Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain and in his day also known as The Sage of Hannibal, was born in Florida, Missouri (yes, you read that right), on Nov. 30, 1835, and later died in 1910. He was born and died during or near appearances of Halley's Comet.

He spent some time as a riverboat captain. This shows in his writing, where life on the river is a frequent theme. He is best known for his books for children and teenagers, although he did not necessarily write them with younger audiences in mind; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court are considered American classics.

He is well known for his sense of humor. While he is indeed a good writer, it was his fine sense of comedy that made him famous, and kept him popular for nearly a hundred years. Here are some quotes:

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."

"The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them."

"Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities."

"If God had meant for us to be naked, we'd have been born that way."

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

The name Mark Twain came about as it was an old Nautical term, as stated above. They would mark depth on the Mississippi River by dropping a demarkated rope in the water. Now, a Mark Twain is two fathoms, or twelve feet. Samuel Clemens was a boat skipper, and he chose this name, because at Mark Twain, it was safe to sail along.

The old nautical depth measuring system works like this:
One would drop a rope into the water, and see by where the water came up to as how deep it is. The marks on the rope were at 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 13, 15, 17, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 fathoms (as implied above, a fathom is six feet). If it came up to a mark, the leadsman (the person in charge of measuring depth would yell "by the Mark Twain" (for two, or whatever it happened to be). Ever hear of the term "deep six"? Well it also came from here. A "deep" is something that didn't come up to a mark. A leadman could yell "by the deep six!" Meaning that it did not come up to a visible mark, but was 36 feet deep.

Modern depth measurements are done by sonar.

Mark Twain was known and appreciated for his wit and sarcasm. He had a well-pronounced distaste for the Roman Catholic Church, as is illustrated in the following paragraph from A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court.

...There you see the hand of that awful power, the Roman Catholic Church. In two or three little centuries it had converted a nation of men into a nation of worms. Before the day of the Church's supremacy in the world, men were men, and held their heads up, and had a man's pride and spirit and independence; and what of greatness and position a person got, he got mainly by achievement, not by birth. But then the Church came to the front, with an ax to grind; and she was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat--or a nation; she invented "divine right of kings," and propped it all around, brick by brick, with the The Beatitudes--wrenching them from their good purpose to make them fortify an evil one; she preached (to the commoner) humility, obedience to superiors, the beauty of self-sacrifice; she preached (to the commoner) meekness under insult; preached (to the commoner, always to the commoner) patience, meanness of spirit, nonresistance under oppression; and she introduced heritable ranks and aristocracies, and taught all the Christian populations of the earth to bow down to them and worship them. Even down to my birth century that poison was still in the blood of Christendom, and the best of English commoners was still content to see his inferiors impudently continuing to hold a number of positions, such as lordships and the throne, to which the grotesque laws of his country did not allow him to apire; in fact he was not merely contented with this strange condition of things, he was even able to persuade himself that he was proud of it. It seems to show that there isn't anything you can't stand, if only you are born and bred to it.

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) was born November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri. His family moved to Hannibal, Missouri in 1839 where he spend the bulk of his childhood. In 1847 Twain's father died and he left school to work on the "Missouri Courier" as a typesetter. Twain had little formal training in writing, most of his training came through experience in print shops and newspaper offices. In 1857 Mark Twain became a steamboat captain apprentice on the Mississippi River, ultimately earning his pilot's license in 1859. These years on the Mississippi gave him material for many of his future works including "Life on the Mississippi." The onset of the Civil War in 1861 effectively shut down travel on the Missisippi River. Mark joined the Revolutionary Army for a brief period then joined his brother Orion and moved to the Nevada Territory to mine for silver. This was obviously not a job suited for an aspiring writer, so the next year he began writing pieces for the "Territorial Enterprise" in Nevada. This was when he started using his pen name of Mark Twain (a Mississippi River phrase for a water depth of 2 fathoms).

In 1864 he moved to San Francisco, California where he met Artemus Ward and Bret Harte. These two men helped encourage Twain to pursue writing professionally. In 1865 he got his big break when he wrote "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaverus County". Twain then traveled to Europe and other surrounding countries as a correspondent for various newspapers, eventually publishing his travel letters in 1869. "The Innocents Abroad," as he titled this book, became his second subsequent publishing to succeed. Fueled by his success he moved and settled down in Hartford, Connecticut where he wrote the bulk of his work. In 1870 he married Olivia Langdon and had two daughters, Susy and Clara. From 1873 to 1889 he wrote seven novels including: "The Prince and the Pauper"(1882), "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"(1884), and "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"(1889).

In 1884 he formed the Charles L. Webster and Company publishing firm. The firm defaulted in 1894 due to a bad invest in an automatic typesetting machine. The firm's only major non-Twain publishing was "Personal Memoirs" by Ulysses S. Grant. Triggered by the failure of his business and the passing of his wife(1901) and two daughters, Twain's remaining works became more cynical and pessimistic. He died in April of 1910 before he could finish his autobiography, but it was edited by his secretary and released posthumously in 1924.

In Twain's later years he learned to acknowledge his celebrity and used it to bring attention to social injustices and government misconduct. He made many public appearances in his trademark white suit speaking to the masses with his usual humor and insightfulness. Twain's legacy will forever be remembered not just for his celebrated novels, but also for his perceptive short stories and essays. Injecting humor into purposeful works helped him become one of the most cherished writers of American history.


Note: This is just a quick bio I put together using various sources. I cannot attest to the 100% reliability of this information, but I included the most consistent and dependable information I could find. If anyone sees any inaccuracies I would appreciate sending me (Woburn) a message. Thank you.

As related in the 50th chapter of Life on the Mississippi, it was Isaiah Sellers, a riverboat captain, who first signed the name "Mark Twain", to letters to the New Orleans Picayune in the 1850s. An apprentice river pilot, Samuel Clemens, wrote a burlesque (now lost) of one of these dispatches, which so embarrassed the dignified old captain that he never wrote again for publication. Clemens (who eventually became a full-fledged river pilot, though never a captain) esteemed it an honor to be despised by the venerable Sellers, and after the captain's death adopted Sellers's nom de guerre as his own.

Samuel Clemens was born November 30th, 1835, in the small village of Florida, Missouri. One of Samuel Clemens’ first stories was called “Sergeant Fathom”. It made fun of Isaiah Sellers, who wrote under the penname Mark Twain. Samuel Clemens adopted this nickname because he was ashamed of how much he had ruined Sellers’ career. At this point, earlier in his life, Twain mainly wrote satirical pieces of writing that he contributed to newspapers such as The Enterprise. They were usually sold to newspapers and not written as books. When Twain was living in San Francisco, he wrote a very offensive article. A writer named James Laird criticized Twain for it. Later they were about to have a duel but Laird backed out at the last minute. Twain also angered the local politicians and policemen in San Francisco by writing criticizing articles about them. Mainly what he wrote was that the politicians and police force were very corrupt. He finally left San Francisco after a lawsuit against one of his articles.

Mark Twain later moved back to San Francisco and published a story called “Jim Smiley and the Jumping Frog”, which was one of the first stories that made him nationally famous. He later went to Honolulu, Hawaii, and wrote a story about a shipwreck which increased his reputation even more. A short while after that, Twain went to the Holy Land on June 8, 1867. He made a deal with a publishing company: He would write letters about his trip and the company would publish them. These letters about his journey to the Holy Land made him a celebrity throughout the whole nation. Innocents Abroad was written from the series of letters about Twain’s trip to Europe and the Holy Land in 1867. It was first published and released July 20, 1869. Innocents Abroad was one of the most best-selling books throughout Mark Twain’s whole lifetime.

At around this point in his life Twain wrote a very well-known book called Roughing It. This was the first book about the West that was mainly about mining. It was about Mark Twain’s experiences from 1861 to 1866 as a gold miner. Roughing It was published in 1872 and it was one of Mark Twain’s first actual books. This was a very important book for Mark Twain, because the book helped change Mark Twain’s writing style and write other types of books besides satires and humorous pieces.

After writing Roughing It, Twain wrote a very popular social comedy called The Gilded Age, which portrayed democracy and corruption in Washington D.C. Later, Mark Twain decided to try writing plays. Mark Twain gave up this job as a playwright when only few of his plays were published. However, Twain wrote a play called The Adventures of Tom Sawyer which later became one of his most famous books. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was released as a book in 1876. At first, it was not a very popular book, but it gained fame over time. After Mark Twain’s death, it became a classic. This book was said to be a very good depiction of youth, it led to what was probably his most famous book, Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published in 1885. It is Mark Twain’s most well-known book. Many great writers and politicians admired this book, including Ernest Hemingway, who said that "this is the one book from which all modern literature came". It is also considered to be one of the "greatest American works of art". Huck Finn is one of the most banned books in the country. It is also one of the most controversial novels written and has attracted an enormous amount of publicity.

One of Mark Twain’s later books, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (my personal favorite), was one of the first books ever written about time travel. It was first published in 1889. The book is about a man in modern times (Mark Twain’s times) who gets transported to the middle ages in England. For some reason Rudyard Kipling, who was generally an admirer of Mark Twain, hated this book. It showed Mark Twain’s fascination with medieval England, and occurred in the same time as his other book, The Prince and the Pauper. The Prince and the Pauper portrays the social classes and slums of medieval England. Both of these books educated people about medieval England.

Later in his life, Mark Twain held many lectures in San Francisco, New York City, Nevada, and many other places. Twain did several daring things during his lectures. An example is when he would tell the same anecdote in the most monotonous and humorless tone possible over and over again until his audience burst out laughing. One time he tried this trick at a Boston dinner, and it failed. This caused some damage to his career. At around this point in his life, Twain wrote a book called Pudd’nhead Wilson. This novel’s setting is the village that Sam Clemens grew up in. The book was published in November, 1894. It was not a very popular book when it was first released, and is still not a very well-known book. The novel is about slavery and Mark Twain’s distaste for it.

Twain and his family moved to Europe for some time later, where he wrote Huckleberry Finn (which took him 8 years to complete) and The Prince and the Pauper. This late in his life, Mark Twain started becoming a philosopher and wrote his autobiography, which was supposed to be read only after he died. After making some bad investments and losing a lot of money, Mark Twain died on April 20, 1910.

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