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    Mark Twain

    American humorist, novelist, short story author, & wit
    110 Favorites on Read Print

    Biography

    Mark Twain (pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910) was born in Florida, Missouri, of a Virginian family. The family soon moved to Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain was brought up. At school, accroding to his own words, he "excelled only in spelling". After his father's death in 1847, Twain was apprenticed to a printer. Her also started his career as a journalist by writing for the Hannibal Journal. Later Twain worked as a licensed Mississippi river-boat pilot (1857-61). More ...

    Books by Mark Twain

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    We hope you enjoy reading these Mark Twain books! If you'd like to read a specific Mark Twain book which we're missing on Read Print, do let us know.

    Quotes by Mark Twain

    • A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.
    • A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.
    • Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more.
    • Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
    • An Englishman is a person who does things because they have been done before. An American is a person who does things because they haven't been done before.
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    Biography of Mark Twain

    Mark Twain (pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910) was born in Florida, Missouri, of a Virginian family. The family soon moved to Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain was brought up. At school, accroding to his own words, he "excelled only in spelling". After his father's death in 1847, Twain was apprenticed to a printer. Her also started his career as a journalist by writing for the Hannibal Journal. Later Twain worked as a licensed Mississippi river-boat pilot (1857-61). His famous penname Twain adopted from the call ('Mark twain!' - meaning by the mark of two fathoms) used when sounding river shallows. But this isn't the full story: he had also satirized an older writer, Isaiah Sellers, who called himself Mark Twain. In 1861 Twain served briefly as a confederate irregular. The Civil War put an end to the steamboat traffic, and during a period when Twain was out of work, he lived in a primitive cabin on Jackass Hill and tried his luck as a gold-miner. "I would have been more or less than human if I had not gone mad like the rest," he confessed.

    Twain moved to Virginia City, where he edited two years Territorial Enterprise. On February 3, 1863, 'Mark Twain' was born when he signed a humorous travel account with that pseudonym. In 1864 Twain left for California, where worked in San Francisco as a reporter. After hearing a story about a frog, Twain made an entry in his notebook: "Coleman with his jumping frog - bet a stranger $50. - Stranger had no frog and C. got him one: - In the meantime stranger filled C's frog full of shot and he couldn't jump. The stranger's frog won." From these lines he developed 'Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog' which was published in The Saturday Press of New York on the 18th of November in 1865. It was reprinted all over the country and became the foundation stone of THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY, AND OTHER SKETCHES (1867). This work marked the beginning of Twain's literary career.

    In 1866 Twain visited Hawaii as a correspondent for The Sacramento Union, publishing letters on his trip. He then set out world tour, travelling in France and Italy. His experiences Twain recorded in THE INNOCENTS ABROAD (1869). The work, which gained him wide popularity, poked fun at both American and European prejudices and manners. Throughout his life, Twain frequently returned to travel writing - many of his finest novels, such as THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER (1876), dealt with journeys and escapes into freedom.

    The success of The Innocents Abroad gave Twain enough financial security to marry Olivia Langdon in 1870. They moved next year to Hartford, where the family remained, with occasional trips abroad, until 1891. Twain continued to lecture in the United States and England. Between 1876 and 1884 he published several masterpieces. Tom Sawyer was originally intended for adults. Twain had abandoned the work in 1874, but returned to it in the following summer and even then was undecided if he were writing a book for adults or for young readers. Eventually he declared that it was "professedly and confessedly a boy's and girl's book". THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER (1881) was about Edward VI of England and a little pauper who change places. The book was dedicated "to those good-mannered and agreeable children, Susie amnd Clara Clemens." LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI (1883) contained an attack on the influence of Sir Walter Scott, whose romanticism have caused according to Twain 'measureless harm' to progressive ideas. From the very beginning of his journalistic career, Twain made fun with the novel and its tradition. Although Twain enjoyed magnificent popularity as a novelist, he believed that he lacked the analytical sensibility necessary to the novelist's art.

    HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1884), an American Odysseus, was first considered adult fiction. Huck, who could not possibly write a story, tells us the story: "You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain and he told the truth, mainly." Both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn stand high on the list of eminent writers like Stevenson, Dickens, and Saroyan who honestly depicted young people. Huck's debate whether or not he will turn in Jim, an escaped slave and a friend, probed the racial tensions of the national conscience. Later Twain wrote in THE MAN THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG(1900): "I have no race prejudices... All that I care to know is that a man is a human being - that is enough for me; he can't be any worse."

    One of Twain's major achievements is the way he narrates Huckleberry Finn, following the twists and turns of ordinary speech, his native Missouri dialect. Shelley Fisher Fishkin has noted in Was Huck Black? (1993) that the book drew upon a vernacular formed by black voices as well as white. The model for Huck Finn's voice, according to Fishkin, was a black child instead of a white one. The character of Huck was based on a boy named Tom Blankenship, Twain's boyhood friend.

    In the 1880s Twain wrote also such books as THE TRAGEDY OF PUDD'HEAD WILSON (1884), a murder mystery and a case of transposed identities, but also an implicit condemnation of a society that allows slavery, and PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF JOAN OF ARC (1885), published under the pseudonym of Sieur Louis de Conte. In the 1890s Twain lost most of his earnings in financial speculations and in the downhill of his own publishing firm, C.L. Webster, which he had established in 1884 in New York City. In 1894 he had invested in the infamous Paige typesetter, which never worked. "Paige and I always met on elusively affectionate terms," Twain said, "& yet he knows perfectly well that if I had him in a steel trap I would shut out all human succor & watch that trap until he died..." Twain closed Hartford house. To recover from the bankrupt, he started a world lecture tour. By 1898 he had repaid all debts. From 1896 to 1900 he resided mainly in Europe. During the tour Susy, his favorite daughter, died of spinal meningitis.

    Twain traveled New Zealand, Australia, India, and South Africa, and returned to the U.S. in 1900. Twain's travel book, FOLLOWING THE EQUATOR, appeared in 1897. In 1902 Twain made a trip to Hannibal, his home town which had inspired several of his works. His plans for a peaceful and quiet visit were ruined when more than 100 newspapers chronicled his every move.

    The death of his wife in 1904 in Florence and his second daughter darkened the author's life, which is also seen in writings and his posthumously published autobiography (1924). Twain's view of the human nature had never been very optimistic, but during final years, he become even more bitter: "I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey."Especially hostile Twain was towards Christianity: "If men neglected 'God's poor' and 'God's stricken and helpless ones' as He does, what would become of them? The answer is to be found in those dark lands where man follows His example and turns his indifference back upon them: they get no help at all; they cry, and plead and pray in vain, they linger and suffer, and miserably die." (from 'Thoughts of God') Twain died on April 21, 1910. His autobiography Twain dictated to his secretary A.B. Paine; various versions of it have been published. In 1916 appeared THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER, set in the 16th-century Austria, in which Satan reveals the hypocrisies and stupidities of the village of Eseldorf. "The first man was a hypocrite and a coward, qualities which have not yet failed in his line; it is the foundation upon which all civilizations have been built." The work was composed between 1897 and 1908 in several, quite different versions, one of which was set in Hannibal, another in a print shop. Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain's authorized biographer, apparently added to it a concluding chapter from another version altogether. Mark Twain's colorful life inspired the film The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), directed by Irving Rapper and starring Fredric March. In Philip José Farmer's Riverworld epic Mark Twain was one of the central characters.

    During his long writing career, Twain produced a considerable number of essays, which appeared in various newspapers and in magazines, including the Galaxy, Harper's, the Atlantic Monthly, and North American Review. In his 'Sandwich Islands' letters (1873) Twain described how the missionaries and American government have corrupted the Hawaiians, 'Queen Victoria's Jubilee' (1897) presented the pomp and pageantry of an English royal procession, and 'King Leopold's Soliloquy' (1905) revealed in a dramatic monologue the political evils caused by despotism. The King complains: "Blister the meddlesome missionaries! They write tons of these things. They seem to be always around, always spying, always eye-witnessing the happenings; and everything they see they commit to paper... One of these missionaries saw eighty-one of these hands drying over a fire for transmission to my officials—and of course they must go and set it down and print it... nothing is too trivial for them to print..." Twain's finest satire of imperialism was perhaps 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness' (1901), in which the author wrote that the people in darkness are beginning to see "more light than... was profitable for us."
    We hope you enjoyed reading this Mark Twain biography. If you think we left out some details about Twain's life, email us!
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