Mark Twain

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Creative Quotations  from Mark Twain
Samual Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) was born Nov. 30, 1835, in Florida, Mo. When he was four years old, his family moved to Hannibal, Mo., a Mississippi river port, where 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 was a journeyman printer in Keokuk, Iowa, New York City, Philadelphia, and other cities, and then a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi until the American Civil War brought an end to travel on the river. In 1861 he served briefly as a volunteer soldier in an irregular company of 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, Nev., and in 1863 began signing his articles with the pseudonym "Mark Twain," a Mississippi River phrase meaning two fathoms deep. After moving to San Francisco in 1864, Twain met the writers Artemus Ward and Bret Harte, who encouraged him. In 1865 Twain reworked a tale he had heard in the California gold fields; 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; he also visited Europe and the Holy Land. He wrote of these travels in The Innocents Abroad (1869), a book burlesquing those aspects of Old World culture that impress American tourists. In 1870 he married Olivia Langdon (1845-1904). After a brief residence in Buffalo, N.Y., the couple moved to Hartford, Conn. Much of Twain's best work was written in the 1870s and '80s in Hartford or during the summers at Quarry Farm, near Elmira, N.Y. 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. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), the sequel to Tom Sawyer, is considered Twain's masterpiece.

 In 1884 he formed a publishing company, but a disastrous investment in an automatic typesetting machine led to the firm's bankruptcy in 1894. 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 about miscegenation and murder, and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), a sentimental biography. Other later writings include short stories, "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" (1899) and "The War Prayer" (1905); philosophical, social, and political essays; "The Mysterious Stranger" manuscripts; and autobiographical dictations.

 Twain raised his voice in protest at a time when American life was dominated by the materialism and corruption of the so-called Gilded Age following the Civil War. His work was inspired by the unconventional West; its popularity marked the end of the domination of American literature by New England writers. One of America's most important writers, Twain is justly renowned as a humorist, but his literary reputation also rests on his realistic use of dialects and the vernacular, especially of the Mississippi River Valley, in delineating characters and scenes of mid-19th century American life. He was a celebrity during his later years, and received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1907. He died in New York City on April 21, 1910.



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Creative Quotations  from Mark Twain

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