goodreads.

 

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