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Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Mark Twain (1835-1910), American humorist and novelist, captured a world audience with stories of boyhood adventure and with commentary on man's shortcomings that is humorous even while it probes, often bitterly, the roots of human behavior.

Bred among American traditions of frontier journalism, and influenced by such cracker-box humorists as Artemus Ward and by the tradition of the tall tale, Mark Twain scored his first successes as a writer and lecturer with his straight-faced, laconic recitation of incredible comic incidents in simple, direct, colloquial language. His was an oral style, and his principal contribution is sometimes thought to be the creation of a genuinely native idiom.

Some contemporaries considered Mark Twain's language uncouth and crude when compared with the well-mannered prose of William Dean Howells or the intricately contrived expression of Henry James. Though conventionally less disciplined and less consistently successful than either, Mark Twain surpassed both in popular esteem and is remembered with them as foremost in the creation of prose fiction in the United States during the late 19th century.

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on Nov. 30, 1835, in the frontier village of Florida, Mo. He spent his boyhood in nearby Hannibal, on the bank of the Mississippi River, observing its busy life, fascinated by its romance, but chilled by the violence and bloodshed it bred. Twelve years old when his lawyer father died, he began working as an apprentice, then a compositor, with local printers, contributing occasional squibs to local newspapers. At 17 his comic sketch "The Dandy Frightening the Squatter" was published by a sportsmen's magazine in Boston.

In 1853 Clemens began wandering as a journeyman printer to St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, settling briefly with his brother, Orion, in lowa before setting out at 22 to make his fortune, he hoped, beside the lush banks of the Amazon River in South America. Instead, traveling down the Mississippi River, he became a steamboat river pilot until the Civil War interrupted traffic.

Western Years

In 1861 Clemens traveled to Nevada, where he speculated carelessly in timber and silver mining. He settled down to newspaper work in Virginia City, until his reckless pen and redheaded temper brought him into conflict with local authorities; it seemed profitable to escape to California. Meanwhile he had adopted the pen name of Mark Twain, a riverman's term for water that was safe, but only just safe, for navigation.

In San Francisco Mark Twain came under the influence of Bret Harte. Artemus Ward encouraged Mark Twain to write The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1865), which first brought him national attention. Most of his western writing was hastily, often carelessly, done, and he later did little to preserve it.

Traveling Correspondent

In 1865 the Sacramento Union commissioned Mark Twain to report on a new excursion service to Hawaii. His accounts as published in the newspaper provided the basis for his first successful lectures and years later were collected in Letters from the Sandwich Islands (1938) and Letters from Honolulu (1939). His travel accounts were so well received that he contracted in 1866 to become a traveling correspondent for the Alta California; he would circle the globe, dispatching letters. The first step was to travel to New York by ship; his accounts were collected in Mark Twain's Travels with Mr. Brown (1940).

In June 1867 Mark Twain left New York and went to Europe and the Holy Land, sending accounts to the California paper and to Horace Greeley's New York Tribune. They were fresh and racy, alert, informed, and sidesplittingly funny. Their accent was American western humor; their traditional theme was the decay of transatlantic institutions when compared with the energetic freshness of the western life-style. Yet the humor also exposed the traveling American innocents as they haggled through native bazaars, completely innocent of their own outlandish appearance. Nor was their author exempt from ridicule, for Mark Twain usually wrote of "What fools we mortals be, " accepting his place among the erring race of man. The letters were later revised as The Innocents Abroad; or, The New Pilgrim's Progress (1869), and the book immediately made Mark Twain a popular favorite, in demand especially as a lecturer who could keep large audiences in gales of laughter.

In 1870 Twain married Olivia Langdon. After a brief residence in upstate New York as an editor and part owner of the Buffalo Express, he moved to Hartford, Conn., where he lived for 20 years; there three daughters were born, and prosperity as a writer and lecturer (in England in 1872 and 1873) seemed guaranteed. Roughing It (1872) recounted Mark Twain's travels to Nevada and reprinted some of the Sandwich Island letters. Neither it, A Tramp Abroad (1880), nor Following the Equator (1898) had popular or critical reception equal to that of The Innocents Abroad.

Famous Novelist

With Charles Dudley Warner, Mark Twain wrote The Gilded Age (1873), a quizzical satire on financial speculation and political chicanery, which introduced the character of Colonel Beriah Sellers, a backcountry squire plagued by schemes which might, but never did, bring him sudden fortune. By this time Mark Twain was famous. Anything he wrote would sell, but his imagination flagged. He collected miscellaneous writings into Sketches New and Old (1875) and tried to fit Colonel Sellers into a new book, which finally materialized years later as The American Claimant (1891).

Meanwhile Mark Twain's account of steamboating experiences for the Atlantic Monthly (1875; expanded to Life on the Mississippi, 1883) captured the beauty, glamour, and menace of the Mississippi. Boyhood memories of life beside that river were written into The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1875), which immediately attracted young and old. With more exotic and foreign settings, The Prince and the Pauper (1882) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) attracted readers also, but The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), in which Mark Twain again returned to the river scenes he knew best, was considered vulgar by many contemporaries.

"Tom" and "Huck"

Tom Sawyer, better organized than Huckleberry Finn, is a narrative of innocent boyhood play that inadvertently discovers evil as Tom and Huck witness a murder by Injun Joe in a graveyard at midnight. The boys run away, are thought dead, but turn up at their own funeral. Tom and Huck decide to seek out the murderer, and the reward offered for his capture. It is Tom and his sweetheart who, while lost in a cave, discover the hiding place of Injun Joe. Though the townspeople unwittingly seal the murderer in the cave, they close the entrance only to keep adventuresome boys like Tom out of future trouble. In the end, it is innocent play and boyish adventuring which really triumph.

Huckleberry Finn is Mark Twain's finest creation. Huck lacks Tom's imagination; he is a simple boy with little education. One measure of his character is a proneness to deceit, which seems instinctive, a trait shared by other wild things and relating him to nature—in opposition to Tom's tradition-grounded, book-learned, imaginative deceptions. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a loosely strung series of adventures, can be viewed as the story of a quest for freedom and an escape from what society requires in exchange for success. Joined in flight by a black companion, Jim, who seeks freedom from slavery, Huck discovers that the Mississippi is peaceful (though he is found to be only partially correct) but that the world along its shores is marred by deceit, including his own, and by cruelty and murder. When the raft on which he and Jim are floating down the river is invaded by two confidence men, Huck first becomes their assistant in swindles but is finally the agent of their exposure.

Jim throughout is a frightened but faithful friend. Huck is troubled by the sin which in the world's eyes he is committing by helping a slave to escape. The thematic climax of the book occurs when Huck decides that if he must go to hell for that sin, very well then, he will go to hell. And he does, as leaving the river he enters again into the world dominated by Tom, which in its seemingly innocent deceit presents an alarming analog to adult pretense. All ends suddenly; Jim has been free all the time, and good people offer to adopt and civilize Huck. But he will have none of it: "I can't stand it, " he says. "I been there before."

Whatever its faults, Huckleberry Finn is a classic. Variously interpreted, it is often thought to suggest more than it reveals, speaking of what man has done to confuse himself about his right relation to nature. It can also be thought to treat of man's failures in dealing with his fellows and of the corruption so deeply engrained that man's only escape is in flight, perhaps even from himself. Yet it is also an apparently artless story of adventure and escape so simply and directly told that Ernest Hemingway once said that all American literature begins with this book. Its language seems the instinctual language of all men—"a joyous exorcism, " one critic has said.

Mark Twain, said H. L. Mencken, was the first important author to write "genuinely colloquial and native American." Huck, who shuns civilization, seems a symbol of simple honesty and conscience. His boy's-eye view of a world distorted by pretense and knavery anticipates the use of a young narrator by numerous important American authors, including Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, and J. D. Salinger. Yet Tom, not Huck, seems to have remained Mark Twain's favorite, giving title to Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894), Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896), and to unpublished tales later collected in Hannibal, Huck, and Tom (1969).

Unsuccessful Businessman

Mark Twain's early books were sold by subscription; they sold well, for Twain prided himself on gauging public taste. Many were not issued until subscription agents had secured enough advance orders to make them surely profitable. As a traveling lecturer, he helped sell his books, and his books helped pack his lectures. He was probably the best-known and certainly among the most prosperous writers of his generation. Unsatisfied, he reached for more. When The Prince and the Pauper did not sell as he thought it should, he established his own publishing firm, which did well for a while.

But Mark Twain was soon in serious trouble. For several years he had been supplying large sums toward the perfecting of a typesetting machine, convinced that it would make his fortune. But in 1891 he retreated with his family to Europe, where they could live more cheaply. In 1894 the publishing company went bankrupt, and the typesetter failed in competition with less complex rivals. Mark Twain was deeply in debt.

Meanwhile, in 1893, Henry Huttleston Rogers, a director of the Standard Oil Company, had assumed control of Mark Twain's financial affairs. While Mark Twain lectured around the world to pay his debts, Rogers placated creditors, invested his royalties, and arranged new publishing contracts. The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), an awkwardly constructed story of two boys, one of them African American, switched in their cradles, is sometimes remembered as Mark Twain's second-best book, but it brought little immediate financial assistance. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), a ponderous paean to innocence triumphant, was so serious that Mark Twain at first would not allow his name to be associated with it. Following the Equator (1897) was dedicated to Rogers's son.

Mark Twain and his family remained in Europe, saddened by the death of one daughter and seeking help for the apparently incurable illness of another. Like his Colonel Sellers, Mark Twain looked desperately for a scheme to recoup his fortune. Rogers finally steered him out of debt and arranged a publishing contract which ensured Mark Twain and his heirs a handsome income.

Last Writings

On his return to the United States in 1900, Mark Twain rose to new heights of popularity. His publicized insistence on paying every creditor had made him something of a public hero. He was widely sought as a speaker, and he seemed proud to be the genial companion of people like the Rockefellers and Andrew Carnegie, though in private he opposed the principles for which they seemed to stand. His writings grew increasingly bitter, especially after his wife's death in 1905. The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg (1900) exposed corruption in a small, typical American town. King Leopold's Soliloquy (1905) attacked hypocrisy in treatment of inhabitants of the Congo, fulminating against what Mark Twain called "the damn'd human race." What Is Man? (1906) was a diatribe of despair. Extracts from Adam's Diary (1904) had humorously presented man as a blunderer; Eve's Diary (1906), written partly in memory of his wife, showed man saved from bungling only through the influence of a good woman. Many of his later indictments of human cupidity were, he thought, so severe that they could not be published for 100 years. But when some appeared in Letters from the Earth (1962), they seemed hardly more bitter than what had appeared before.

In 1906 Mark Twain began to dictate his autobiography to Albert B. Paine (his literary executor), recording scattered memories without chronological arrangement. Portions from it were published in periodicals later that year. Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven (1909), a burlesque Mark Twain had puttered over for years, partly disguised his pessimism with a veneer of rollicking humor as it detailed the low esteem in which man is held by celestial creatures. With the income from the excerpts of his autobiography, he built a large house in Redding, Conn., which he named Stormfield. There, after several trips to Bermuda to bolster his waning health, he died on April 21, 1910.

Mark Twain had been working over several drafts of a final bitter book, and from these Paine and his publisher "edited" The Mysterious Stranger (1916), a volume which William H. Gibson, in presenting complete texts of versions of the story in Mark Twain's Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts (1969), designated as "an editorial fraud." As scholars work over the Mark Twain Papers at the University of California, more volumes containing unpublished writings or correspondence will appear. Few, however, can be expected to alter the esteem and affection in which Mark Twain is held. His books have been translated into most of the languages of Europe, where with Theodore Dreiser and Jack London, he is often thought among the best to express, or expose, the spirit of the American people.

Further Reading

Portions of Mark Twain's autobiography were published by Albert B. Paine, Mark Twain's Autobiography (2 vols., 1924). Parts which had earlier seemed too bitter or personal were brought together by Bernard DeVoto in Mark Twain in Eruption (1940). Charles Neider included some material not previously published in his chronologically arranged The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959). The complete text is being prepared for publication by the editors of the Mark Twain Papers at the University of California.

Of the making of books about Mark Twain there seems to be no end. The authorized biography, Albert B. Paine, Mark Twain, A Biography: The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (3 vols. 1912; repr. 1935), though often corrected by later writers, is still important. So are such reminiscent accounts as William Dean Howells, My Mark Twain (1910); Mary Lawton, A Lifetime with Mark Twain (1925); and Clara Clemens, My Father, Mark Twain (1931). Modern biographies are J. De Lancey Ferguson, Mark Twain, Man and Legend (1943), and Justin Kaplan, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain (1966). Mark Twain's early years are discussed in M. M. Brashear, Mark Twain: Son of Missouri (1934), and Dixon Wecter, Sam Clemens of Hannibal (1952).

Books on specific aspects of Mark Twain's life include Ivan Benson, Mark Twain's Western Years (1938); Samuel L. Webster, Mark Twain, Business Man (1946); Edgar M. Branch, TheLiterary Apprenticeship of Mark Twain (1950); Kenneth R. Andrews, Nook Farm: Mark Twain's Hartford Circle (1950); and Louis J. Budd, Mark Twain, Social Philosopher (1962). Edward C. Wagenknecht, Mark Twain: The Man and His Work (1935; 3d ed. 1967), contains valuable bibliographical material; see also Merle Johnson, A Bibliography of the Works of Mark Twain (1935).

Van Wyck Brooks, The Ordeal of Mark Twain (1920; rev. ed. 1933), answered by Bernard DeVoto, Mark Twain's America (1932), created a controversy about Mark Twain's literary integrity; see also Lewis Leary, ed., Mark Twain's Wound (1962). Important recent critical studies include Walter Blair, Mark Twain and Huck Finn (1960); Henry Nash Smith, Mark Twain: The Development of a Writer (1962); and James M. Cox, Mark Twain: The Fate of Humor (1966). See also the introductions to different editions of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Lionel Trilling (1948) and T. S. Eliot (1950). □

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Twain, Mark

Mark Twain

Born: November 30, 1835
Florida, Missouri
Died: April 21, 1910
Redding, Connecticut

American writer and humorist

Mark Twain, American humorist (comic writer) and novelist, captured a world audience with stories of boyhood adventure and with commentary on man's faults that is humorous even while it probes, often bitterly, the roots of human behavior.

Childhood along the Mississippi

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in the frontier village of Florida, Missouri. He spent his boyhood in nearby Hannibal, on the banks of the Mississippi River, observing its busy life, fascinated by its romance, but chilled by the violence and bloodshed it bred. Clemens was eleven years old when his lawyer father died. In order to help the family earn money, the young Clemens began working as a store clerk and a delivery boy. He also began working as an apprentice (working to learn a trade), then a compositor (a person who sets type), with local printers, contributing occasional small pieces to local newspapers. At seventeen his comic sketch "The Dandy Frightening the Squatter" was published by a sportsmen's magazine in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1853 Clemens began wandering as a journeyman printer to St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; New York, New York; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; settling briefly with his brother, Orion, in Iowa before setting out at twenty-two years old to make his fortune, he hoped, beside the lush banks of the Amazon River in South America. Instead, traveling down the Mississippi River, he became a steamboat river pilot until the outbreak of the Civil War (186165), when Northern forces clashed with those of the South over slavery and secession (the South's desire to leave the Union).

Western years

In 1861 Clemens traveled to Nevada, where he invested carelessly in timber and silver mining. He settled down to newspaper work in Virginia City, until his reckless pen and redheaded temper brought him into conflict with local authorities; it seemed profitable to escape to California. Meanwhile he had adopted the pen name of Mark Twain, a riverman's term for water that is just safe enough for navigation.

In 1865, Twain began to write a short story, The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which first brought him national attention. Most of his western writing was hastily, often carelessly, done and he later did little to preserve it.

Traveling correspondent

In 1865 the Sacramento Union commissioned Mark Twain to report on a new excursion service to Hawaii. His accounts as published in the newspaper provided the basis for his first successful lectures and years later were collected in Letters from the Sandwich Islands (1938) and Letters from Honolulu (1939). His travel accounts were so well received that he was contracted in 1866 to become a traveling correspondent for the Alta California; he would circle the globe, writing letters.

In 1870 Twain married Olivia Langdon. After a brief residence in upstate New York as an editor and part owner of the Buffalo Express, he moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where he lived for twenty years; there three daughters were born, and prosperity as a writer and lecturer (in England in 1872 and 1873) seemed guaranteed. Roughing It (1872) recounted Mark Twain's travels to Nevada and reprinted some of the Sandwich Island letters.

Meanwhile Mark Twain's account of steamboating experiences for the Atlantic Monthly (1875; expanded to Life on the Mississippi, 1883) captured the beauty, glamor, and danger of the Mississippi River. Boyhood memories of life beside that river were written into The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1875), which immediately attracted young and old alike. With more exotic and foreign settings, The Prince and the Pauper (1882) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) attracted readers also, but T he Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), in which Mark Twain again returned to the river scenes he knew best, was considered unacceptable by many.

"Tom" and "Huck"

Twain's Tom Sawyer, better organized than Huckleberry Finn, is a narrative of innocent boyhood play that accidentally discovers evil as Tom and Huck witness a murder by Injun Joe in a graveyard at midnight. The boys run away, are thought dead, but turn up at their own funeral. Tom and Huck decide to seek out the murderer and the reward offered for his capture. It is Tom and his sweetheart who, while lost in a cave, discover the hiding place of Injun Joe. Though the townspeople unwittingly seal the murderer in the cave, they close the entrance only to keep adventuresome boys like Tom out of future trouble. In the end, it is innocent play and boyish adventuring which really triumph.

Huckleberry Finn is considered by many to be Mark Twain's finest creation. Huck lacks Tom's imagination; he is a simple boy with little education. One measure of his character is a proneness to deceit, which seems instinctive, a trait shared by other wild things and relating him to naturein opposition to Tom's tradition-grounded, book-learned, imaginative deceptions. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a loosely strung series of adventures, can be viewed as the story of a quest for freedom and an escape from what society requires in exchange for success. Joined in flight by a black companion, Jim, who seeks freedom from slavery, Huck discovers that the Mississippi is peaceful (though he is found to be only partially correct) but that the world along its shores is full of trickery, including his own, and by cruelty and murder. When the raft on which he and Jim are floating down the river is invaded by two criminals, Huck first becomes their assistant in swindles but is finally the agent of their exposure.

Whatever its faults, Twain's Huckleberry Finn is a classic. Variously interpreted, it is often thought to suggest more than it reveals, speaking of what man has done to confuse himself about his right relation to nature. It can also be thought of as a treatment of man's failures in dealing with his fellows and of the corruption that man's only escape is in flight, perhaps even from himself. Yet it is also an apparently artless story of adventure and escape so simply and directly told that novelist Ernest Hemingway (c.18991961) once said that all American literature begins with this book.

Last writings

After a series of unsuccessful business ventures in Europe, Twain returned to the United States in 1900. His writings grew increasingly bitter, especially after his wife's death in 1905. The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg (1900) exposed corruption in a small, typical American town. Eve's Diary (1906), written partly in memory of his wife, showed a man saved from bungling only through the influence of a good woman.

In 1906 Twain began to dictate his autobiography to Albert B. Paine, recording scattered memories without any particular order. Portions from it were published in periodicals later that year. With the income from the excerpts of his autobiography, he built a large house in Redding, Connecticut, which he named Stormfield. There, after several trips to Bermuda to improve his declining health, he died on April 21, 1910.

For More Information

Kaplan, Justin. Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966.

Krauth, Leland. Proper Mark Twain. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999.

Paine, Albert Bigelow. Mark Twain, A Biography: The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. New York: Harper & Bros., 1912. Reprint, Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1997.

Twain, Mark. The Autobiography of Mark Twain. New York: Harper, 1959. Reprint, New York: Perennial Classics, 2000.

Ward, Geoffrey C., and Dayton Duncan. Mark Twain. New York: Knopf, 2001.

Wecter, Dixon. Sam Clemens of Hannibal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1952. Reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1979.

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Clemens, Samuel Langhorne (Mark Twain) (1835-1910)

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) (1835-1910)

Novelist

Sources

A Missouri Boyhood . In the autumn of 1835 Americans looked up and marveled as Halleys Cometnot due to reappear for another seventy-five yearsilluminated the skies. On 30 November, as the comet passed overhead, a small-town lawyer, merchant, and real-estate developer named John Marshall Clemens welcomed a baby son into the world. John Clemens and his wife, Jane Lampton Clemens, had moved from place to place during the first twelve years of their marriage, settling in 1835 in the sleepy hamlet of Florida, Missouri. Young Samuel Langhorne Clemens joined a household that already included two older brothers, two older sisters, and a slave named Jenny. In 1839 the family moved thirty miles east to Hannibal, a bustling town of a thousand-odd residents. In this town perched on the banks of the Mississippi River, young Sam Clemens spent his childhood, absorbing the speech and spirit of antebellum life on the Mississippi.

The Young Journalist. The Clemens family suffered mixed fortunes during the future novelists boyhood. A sister died in 1839; a brother died in 1842; and John Clemens died in 1847a crushing financial blow for the family. To help support his mother and remaining siblings, Sam worked at a series of odd jobs. All the while he continued to explore the great Mississippi: swimming, fishing, and even, with friends, discovering the drowned body of a fugitive slave. In 1848 young Clemens became an apprentice at the office of the Missouri Courier. Three years later he joined the staff of his brother Orions weekly, the Western Union. Jour-nalism served as Clemenss introduction to a wider world. During the 1850s and into the 1860s he worked in various capacities for papers in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Nevada. During this same period he also worked as a riverboat pilot, a speculator, and a prospector. Clemenss early journalism anticipates his later work in many respects: it showcases his biting humor, his zest for travel, and his fondness for pseudonyms, including W. Epaminondas Adrastus Perkins, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, Josh, and finally, in 1863, Mark Twain. The Innocents Abroad, a humorous account of Clemenss 1867 travels in Europe and the Middle East, received excellent reviews when it was pub-lished in 1869 and became a best-seller. The following year the western author married an eastern heiress, I Olivia Louise (Livy) Langdon of Elmira, New York. During the 1870s and 1880s Clemens continued to craft a distinctive, multifaceted identity that combined the panache of the East with the vitalityand occasional rough edgesof the West. As Mark Twain, he became the preeminent American humorist of the late nineteenth century.

Literary Achievement. Twains early works include Roughing If (1872), a western travelogue; The Gilded Age (1873), a satiric novel written with his friend Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900); and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), another best-seller whose mischievous protagonist has charmed generations of young readers. He went on to write A Tramp Abroad (1880), further impressions of Europe gleaned during an 1878-1879 tour of the Continent; The Prince and the Pauper (1881), a historical fable set in sixteenth-century England; and Life on the Mississippi (1883), based on Clemenss experiences as a riverboat pilot. All the while, Clemens continued to travel, to publish sketches and stories in the popular press, and to cultivate prominent literary and political friends. One close friend, William Dean Howells, offered editorial advice as Clemens labored over drafts of a new novel. This book, originally conceived in 1876 as a sequel to Tom Sawyer, had languished for years as Twain tinkered with other writing projects. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, finally published in 1884 in Great Britain and in the United States the following year, did indeed feature the scamp Tom Sawyer. But in Toms friend Huck, Twain created a character who transcended the ranks of juvenile fiction. More worldly than Tom, and yet possessed of an essential idealism, Huck Finn is the quintessential American hero.

Huck Finn, American Iconoclast. Traveling down the Mississippi toward freedom on a raft, Huck and the fugitive slave Jim encounter an array of colorful characters during their quest for freedom. In a pivotal scene, when authorities post a large reward for Jims return, Huck is forced to weigh the law against more complex standards of justice. I see Jim before me all the time, Huck reflects: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldnt seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. Although he has already drafted a letter telling Jims owner of the slaves whereabouts, Huck pauses before taking further action: I was a-trembling, because Id got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: All right, then, Eli go to hell. At this decisive momentand again at the end of the book, when he determines to light out for the territory rather than be sivilized Huck takes a stand as an American iconoclast, a self-willed outcast from proper society.

Adrift in America. The man who coined the phrase The Gilded Age found himself increasingly at odds with the acquisitive culture of late-nineteenth-century America. Throughout the 1890s Twains reputation as a literary master grew, but debtsand doubtsaccumulated. Darker overtones surface in Twains later works such as Puddnhead Wilson (1894), a novel that comments on race, law, and humbug; To the Person Sitting in Darkness, an essay denouncing American imperialism; and The Mysterious Stranger (begun in 1898, published posthumously in 1916), a meditation on the nature of evil. In an interview with The New York Times in 1905, Twain commented on the mixed blessings of literary fame: My advice to the humorist who has been a slave to his reputation is never to be discouraged. I know it is painful to make an earnest statement of a heartfelt conviction and then observe the puzzled expression of the fatuous soul who is conscientiously searching his brain to see how he can possibly have failed to get the point of the joke. But say it again and maybe hell understand you. No man need be a humorist all his life. Clemenss wife had died in the summer of 1904, and he spent his final years in restless transit from Connecticut to New York, Europe, and Bermuda. He lived to see Halleys Comet reappear in the heavens in early 1910; he died on 21 April at his home in Redding, Connecticut.

Sources

Louis J. Budd, Our Mark Twain (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983);

Justin Kaplan, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966).

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Twain, Mark

Mark Twain, pseud. of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835–1910, American author, b. Florida, Mo. As humorist, narrator, and social observer, Twain is unsurpassed in American literature. His novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a masterpiece of humor, characterization, and realism, has been called the first (and sometimes the best) modern American novel.

Early Life and Works

After the death of his father in 1847, young Clemens was apprenticed to a printer in Hannibal, Mo., the Mississippi River town where he spent most of his boyhood. He first began writing for his brother's newspaper there, and later he worked as a printer in several major Eastern cities. In 1857, Clemens went to New Orleans on his way to make his fortune in South America, but instead he became a Mississippi River pilot—hence his pseudonym, "Mark Twain," which was the river call for a depth of water of two fathoms. The Civil War put an end to river traffic, and in 1862 Clemens went west to Carson City, Nev., where he failed in several get-rich-quick schemes. He eventually began writing for the Virginia City Examiner and later was a newspaperman in San Francisco.

Soon the humorist "Mark Twain" emerged, a writer of tall tales and absurd anecdotes. He first won fame with the comic masterpiece "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," first published in 1865 in the New York Saturday Press and later (1867) used as the title piece for a volume of stories and sketches. When he returned from a trip to Hawaii financed by the Sacramento Union in 1866, Twain became a successful humorous lecturer. The articles he wrote on a journey to the Holy Land were published in 1869 as The Innocents Abroad. In 1870 he married Olivia Langdon of Elmira, N.Y., and settled down in Hartford, Conn., to be "respectable," although Roughing It (1872) presented anecdotes of his less genteel past on the Western frontier.

Mature Works

In Hartford, Twain wrote some of his best work: The Gilded Age (1873), a satirical novel written with Charles Dudley Warner about materialism and corruption in the 1870s; two evocations of his boyhood in Hannibal, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884); The Prince and the Pauper (1882), a novel for children that blends the simplicity of a fairy tale with realistic social criticism; and the nonfictional Life on the Mississippi (1883). He also produced a travel book, A Tramp Abroad (1880), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), in which satirical overtones reflect a profound seriousness.

Later Life and Works

Some of Twain's later works are forced attempts at humor—The American Claimant (1892) and two sequels to Tom Sawyer. His distinctly bitter Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894) underscores his increasingly melancholy attitude. Over the years Twain had invested a great deal of money in unsuccessful printing and publishing ventures, and in 1893 he found himself deeply in debt. To recoup his losses he wearily lectured his way around the world, being funny at whatever cost, and recording his experiences in Following the Equator (1897).

His later life was shadowed by the deaths of two of his daughters and by the long illness and death in 1904 of his wife. Some critics think that the fierce pessimism of his later works derives from these tragedies. Whatever the reason, he abandoned the optimistic tone of The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), and wrote such somber works as The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg (1899), What Is Man? (1905), The Mysterious Stranger (1916), and Letters from the Earth (1962). The strange contradiction in personality between the genial humorist and the declared misanthrope has long intrigued commentators and makes Twain a fascinating biographical subject.

Twain's Masterpiece: Huckleberry Finn

Twain's literary reputation rests most particularly on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In its hero, a resourceful, unconventional boy with an innate sense of human values, Twain created one of the most memorable characters in fiction. The narrative device of a raft carrying Huck and a runaway slave down the Mississippi enabled Twain to achieve a realistic portrait of American life in the 19th cent. Through his use of authentic vernacular speech he revolutionized the language of American fiction and exerted a great influence on many subsequent American writers. In 1990 a handwritten manuscript of the first half of the novel was discovered that includes a number of minor changes and an episode that was left out of the original published version; these passages were included in an edition published in 1996.

Bibliography

See his collected letters, ed. by E. M. Branch et al. (1987); his correspondence with William Dean Howells, ed. by F. Anderson et al. (1967); his notebooks, ed. by F. Anderson et al. (3 vol., 1975–80); editions of his rambling, dictated autobiography, ed. by A. B. Paine (1924, repr. 2003), by C. Neider (1959), and by H. E. Smith et al. (3 vol., 2010–); biographies by A. B. Paine (1924), J. Kaplan (1966, repr. 2003), H. Hill (1973, repr. 2010), A. Hoffman (1997), F. Kaplan (2003), R. Powers (2005), and J. Loving (2010); studies by W. D. Howells (1910), B. De Voto (1932), H. N. Smith (1967), V. W. Brooks (rev. ed. 1933, repr. 1970), W. Gibson (1976), R. Morris, Jr. (2010 and 2015), G. Scharnhorst (2010), and A. Levy (2015); F. Anderson and K. M. Sanderson, ed., Mark Twain: The Critical Heritage (1972); S. F. Fishkin, ed., The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Works (2010); H. L. Katz and the Library of Congress, Mark Twain's America (2014).

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Twain, Mark (1835–1910)

Twain, Mark (18351910)


The essayist, novelist, and humorist Samuel Langhorne Clemens is better known by the pseudonym Mark Twain. He is most noted for authoring The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often touted as the great American novel.

Soon after Twain's birth in Florida, Missouri, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, which he later recast as St. Petersburg, the setting of Tom Sawyer and parts of Huckleberry Finn. Hannibal, which was important to the slave market on the Mississippi River, had a profound influence on Twain's writing, particularly his views on race, articulated most cynically in The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894). As an adult, Twain became acquainted with Mississippi steamboat life on his abridged journey to South America, where he anticipated establishing himself in the coca trade. Twain received his pilot's license in 1859, working the river until the onset of the Civil War halted river commerce. These years on the Mississippi provided Twain with a diversity of experience that greatly informed his writing, especially his Mississippi River novels, for which he is best known. After serving briefly in the Confederate Army, Twain moved to Nevada, where, as a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise, he first signed a piece as Mark Twain, a pseudonym meaning "two fathoms" for riverboat pilots, and "two drinks on credit" for Nevada citizens.

Though renowned for his witty social commentary, Twain's most lasting contribution to literature is, arguably, his children's fiction, which Twain maintained was intended for both children and adults. The somewhat nostalgic depiction of boyhood found in Twain's Tom Sawyer books has come to stand in for boyhood itself, with Tom Sawyer exemplifying the "good bad boy," an important departure from the more didactic children's fiction of the time. This departure is felt most powerfully in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain's most sensitive rendering of child consciousness. Twain's choice to narrate the novel in Huckleberry's voice was revolutionary. His Tom Sawyer sequelsTom Sawyer Abroad (1894) and Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896)were neither as intimate nor as complicated, though they were also told in Huck's voice. Twain's other novels associated with child readers, The Prince and the Pauper (1882) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) feature adult protagonists.

Theatrical and cinematic versions of Twain's two major books are common; one of the earliest is a dramatization of Tom Sawyer authored by Twain in 1884, though never staged. Huckleberry made it to the boards in November 1902, in a production that fared well. Perhaps the most famous of the many film versions of Huckleberry Finn is the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production, released the same year as The Wizard of Oz. Featuring Mickey Rooney as Huck, this adaptation was the first to focus on the relationship between Huck and Jim, an escaped slave who accompanies Huck down the Mississippi. In 1993 Walt Disney Pictures released their film adaptation, The Adventures of Huck Finn, starring Elijah Wood. However, despite these numerous retellings, ubiquitous media representations, and nearly uniform critical acclaim, both Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are consistently challenged and banned throughout the United States for addressing so directly issues of race and class.

See also: Children's Literature.

bibliography

Budd, Louis J. 1983. Our Mark Twain. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Haupt, Clyde V. 1994. Huckleberry Finn On Film: Film and Television Adaptations of Mark Twain's Novel, 19201993. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Hill, Hamlin. 1973. Mark Twain, God's Fool. New York: Harper.

Hoffman, Andrew. 1997. Inventing Mark Twain: The Lives of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. New York: William Morrow.

Joseph T. Thomas Jr.

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Twain, Mark (1835-1910)

Twain, Mark (1835-1910)

Pseudonym of author Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Throughout his life, the great humorist and observer of the world around him often reflected upon the psychic and metaphysical events of which he was aware. In 1880 he wrote an article on "mental telegraphy" that related a personal experience of telepathy. He also had a vivid premonitory dream of the death of his brother Henry. Twain was an early and long-term member of the Society for Psychical Research, London.

After his death, various posthumous communications and writings were claimed. In 1917, the story Jap Herron was published in New York, purporting to come from the discarnate Mark Twain, as received by Emily Grant Hutchings and Lola V. Hays. Hutchings, the recorder of the Patience Worth material of Pearl Lenore Curran of St. Louis, was herself an author who greatly admired Mark Twain. She had a keen sense of somewhat similar humor and a strong tinge of melancholy like Mark Twain's. She had strongly wished him to communicate through her. All this furnished an ideal condition for subconscious production.

James H. Hyslop resolved the problem by interesting cross-reference experiments. The two women received the communications through the ouija board; the presence of both of them was necessary to operate it. They were brought by Hyslop to Boston. He gave each woman, at separate times, five sittings with the medium "Mrs. Chenoweth" (see Minnie M. Soule ). But he did not admit them to the séance room until "Mrs. Chenoweth," who knew nothing of them, went into trance, and he made them sit behind her where they could not be seen.

Instead of the usual family relatives, Mark Twain purported to communicate with each of them. He used many of the same expressions that came through the ouija board, mentioned incidents in his life to prove his identity, described what he was doing through the women, and revealed the password that he gave to Hyslop in a St. Louis sitting.

"The outcome of the experiments," concluded Hyslop in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (July 1917), "is that there is abundant evidence that Mark Twain is behind the work connected with his name, though the student of psychology would probably find abundant evidence that it was colored more or less by the mind through which it came." The conclusion also applied to Brent Roberts, another posthumous Mark Twain novel that the two women received.

In Hyslop's Contact with the Other World (1919), a long chapter was devoted to other evidential spirit communications from Mark Twain.

Sources:

Paine, Albert Bigelow. Mark Twain. 3 vols. N.p., 1912.

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Twain, Mark

Twain, Mark

American Author 18351910

Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was a great American author and humorist. His novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1894) are considered by many as among the greatest American novels, and are still popular (and sometimes controversial) books to read.

Clemens grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which is located along the shore of the Mississippi River. He became a licensed riverboat pilot, where he learned of the riverboat term "mark twain" that crewmen called out to indicate "two fathoms." Clemens adopted the term as his pen name while beginning to incorporate the Mississippi River as a significant component of his novels.

Clemens recognized the Mississippi River as the lifeblood of the people living near it, bringing them both opportunity and misfortune. After living and working in the far West and traveling to Europe and Palestine, Clemens married and settled in Hartford, Connecticut to write. He entered into his most productive period as an author in the 1870s and 1880s. Clemens returned home to the Mississippi River and wrote one of his most remembered works, a river travelogue titled Life on the Mississippi, which recounted his experiences as a river pilot and the glory days of the steamboat trade. He said that it was his favorite of all his books.

see also Arts, Water in ; Mississippi River Basin.

Faye Anderson

Bibliography

Twain, Mark. Life on the Mississippi. Boston, MA: James R. Osgood and Company, 1883.

Ward, Geoffrey C., Dayton Duncan, and Ken Burns. Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography. New York: Knopf, 2001.

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Clemens, Samuel Langhorne ("Mark Twain") (1835-1910)

Clemens, Samuel Langhorne ("Mark Twain") (1835-1910)

Samuel Clemens (b. November 30, 1835) was better known as March Twain and by his classic fictions such as, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, rather than his work as a reporter-writer. In this capacity, Mark Twain manifested a great interest in a wide variety of contemporary events and movements. Reference to paranormal events and metaphysical movements are scattered throughout his writings. He is well known for his book on Christian Science (1970), upon which he poured out his scorn. He also had a great interest in thought-transference, or "mental telegraphy" as he called it, and wrote an essay on the subject originally intended as a chapter in A Tramp Abroad but later published separately in 1882. This was followed by another essay, "Mental Telegraphy Again," in 1889, in which he related personal experiences in telepathy and seeing an apparition. These essays were included in Literary Essays in the author's edition of The Writings of Mark Twain.

The famous author died on April 21, 1910 in Redding, Connecticut.

Sources:

Clemens, Samuel Langhorne. The Writings of Mark Twain. New York: Harpers, 1907.

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Twain, Mark

Twain, Mark (1835–1910) US writer, journalist, and lecturer, b. Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He took his pseudonym from the sounding calls of steamboatmen on the Mississippi, on the banks of which he was brought up. Twain was among the first to write novels in the American vernacular, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which is seen as one of the great works of US fiction. Although he tends to be categorized as a humorist, his later books, such as The Mysterious Stranger (1916), are often bitter and pessimistic.

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Clemens, Samuel Langhorne

Samuel Langhorne Clemens: see Twain, Mark.

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