Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also know as Mark Twain,

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Mark Twain, who was born in 1835 and died in 1910, gained fame as a celebrated American humorist. Through his novels and stories, he vividly depicted America in the 19th century. His exceptional writing skills and captivating lectures fascinated people worldwide. As Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling interfere with my education” (source:

Mark Twain, born as Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, was a significant source of inspiration for America during the 19th century and continues to influence contemporary writers. Growing up in a small two-bedroom house with four siblings, Twain’s childhood in Hannibal, Missouri, beside the Mississippi River, heavily influenced the themes of his books (Comptons Interactive Encyclopedia 1; World Book 530).

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Mark Twain’s time by the Mississippi River was crucial for American literature, molding him into the esteemed author he is recognized as presently. Living alongside the river granted him a plethora of encounters, from observing lively steamboats sailing by to witnessing their pauses for trade. These boats attracted a diverse array of people, such as performers, singers, gamblers, swindlers, slave traders, and other travelers (World Book 530). Regrettably, in 1847 when Twain was only twelve years old, his life took a downturn with the death of his father.

Shocked by his father’s sudden death at a young age, he stopped going to school and became an apprentice at a printing company to support himself. Like many writers in the 19th century, he learned the necessary skills for his future career by helping a typesetter and reading extensively in his free time (source: In 1851, he began assisting his brother Orion with publishing the Hannibal Journal newspaper.

This is the place where Twain started writing seriously and first published his work. He contributed poems, reports, skits, and humorous sketches to the newspaper for several years (World Book 530). Combined with his education from working in print shops, reading various books, and collaborating with a typesetter, this experience was invaluable in shaping Mark Twain into the esteemed American author he is known as today. Throughout his life, Twain observed steamboats passing by his town on the Mississippi River, igniting his ambition to learn how to operate a steamboat and obtain his pilot’s license.

Mark Twain left Hannibal in 1853 with a goal of learning how to drive a steamboat. During a trip to New Orleans, he convinced a steamboat pilot to teach him, and by the spring of 1859, he became a licensed steamboat pilot (source: In 1861, Twain and his brother, Orion, relocated to Carson City, Nevada, to avoid the Civil War. They tried mining for gold and silver but failed to become wealthy. Twain then moved to Virginia City, Nevada and joined a newspaper staff. It was there, in 1863, that Samuel Langhorne Clemens first adopted the pen name Mark Twain, which is a term used by Mississippi boatmen to indicate two fathoms.

Mark Twain wrote his first popular story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in 1865 ( In 1870, he married Olivia Langdon, who became his writing consultant and made modifications to his exaggerations in his writings. This sometimes weakened his stories, but other times made them more readable (Comptons Interactive Encyclopedia 1). Since their marriage, Twain would write his books and then have Langdon expurgate them ( Following their marriage, he began publishing a new book every few years.

Mark Twain’s wealth grew by the mid-1870s, leading his family to move into a magnificent Hartford mansion. He continued to thrive through earnings from worldwide lectures and book writing, even establishing his own publishing company in the early 1880s. However, a series of unfortunate events eventually caused him to lose almost all of his wealth.

While establishing his publishing firm, he actively engaged in multiple investments. One significant investment was a cutting-edge typesetting machine that, unfortunately, turned out to be unsuccessful and caused losses of approximately $200,000 from 1881 to 1894. Unexpectedly, his publishing company declared bankruptcy in April 1894. Consequently, by January 1895, he experienced public humiliation as he grappled with repaying his debts (World Book 531).

Despite facing a challenging situation, Mark Twain was resolute in his determination to regain his previous wealth. He firmly believed that he possessed the capability to accomplish this feat. In 1898, through his perseverance in writing and embarking on a worldwide lecture tour, Twain successfully repaid all of his debts. This extensive tour allowed him to visit numerous locations including India, South Africa, and Australia.

Upon settling all his debts, he achieved worldwide acclaim upon his return to America. While he initially embraced the attention, misfortune befell his family when his eldest daughter, Suzy, passed away from meningitis in 1896. Furthermore, in 1903, he faced the tough choice of selling his beloved residence in Hartford where he penned most of his acclaimed novels.

Mark Twain experienced numerous challenges in his life. His spouse passed away on June 5, 1904, and shortly after that, his youngest daughter Jean also died on Christmas Eve in 1909. At the age of 74, Mark Twain succumbed to heart disease on April 21, 1910. Despite these hardships, he persevered as a prolific writer till the end. He authored numerous books, novels, and poems that garnered varying degrees of popularity and accomplishment.

The famous novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) by Mark Twain is a well-known piece of American literature that has caused controversy because of its use of the word “nigger.” While some argue against exposing middle and high school students to this language, Twain includes it in order to accurately depict life in the southern United States. From the 19th to the 20th century, critics have had varying opinions on Huckleberry Finn, with some supporting it and others objecting. Twain’s incorporation of informal grammar and morally ambiguous characters unsettled readers at that time. In fact, in 1885, the Free Public Library in Concord, Massachusetts banned the novel (World Book 531). Despite facing criticism, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will undoubtedly continue to be cherished as a classic work of American literature.

Mark Twain’s early memories and his experiences living on the Mississippi River inspired several of his works. His first book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), serves as a prequel to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Another notable work is Life on the Mississippi (1883). These books are accompanied by other significant literary contributions from Twain, including The Innocents Abroad (1869), Roughing It (1872), The Gilded Age (1873), A Tramp Abroad (1880), The Prince and the Pauper (1882), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), The Tragedy of Puddnhead Wilson (1894), and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc(1896). Additionally, posthumously published works include The Mysterious Stranger(1916), Mark Twain’s Notebook(1935)and Autobiography(1959).

Mark Twain’s reputation has changed over time, from being known as an American humorist to being seen as a gloomy and negative person. Although his later works, like The Mysterious Stranger, were not widely accepted in the early 20th century, they have gained more attention in modern times. This has allowed the public to become familiar with Twain’s pessimistic side. Twain once wrote: “Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved” (source: This statement carries a deeper meaning: one should be glad to leave this harsh world and feel sorrow for those who enter it.

One reason for the change in Mark Twain’s writing style was the deaths in his family. In his words, he reveals a darker side, asserting that Pleasure, Love, Game, and Riches are merely temporary disguises for the true realities of Pain, Grief, Shame, and Poverty (source: While this somber aspect of Twain holds significance in his literary history, it does not define him entirely. He will always be remembered as Mark Twain, The American Humorist who not only contributed wonderful and inspiring stories to the world but also made a remarkable impact on the literary realm as a whole.

Mark Twain, a pioneering American writer, had a unique writing style that set him apart from his contemporaries in the 19th century who imitated English authors. In his novels, he skillfully incorporated informal language rhythms that authentically captured the essence of American speech. This realistic approach to writing has deeply influenced numerous authors, both in Twain’s time and future generations. According to Ernest Hemingway, “Huckleberry Finn” is the source of all modern American literature (World Book 532). Mark Twain will forever be remembered as an enduring American hero.

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also know as Mark Twain,. (2018, Dec 16). Retrieved from

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