Samuel Clemens As Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), American writer and humorist, whose best
work is characterized by broad, often irreverent humor or biting social satire.

Twain's writing is also known for realism of place and language, memorable
characters, and hatred of hypocrisy and oppression. Born in Florida, Missouri,

Clemens moved with his family to Hannibal, Missouri, a port on the Mississippi

River, when he was four years old. There he received a public school education.

After the death of his father in 1847, Clemens was apprenticed to two Hannibal
printers, and in 1851 he began setting type for and contributing sketches to his
brother Orion's Hannibal Journal. Subsequently he worked as a printer in Keokuk,

Iowa; New York City; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and other cities. Later Clemens
was a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River until the American Civil War
(1861-1865) brought an end to travel on the river. In 1861 Clemens served
briefly as a volunteer soldier in the Confederate cavalry. Later that year he
accompanied his brother to the newly created Nevada Territory, where he tried
his hand at silver mining. In 1862 he became a reporter on the Territorial

Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada, and in 1863 he began signing his articles
with the pseudonym Mark Twain, a Mississippi River phrase meaning "two
fathoms deep." After moving to San Francisco, California, in 1864, Twain
met American writers Artemus Ward and Bret Harte, who encouraged him in his
work. In 1865 Twain reworked a tale he had heard in the California gold fields,
and within months the author and the story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of

Calaveras County," had become national sensations. In 1867 Twain lectured
in New York City, and in the same year he visited Europe and Palestine. He wrote
of these travels in The Innocents Abroad (1869), a book exaggerating those
aspects of European culture that impress American tourists. In 1870 he married

Olivia Langdon. After living briefly in Buffalo, New York, the couple moved to

Hartford, Connecticut. Much of Twain's best work was written in the 1870s and

1880s in Hartford or during the summers at Quarry Farm, near Elmira, New York.

Roughing It (1872) recounts his early adventures as a miner and journalist; The

Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) celebrates boyhood in a town on the Mississippi

River; A Tramp Abroad (1880) describes a walking trip through the Black Forest
of Germany and the Swiss Alps; The Prince and the Pauper (1882), a children's
book, focuses on switched identities in Tudor England; Life on the Mississippi
(1883) combines an autobiographical account of his experiences as a river pilot
with a visit to the Mississippi nearly two decades after he left it; A

Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) satirizes oppression in feudal

England (see Feudalism). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), the sequel
to Tom Sawyer, is considered Twain's masterpiece. The book is the story of the
title character, known as Huck, a boy who flees his father by rafting down the

Mississippi River with a runaway slave, Jim. The pair's adventures show Huck
(and the reader) the cruelty of which men and women are capable. Another theme
of the novel is the conflict between Huck's feelings of friendship with Jim, who
is one of the few people he can trust, and his knowledge that he is breaking the
laws of the time by helping Jim escape. Huckleberry Finn, which is almost
entirely narrated from Huck's point of view, is noted for its authentic language
and for its deep commitment to freedom. Huck's adventures also provide the
reader with a panorama of American life along the Mississippi before the Civil

War. Twain's skill in capturing the rhythms of that life help make the book one
of the masterpieces of American literature. In 1884 Twain formed the firm

Charles L. Webster and Company to publish his and other writers' works, notably

Personal Memoirs (two volumes, 1885-1886) by American general and president

Ulysses S. Grant. A disastrous investment in an automatic typesetting machine
led to the firm's bankruptcy in 1894. A successful worldwide lecture tour and
the book based on those travels, Following the Equator (1897), paid off Twain's
debts. Twain's work during the 1890s and the 1900s is marked by growing
pessimism and bitterness-the result of his business reverses and, later, the
deaths of his wife and two daughters. Significant works of this period are

Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), a novel set in the South before the Civil War that
criticizes racism by focusing on mistaken racial identities, and Personal

Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), a sentimental biography. Twain's other
later writings include short stories, the best