Mark Twain

Editing of this page by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled until (UTC) due to vandalism.
If you are prevented from editing this page, and you wish to make a change, please discuss changes on the talk page, request unprotection, log in, or .

Samuel Langhorne Clemens

Pseudonym:Mark Twain
Born:November 30 1835(1835--)
Florida, Missouri, United States
Died:March 21 1910 (aged 76)
Redding, Connecticut
Genres:Historical fiction, non-fiction, satire, essay

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30 1835April 21 1910),[1] better known by the pen name Mark Twain, was an American humorist, satirist, lecturer and writer. Twain is most noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has since been called the Great American Novel,[2] and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He is also known for his quotations.[3][4] During his lifetime, Twain became a friend to presidents, artists, leading industrialists and European royalty.

Twain enjoyed immense public popularity, and his keen wit and incisive satire earned him praise from both critics and peers. American author William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature."[5]


Early life

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835 to a Tennessee country merchant, John Marshall Clemens (August 11, 1798March 24, 1847), and Jane Lampton Clemens (June 18, 1803October 27, 1890).[6]

He was the sixth of seven children. Only three of his siblings survived childhood: his brothers Orion (July 17, 1825December 11 1897) and Henry (July 13, 1838June 21, 1858) and his sister Pamela (September 19, 1827August 31, 1904). His sister Margaret (May 31, 1830August 17, 1839) died when Twain was four years old, and his brother Benjamin (June 8, 1832May 12, 1842) died three years later. Another brother, Pleasant (18281829), died at the age of six months. [7] When Twain was four, his family moved to Hannibal,[8] a port town on the Mississippi River that would serve as the inspiration for the fictional town of St. Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.[9] At that time, Missouri was a slave state in the Union, and young Twain became familiar with the institution of slavery, a theme he later explored in his writing.

In March 1847, when Twain was 11, his father died of pneumonia. The following year, he became a printer's apprentice. In 1851, he began working as a typesetter and contributor of articles and humorous sketches for the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper owned by his brother, Orion. When he was 18, he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. He joined the union and educated himself in public libraries in the evenings, finding wider sources of information than he would have at a conventional school[10]. At 22, Twain returned to Missouri. On a voyage to New Orleans down the Mississippi, the steamboat pilot, Bixby, inspired Twain to pursue a career as a steamboat pilot; it was a richly rewarding occupation with wages set at $250 per month[11], equivalent to $155,000 a year today.

Because the steamboats at the time were constructed of very dry flammable wood, no lamps were allowed, making night travel a precarious endeavor. A steamboat pilot needed a vast knowledge of the ever-changing river to be able to stop at any of the hundreds of ports and wood-lots along the river banks. Twain meticulously studied 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of the Mississippi for more than two years before he received his steamboat pilot license in 1859. While training, Samuel convinced his younger brother Henry to work with him. Henry was killed on June 21, 1858, when the steamboat he was working on exploded. Twain had foreseen this death in a detailed dream a month earlier[12], which inspired his interest in parapsychology; he was an early member of the Society for Psychical Research[13]. Twain was guilt-stricken over his brother's death and held himself responsible for the rest of his life. However, he continued to work on the river and served as a river pilot until the American Civil War broke out in 1861 and traffic along the Mississippi was curtailed.

Travels and family

Missouri was a slave state and considered by many to be part of the South, but it did not join the Confederacy. When the war began, Twain and his friends formed a Confederate militia (depicted in an 1885 short story, "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed"), which drilled for only two weeks before disbanding.[14] Twain joined his brother, Orion, who had been appointed secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada, and headed west.

Twain and his brother traveled for more than two weeks on a stagecoach across the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, visiting the Mormon community in Salt Lake City along the way. These experiences became the basis of the book Roughing It, and provided material for The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Twain's journey ended in the silver-mining town of Virginia City, Nevada, where he became a miner.[14] Twain failed as a miner and found work at a Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise.[15] On February 3, 1863, he signed a humorous travel account "LETTER FROM CARSON - re: Joe Goodman; party at Gov. Johnson's; music" with "Mark Twain".[16]

Enlarge picture
The library of the Mark Twain House, which features hand-stenciled paneling, fireplaces from India, embossed wallpapers and an enormous hand-carved mantel that the Twains purchased in Scotland (HABS photo)

Twain then traveled to San Francisco, California, where he continued as a journalist and began lecturing. He met other writers such as Bret Harte, Artemus Ward and Dan DeQuille. An assignment in Hawaii became the basis for his first lectures.[17] In 1867, a local newspaper funded a steamboat trip to the Mediterranean. During his tour of Europe and the Middle East, he wrote a popular collection of travel letters which were compiled as The Innocents Abroad in 1869.

Twain met Charles Langdon, who showed him a picture of his sister Olivia; Twain claimed to have fallen in love at first sight. They met in 1868, were engaged a year later, and married in February 1870 in Elmira, New York.[17] She came from a "wealthy but liberal family", and through her he met abolitionists, "socialists, principled atheists and activists for women’s rights and social equality", including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass and the utopian socialist William Dean Howells[18].

The couple lived in Buffalo, New York from 1869 to 1871. Twain owned a stake in the Buffalo Express, and worked as an editor and writer. Their son Langdon died of diphtheria at 19 months.

In 1871[19], Twain moved his family to Hartford, Connecticut, where starting in 1873 he arranged the building of a dramatic house for them, which local admirers saved from demolition in 1927 and eventually turned into a museum focused on him. There Olivia gave birth to three daughters: Susy, Clara (c1875-1962) [20], and Jean. The couple's marriage lasted 34 years, until Olivia's death in 1904.

During his years in Hartford, Twain became friends with fellow author William Dean Howells.

Later life and death

Enlarge picture
Mark Twain in his gown (scarlet with grey sleeves and facings) for his DLitt degree, awarded to him by Oxford University.

Twain made a second tour of Europe, described in the 1880 book, A Tramp Abroad. His tour included a visit to London where, in the summer of 1900, he was the guest of newspaper proprietor Hugh Gilzean-Reid at Dollis Hill House. Twain wrote of Dollis Hill that he had "never seen any place that was so satisfactorily situated, with its noble trees and stretch of country, and everything that went to make life delightful, and all within a biscuit's throw of the metropolis of the world [21]." He returned to America in 1900, having paid off his debts to his old firm.

In 1906, Twain began his autobiography in the North American Review. Oxford University awarded him an Doctorate of Literature a year later.

Twain outlived Jean and Susy. He passed through a period of deep depression, which began in 1896 when his favorite daughter Susy died of meningitis. Olivia's death in 1904 and Jean's death on December 24, 1909, deepened his gloom.[22]

In 1909, Twain is quoted as saying:[23]
I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'

Twain died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910 in Redding, Connecticut. Upon hearing of Twain's death, President Taft said:[24] [25]

Mark Twain gave pleasure—real intellectual enjoyment—to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come... His humor was American, but he was nearly as much appreciated by Englishmen and people of other countries as by his own countrymen. He has made an enduring part of American literature.

Mark Twain is buried in his wife's family plot in Elmira, New York.

Life as a writer

Career overview

Twain began his career writing light, humorous verse but evolved into a grim, almost profane chronicler of the vanities, hypocrisies and murderous acts of mankind. At mid-career, with Huckleberry Finn, he combined rich humor, sturdy narrative and social criticism. Twain was a master at rendering colloquial speech and helped to create and popularize a distinctive American literature built on American themes and language. Many of Mark Twain's works have been suppressed at times for various reasons. When an anonymous slim volume was published in 1880 entitled 1601: Conversation, as it was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors., Twain was among those rumored to be the author. The issue was not settled until 1906, when Twain acknowledged his literary paternity of this scatological masterpiece. Huckleberry Finn has been repeatedly restricted in American high schools, not least for its frequent use of the word "nigger", which was a common term when the book was written.

Early journalism and travelogues

Mark Twain’s first important work, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, was first published in the New York Saturday Press on November 18, 1865. The only reason it was published there was because his story arrived too late to be included in a book Artemus Ward was compiling featuring sketches of the wild American West.

After this burst of popularity, Twain was commissioned by the Sacramento Union to write letters about his travel experiences for publication in the newspaper, his first of which was to ride the steamer Ajax in its maiden voyage to Hawaii, referred to at the time as the Sandwich Islands. These humorous letters proved the genesis to his work with the San Francisco Alta California newspaper, which designated him a traveling correspondent for a trip from San Francisco to New York City via the Panama isthmus. All the while Twain was writing letters meant for publishing back and forth, chronicling his experiences with his burlesque humor. On June 8, 1867, Twain set sail on the pleasure cruiser Quaker City for five months. This trip resulted in The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrims' Progress.

This book is a record of a pleasure trip. If it were a record of a solemn scientific expedition it would have about it the gravity, that profundity, and that impressive incomprehensibility which are so proper to works of that kind, and withal so attractive. Yet not withstanding it is only a record of a picnic, it has a purpose, which is, to suggest to the reader how he would be likely to see Europe and the East if he looked at them with his own eyes instead of the eyes of those who traveled in those countries before him. I make small pretense of showing anyone how he ought to look at objects of interest beyond the sea – other books do that, and therefore, even if I were competent to do it, there is no need.

In 1872, Twain published a second piece of travel literature, Roughing It, as a semi-sequel to Innocents. Roughing It is a semi-autobiographical account of Twain's journey to Nevada and his subsequent life in the American West. The book lampoons American and Western society in the same way that Innocents critiqued the various countries of Europe and the Middle East. Twain's next work kept Roughing It's focus on American society but focused more on the events of the day. Entitled , it was not a travel piece, as his previous two books had been, and it was his first attempt at writing a novel. The book is also notable because it is Twain's only collaboration; it was written with his neighbor Charles Dudley Warner.

Twain's next two works drew on his experiences on the Mississippi River. Old Times on the Mississippi, a series of sketches published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1875, featured Twain’s disillusionment with Romanticism. Old Times eventually became the starting point for Life on the Mississippi.

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn

Twain's next major publication was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which drew on his youth in Hannibal. The character of Tom Sawyer was modeled on Twain as a child, with traces of two schoolmates, John Briggs and Will Bowen. The book also introduced in a supporting role the character of Huckleberry Finn, based on Twain's boyhood friend Tom Blankenship.

The Prince and the Pauper, despite a storyline that is omnipresent in film and literature today, was not as well received. Pauper was Twain’s first attempt at fiction, and blame for its shortcomings are usually put on Twain having not been experienced enough in English society and the fact that it was produced after such a massive hit. In between the writing of Pauper, Twain had started Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which he consistently had problems completing) and started and completed another travel book, A Tramp Abroad, which follows Twain as he travels through central and southern Europe.

Twain’s next major published work, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, solidified him as a noteworthy American writer. Some have called it the first Great American Novel. Finn was an offshoot from Tom Sawyer and proved to have a more serious tone than its predecessor. The main premise behind Huckleberry Finn is the young boy’s belief in the right thing to do even though the majority of society believes that it was wrong. The book has become required reading in many schools throughout the United States because Huck ignores the rules and mores of the age to follow what he thinks is just (the story takes place in the 1850s where slavery is present). Four hundred manuscript pages of Huckleberry Finn were written in the summer of 1876, right after the publication of Tom Sawyer. Some accounts have Twain taking seven years off after his first burst of creativity, eventually finishing the book in 1883. Other accounts have Twain working on Finn in tandem with The Prince and the Pauper and other works in 1880 and other years. The last fifth of Finn is subject to much controversy. Some say that Twain experiences—as critic Leo Marx puts it—a "failure of nerve." Ernest Hemingway once said of Huckleberry Finn: “If you read it, you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating.?

Near the end of Huckleberry Finn, Twain wrote Life on the Mississippi, which is said to have heavily influenced the former book. The work recounts Twain’s memories and new experiences after a 22-year absence from the Mississippi. The book is of note because Twain introduces the real meaning of his pseudonym.

Later writing

After his great work, Twain began turning to his business endeavors to keep them afloat and to stave off the increasing difficulties he had been having from his writing projects. Twain focused on the writing of President Ulysses S. Grant's Memoirs for his fledgling publishing company, finding time in between to write "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed" for The Century Magazine.

Twain next focused on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which featured him making his first big pronouncement of disappointment with politics. The tone become cynical to the point of almost being a rant against the established political system of the day (which would have been in King Arthur’s time), and eventually devolved into madness for the main character. The book was started in December 1885, then shelved a few months later until the summer of 1887, and eventually finished in the spring of 1889.

Some say that this work marked the beginning of the end for Twain, as he fell into financial trouble and eschewed his humor vein. Twain had begun to furiously write articles and commentary with diminishing returns to pay the bills and keep his business intentions afloat, but it was not enough because he filed for bankruptcy in 1894. His next large scale work, The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (aka Those Extraordinary Twins), drew on his sense of irony, though it has been misconstrued. There were parallels between this work and Twain’s financial failings, notably his desire to escape his current constraints and become a different person.

Twain’s next venture was straight fiction called Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc and dedicated it to his wife. Twain had long said that this was the work he was most proud of despite the criticism he received for it. The book had been a dream of his for a very long time, and he eventually thought it to be the work to save his publishing company. His financial adviser, Henry Huttleston Rogers, squashed that idea and got Twain out of that business all together, but the book was published nonetheless.

Twain’s wife died in 1904, and after an appropriate time Twain allowed himself to publish some works that his wife, a de facto editor and censor throughout his life, had looked down upon. Of these works, The Mysterious Stranger, which places the presence of Satan, aka “No. 44,” in various situations where the moral sense of humankind is absent, is perhaps the best known. This particular work was not published in Twain’s lifetime. There were three versions found in his manuscripts made between 1897 and 1905: the Hannibal version, the Eseldorf version, and the Print Shop version. Confusion between the versions led to an extensive publication of a jumbled version, and only recently have the original versions as Twain wrote them become available.

Twain’s last work was his autobiography, which he dictated and thought would be most entertaining if he went off on whims and tangents in non-sequential order. Some archivists and compilers had a problem with this and rearranged the biography into a more conventional form, thereby eliminating some of Twain’s humor and the flow of the book.

Finance, science, and inventions

Enlarge picture
Twain in the lab of Nikola Tesla, spring of 1894

Twain made a substantial amount of money through his writing, but he spent much of it in bad investments, mostly in new inventions. He was fascinated with science and scientific inquiry. He developed a close and lasting friendship with Nikola Tesla, and the two spent much time together in Tesla's laboratory. His book A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court features a time traveler from contemporary America, using his knowledge of science to introduce modern technology to Arthurian England. Twain inventions included a bed clamp for infants, a new type of steam engine, and the kaolatype (or collotype, a machine designed to engrave printing plates). The Paige typesetting machine was a beautifully engineered mechanical marvel that amazed viewers when it worked, but was prone to breakdowns; before it could be commercially perfected it was made obsolete by the Linotype. He patented an improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments.

Twain also lost money through his publishing house, which enjoyed initial success selling the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant but went bust soon after, losing money on an ill-advised idea that the general public would be interested in a Life of the Pope.

Twain's writings and lectures combined with the help of a new friend enabled him to recover financially.[26] In 1893, he began a 15-year-long friendship with financier Henry Huttleston Rogers, a principal of Standard Oil. Rogers first made Twain file for bankruptcy. Then Rogers had Twain transfer the copyrights on his written works to his wife, Olivia, to prevent creditors from gaining possession of them. Finally Rogers took absolute charge of Twain's money until all the creditors were paid. Twain then embarked on an around-the-world lecture tour to pay off his creditors in full, despite the fact that he was no longer under any legal obligation to do so.[27]

Friendship with Henry H. Rogers

Enlarge picture
A late life friendship for each, Mark Twain and Henry Huttleston Rogers in 1908.
While Twain credited Henry Rogers with saving him from financial ruin, their close friendship in their later years was mutually beneficial. Clemens lost three of his four children and his beloved wife, and the Rogers family increasingly became a surrogate family for him. He became a frequent guest at their townhouse in New York City, their 48-room summer home in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and aboard their steam yacht, the Kanawha.

The two men introduced each other to their acquaintances. Twain was an admirer of the remarkable deafblind girl, Helen Keller. He first met her and Anne Sullivan at a party in the home of Laurence Hutton in New York City in the winter of 1894. Twain introduced them to Rogers, who, with his wife, paid for Keller's education at Radcliffe College. It was Twain who is credited with labeling Sullivan, Keller's governess and companion, a "miracle worker." His choice of words later became inspiration for the title of William Gibson's play and film adaptation, The Miracle Worker. Twain also introduced Rogers to journalist Ida M. Tarbell, who interviewed the robber baron for a muckraking expose that led indirectly to the break-up of the Standard Oil Trust. On cruises aboard the Kanawha, Twain and Rogers were joined at frequent intervals by Booker T. Washington, the famed former slave who had become a leading educator.

While the two famous old men were widely regarded as drinking and poker buddies, they also exchanged letters when apart, and this was often since each traveled a great deal. Unlike Rogers' personal files, which have never become public, these insightful letters were published[28]. The written exchanges between the two men demonstrate Twain's well-known sense of humor and, more surprisingly, Rogers's sense of fun, providing a rare insight into the private side of the robber baron.

In April 1907, Twain and Rogers cruised to the opening of the Jamestown Exposition in Virginia. Twain's public popularity was such that many fans took boats out to the Kanawha at anchor in hopes of getting a glimpse of him. As the gathering of boats around the yacht became a safety hazard, he finally obliged by coming on deck and waving to the crowds.

Because of poor weather conditions, the steam yacht was delayed for several days from venturing into the Atlantic Ocean. Rogers and some of the others in his party returned to New York by rail; Twain disliked train travel and so elected to wait and return on the Kanawha. However, reporters lost track of his whereabouts; when he failed to return to New York City as scheduled, the New York Times speculated that he might have been "lost at sea." Upon arriving safely in New York and learning of this, the humorist wrote a satirical article about the episode, offering to"...make an exhaustive investigation of this report that I have been lost at sea. If there is any foundation for the report, I will at once apprise the anxious public."[29] This bore similarities to an earlier event in 1897 when he made his famous remark "The report of my death is an exaggeration", after a reporter was sent to investigate whether he had died. (In fact it was his cousin who was seriously ill.) See List of premature obituaries.

Later that year, Twain and Rogers's son, Henry Jr. returned to the Jamestown Exposition aboard the Kanawha. The humorist helped host Robert Fulton Day on September 23, 1907, celebrating the centennial of Fulton's invention of the steamboat. Twain, filling in for ailing former U.S. President Grover Cleveland, introduced Rear Admiral Purnell Harrington. Twain was met with a five-minute standing ovation; members of the audience cheered and waved their hats and umbrellas. Deeply touched, Twain said, "When you appeal to my head, I don't feel it; but when you appeal to my heart, I do feel it"[30].

In April 1909 the two old friends returned to Norfolk, Virginia for the banquet in honor of Rogers and his newly completed Virginian Railway. Twain was the keynote speaker in one of his last public appearances, and was widely quoted in newspapers across the country. [31]

A month later, Twain was en route from Connecticut to visit his friend in New York City when Rogers died suddenly on May 20, 1909. TWain arrived at Grand Central Station to be met by his daughter with the news. Stricken with grief, he uncustomarily avoided news reporters who had gathered, saying only "This is terrible...I cannot talk about it." Two days later, he served as an honorary pallbearer at the funeral in New York City. However, he declined to join the funeral party on the train ride for the interment at Fairhaven. He said "I cannot bear to travel with my friend and not converse."

Political and religious views

While his reputation as a popular author overshadows his contributions as a social critic, Twain held strong views on the political topics of his day; his friend Helen Keller had her radicalism similarly neutralised by history. Through his wife's family, Twain had contact with many well-placed progressives. He spent the last 20 years of his life as an "outspoken anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist"[32].

Changing his views

Although Twain remained neutral during the Civil War, his views became more radical as he grew older. He acknowledged that his views changed and developed over his life, referring to one of his favorite works:
When I finished Carlyle’s French Revolution in 1871, I was a Girondin; every time I have read it since, I have read it differently – being influenced and changed, little by little, by life and environment ... and now I lay the book down once more, and recognize that I am a Sansculotte! – And not a pale, characterless Sansculotte, but a Marat.[33]

He describes his transformation and political awakening, in the context of the Philippine-American War, from being "a red-hot imperialist":

I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific ...Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? ... I said to myself, Here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American Constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves. But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris [which ended the Spanish-American War], and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.[34]


From 1901, soon after his return from Europe, until his death in 1910, Twain was vice-president of the American Anti-Imperialist League[35], which opposed the annexation of the Philippines by the United States and had "tens of thousands of members"[36]. He wrote many political pamphlets for the organization. The Incident in the Philippines, posthumously published in 1924, was in response to the Moro Crater Massacre, in which six hundred Moros were killed. Many of his neglected and previously uncollected writings on anti-imperialism appeared for the first time in book form only in 1992.

Twain was also critical of imperialism in other countries too. In Following the Equator, Twain expresses "hatred and condemnation of imperialism of all stripes"[37]. He was highly critical of European imperialism, notably of Cecil Rhodes, who greatly expanded the British Empire, and of Leopold II, King of the Belgians[38]. King Leopold's Soliloquy is a stinging political satire about his private colony, the Congo Free State. Reports of outrageous exploitation and grotesque abuses led to widespread international protest in the early 1900s, arguably the first large-scale human rights movement. In the soliloquy, the King supposedly argues that bringing Christianity to the country outweighs a little starvation. Leopold's rubber gatherers were tortured, maimed and slaughtered until the turn of the century, when the conscience of the Western world forced Brussels to call a halt.

Pacifist or revolutionary?

I am said to be a revolutionist in my sympathies, by birth, by breeding and by principle. I am always on the side of the revolutionists, because there never was a revolution unless there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against which to revolt. [39]

During the Philippine-American War, Twain wrote a pacifist story entitled The War Prayer. Through this internal struggle, Twain expresses his opinions of the absurdity of slavery and the importance of following one's personal conscience before the laws of society. It was submitted to Harper's Bazaar for publication, but on March 22, 1905, the magazine rejected the story as "not quite suited to a woman's magazine." Eight days later, Twain wrote to his friend Daniel Carter Beard, to whom he had read the story, "I don't think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth." Because he had an exclusive contract with Harper & Brothers, Mark Twain could not publish The War Prayer elsewhere; it remained unpublished until 1923. It was republished as campaigning material by Vietnam War protestors[40].

Twain supported the revolutionaries in Russia against the reformists, arguing that the Czar must be got rid of, by violent means, because peaceful ones would not work[41].

Abolition, emancipation, and anti-racism

Twain was an adamant supporter of abolition and emancipation, even going so far to say “Lincoln’s Proclamation ... not only set the black slaves free, but set the white man free also,”[42]. He argued that non-whites did not receive justice in the United States, once saying “I have seen Chinamen abused and maltreated in all the mean, cowardly ways possible to the invention of a degraded nature....but I never saw a Chinaman righted in a court of justice for wrongs thus done to him.” [43]

Labor unions

He wrote glowingly about unions in the riverboating industry in Life on the Mississippi, which was read in union halls decades later [44]. He supported labor movement in general, especially one of the most important unions, the Knights of Labor[45]. In a speech to them, he said:

Vivisection and vegetarianism

Twain was opposed to vivisection of any kind, not on a scientific basis but rather an ethical one. He was a vegetarian, and stated that no sentient being should be made to suffer for another without consent.[46]
I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't. ... The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.


After his death, Twain's family suppressed some of his work which was especially irreverent toward conventional religion, notably Letters from the Earth, which was not published until 1962. The anti-religious The Mysterious Stranger was published in 1916, although there is some scholarly debate as to whether Twain actually wrote the most familiar version of this story. Twain was critical of organized religion and certain elements of Christianity through most of his later life.


Further information: Mark Twain in popular culture
Enlarge picture
A statue of Mark Twain at Mark Twain Elementary School in the Braeswood Place neighborhood of Houston, Texas

Twain's legacy lives on today as his namesakes continue to multiply. Several schools are named after him, including Twain Elementary School in Houston, Texas, which has a statue of Twain sitting on a bench, and Mark Twain Intermediate School. There are also other structures, such as the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge.

Awards in his name proliferate. In 1998, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts created the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, awarded annually. The Mark Twain Award is an award given annually to a book for children in grades four through eight by the Missouri Association of School Librarians. Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, sponsors the Mark Twain Young Authors' Workshop each summer in collaboration with the Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal. The program is open to young authors in grades five through eight.[47] The museum sponsors the Mark Twain Creative Teaching Award.[48]

Buildings associated with Twain, including some of his many homes, have been preserved as museums. His birthplace is preserved in Florida, Missouri. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri preserves the setting for some of the author's best-known work. The home of childhood friend Laura Hawkins, said to be the inspiration for his fictional character Becky Thatcher, is preserved as the "Thatcher House." In May 2007, a painstaking reconstruction of the home of Tom Blankenship, the inspiration for Huckleberry Finn, was opened to the public. The family home he had built a family home in Hartford, Connecticut, where he and his wife raised their three daughters, is preserved and open to visitors as the Mark Twain House.

Actor Hal Holbrook created a one man show called "Mark Twain Tonight", which he has performed regularly for 50 years. The broadcast by CBS in 1967 won him an Emmy Award. Of the three runs on Broadway (1966, 1977, and 2005), the first won him a Tony Award.

Additionally, like countless influential individuals, Mark Twain was honored by having an asteroid, 2362 Mark Twain, named after him.

Pen names

Twain used different pen names (pseudonyms or "noms de plume") before deciding on "Mark Twain". He signed humorous and imaginative sketches "Josh" until 1863. Additionally, he used the pen name "Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass" for a series of humorous letters.[49]

He maintained that his primary pen name came from his years working on Mississippi riverboats, where two fathoms, a depth indicating "safe water" for the boat to float over, was measured on the sounding line. A fathom is a maritime unit of depth, equivalent to two yards (six feet, approximately 1.8 metres); "twain" is an archaic term for "two". The riverboatman's cry was "mark twain" or, more fully, "by the mark twain", meaning "according to the mark [on the line], [the depth is] two [fathoms]", that is, "there are 12 feet of water under the boat and it is safe to pass".

Twain claimed that his famous pen name was not entirely his invention. In Life on the Mississippi, he wrote:[50]
Captain Isaiah Sellers was not of literary turn or capacity, but he used to jot down brief paragraphs of plain practical information about the river, and sign them "MARK TWAIN," and give them to the New Orleans Picayune. They related to the stage and condition of the river, and were accurate and valuable; ... At the time that the telegraph brought the news of his death, I was on the Pacific coast. I was a fresh new journalist, and needed a nom de guerre; so I confiscated the ancient mariner's discarded one, and have done my best to make it remain what it was in his hands—a sign and symbol and warrant that whatever is found in its company may be gambled on as being the petrified truth; how I have succeeded, it would not be modest in me to say.

Twain's version of the story regarding his nom de plume is not without detractors and has been called into question by biographer George Williams III[51], the Territorial Enterprise newspaper[52] and Purdue University's Paul Fatout[53]. These sources claim that "mark twain" refers to a running bar tab that Clemens would regularly incur while drinking at John Piper's saloon in Virginia City, Nevada.


See also


1. ^ The Mark Twain House Biography. Retrieved on 2006-10-24.
2. ^ Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Retrieved on 2007-04-09.
3. ^ Mark Twain quotations. Retrieved on 2006-10-24.
4. ^ Mark Twain Quotes - The Quotations Page. Retrieved on 2006-10-24.
5. ^ Jelliffe, Robert A. (1956). Faulkner at Nagano. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, Ltd. 
6. ^ Kaplan, Fred (October 2007). "Chapter 1: The Best Boy You Had 1835-1847", The Singular Mark Twain. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-47715-5. . Cited in "Excerpt: The Singular Mark Twain. Literature: Classic. Retrieved on 2006-10-11.
7. ^ Mark Twain's Family Tree. Retrieved on 2007-01-01.
8. ^ Mark Twain, American Author and Humorist. Retrieved on 2006-10-25.
9. ^ Lindborg, Henry J.. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Retrieved on 2006-11-11.
10. ^ Philip S. Foner, Mark Twain: Social Critic (New York: International Publishers, 1958), p.13, cited in Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in the International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65, at [1]
11. ^ Life on the Mississippi, chapter 15
12. ^ authobiography
13. ^ For more of an account of Twain's involvement with parapsychology see Blum, Deborah, ''Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death" (Penguin Press, (2006).
14. ^ Mark Twain Biography. The Hannibal Courier-Post. Retrieved on 2007-08-25.
15. ^ Comstock Commotion: The Story of the Territorial Enterprise and Virginia City News, Chapter 2.
16. ^ Mark Twain quotations.
17. ^ Samuel Clemens. PBS:The West. Retrieved on 2007-08-25.
18. ^ whole sentence -- Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65
19. ^ The Mark Twain House and Museum: History of the House. The Mark Twain House & Museum. Retrieved on 2007-09-08.
20. ^ "Mrs. Jacques Samossoud Dies; Mark Twain's Last Living Child; Released 'Letters From Earth'", New York Times, November 21, 1962, Wednesday. Retrieved on 2007-07-21. “San Diego, California, Nov. 20 (UPI) Mrs. Clara Langhorne Clemens Samossoud, the last living child of Mark Twain, died last night in Sharp Memorial Hospital. She was 88 years old. 
21. ^ "History of Dollis Hill House", Dollis Hill House Trust, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-07-03. 
22. ^ The Mark Twain House. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
23. ^ Albert Bigelow Paine. Mark Twain, a Biography. Retrieved on 2006-11-01.
24. ^ Esther Lombardi, Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens). Retrieved on 2006-11-01.
25. ^ "Mark Twain is Dead at 74. End Comes Peacefully at His New England Home After a Long Illness.", New York Times, April 22, 1910. Retrieved on 2007-07-21. “Danbury, Connecticut, April 21, 1910. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, "Mark Twain," died at 22 minutes after 6 to-night. Beside him on the bed lay a beloved book -- it was Carlyle's " French Revolution" -- and near the book his glasses, pushed away with a weary sigh a few hours before. Too weak to speak clearly, "Give me my glasses," he had written on a piece of paper. 
26. ^ Lauber, John. The Inventions of Mark Twain: a Biography. New York: Hill and Wang, 1990.
27. ^ Cox, James M. Mark Twain: The Fate of Humor. Princeton University Press, 1966.
28. ^ see Mark Twain's Correspondence with Henry Huttleston Rogers, 1893-1909
29. ^ Mark Twain Investigating. The New York Times, May 5, 1907.
30. ^ a report in Norfolk's Virginian-Pilot newspaper
31. ^ Mark Twain Delighted the Little Ones. Norfolk Ledge-Dispatch, Monday, April 5, 1909.
32. ^ Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65
33. ^ Andrew Jay Hoffman, Inventing Mark Twain: The Lives of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (New York: William Morrow, 1997), p.8, cited in Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65
34. ^ From Andrew Jay Hoffman, Inventing Mark Twain: The Lives of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (New York: William Morrow, 1997), cited in Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65
35. ^ Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire: Anti-Imperialist Writings on the Philippine-American War. (1992, Jim Zwick, ed.) ISBN 0-8156-0268-5
36. ^ Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65
37. ^ Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65
38. ^ Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65
39. ^ Maxwell Geismar, ed., Mark Twain and the Three Rs: Race, Religion, Revolution and Related Matters (Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1973), p.159
40. ^ Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65
41. ^ Maxwell Geismar, ed., Mark Twain and the Three Rs: Race, Religion, Revolution and Related Matters (Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1973), p.169, cited in Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65
42. ^ Philip S. Foner, Mark Twain: Social Critic (New York: International Publishers, 1958), p. 200
43. ^ Maxwell Geismar, ed., Mark Twain and the Three Rs: Race, Religion, Revolution and Related Matters (Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1973), p. 98
44. ^ Philip S. Foner, Mark Twain: Social Critic (New York: International Publishers, 1958), p.98
45. ^ Helen Scott's "The Mark Twain they didn’t teach us about in school" (2000) in International Socialist Review 10, Winter 2000, pp.61-65
46. ^ Mark Twain Quotations - Vivisection. Retrieved on 2006-10-24.
47. ^ The First Annual Mark Twain Young Authors Workshop. Stenson University.
48. ^ The Mark Twain Boyhood Home Museum: Education
49. ^ Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, (Charles Honce, James Bennet, ed.), Pascal Covici, Chicago, 1928
50. ^ Life on the Mississippi, chapter 50
51. ^ Williams, III, George (1999). "Mark Twain Leaves Virginia City for San Francisco", Mark Twain and the Jumping Frog of Calaveras County: How Mark Twain's humorous frog story launched his legendary career.. Tree By The River Publishing. ISBN 0-935174-45-1. . Cited in "Excerpt: The Singular Mark Twain. Retrieved on 2007-06-26.
52. ^ Origin of Twain's Name Revealed
53. ^ Paul Fatout. Mark Twain's Nom de Plume. American Literature, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Mar., 1962), pp. 1-7. doi:10.2307/2922241
54. ^ Barber, Greg (2001-06-25). A Mysterious Manuscript (HTML). Mark Twain: Media Watch Special Report. PBS Online News Hour. Retrieved on 2006-10-09.

Further reading

  • Lucius Beebe. Comstock Commotion: The Story of the Territorial Enterprise and Virginia City News. Standford: Standford University Press, 1954 (ISBN 978-1-12218798-5)
  • Louis J. Budd, ed. Mark Twain, Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches & Essays 1891-1910 (Library of America, 1992) (ISBN 978-0-94045073-8)
  • Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan, and Geoffrey C. Ward, Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001 (ISBN 0-3754-0561-5)
  • Gregg Camfield. The Oxford Companion to Mark Twain. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002 (ISBN 0-1951-0710-1)
  • Guy Cardwell, ed. Mark Twain, Mississippi Writings (Library of America, 1982) (ISBN 978-0-94045007-3)
  • Guy Cardwell, ed. Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad & Roughing It (Library of America, 1984) ISBN 978-0-94045025-7
  • James M. Cox. Mark Twain: The Fate of Humor. Princeton University Press, 1966 (ISBN 0-8262-1428-2)
  • Everett Emerson. Mark Twain: A Literary Life. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000 (ISBN 0-8122-3516-9)
  • Shelley Fisher Fishkin, ed. A Historical Guide to Mark Twain. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002 (ISBN 0-1951-3293-9)
  • Susan K. Harris, ed. Mark Twain, Historical Romances (Library of America, 1994) (ISBN 978-0-94045082-0)
  • Hamlin L. Hill, ed. Mark Twain, The Gilded Age and Later Novels (Library of America, 2002) ISBN 978-1-93108210-5
  • Jason Gary Horn. Mark Twain: A Descriptive Guide to Biographical Sources. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1999 (ISBN 0-8108-3630-0)
  • William Dean Howells. My Mark Twain. Mineloa, New York: Dover Publications, 1997 (ISBN 0-486-29640-7)
  • Fred Kaplan. The Singular Mark Twain: A Biography. New York: Doubleday, 2003 (ISBN 0-3854-7715-5)
  • Justin Kaplan. Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966 (ISBN 0-6717-4807-6)
  • J. R. LeMaster and James D. Wilson, eds. The Mark Twain Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993 (ISBN 0-8240-7212-X)
  • Patrick K. Ober . Mark Twain and Medicine: "Any Mummery Will Cure". Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003 (ISBN 0-8262-1502-5)
  • Albert Bigelow Paine. Mark Twain, A Biography: The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. New York: Harper & Bros., 1912. (ISBN 1-8470-2983-3)
  • Ron Powers. Dangerous Water: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain. New York: Da Capo Press, 1999. (ISBN 0-3068-1086-7)
  • Ron Powers. Mark Twain: A Life. New York: Random House, 2005. (0-7432-4899-6)
  • R. Kent Rasmussen. Critical Companion to Mark Twain: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 2007. (Revised edition of Mark Twain A to Z) (ISBN 0-8160-6225-0)
  • R. Kent Rasmussen, ed. The Quotable Mark Twain: His Essential Aphorisms, Witticisms and Concise Opinions. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1997 (ISBN 0-8092-2987-0)

External links

Works by Mark Twain
Academic studies

NAMETwain, Mark
ALTERNATIVE NAMESSamuel Langhorne Clemens
SHORT DESCRIPTIONAmerican humorist, novelist, writer, and lecturer
DATE OF BIRTHNovember 30 1835
PLACE OF BIRTHFlorida, Missouri
DATE OF DEATHApril 21 1910
PLACE OF DEATHRedding, Connecticut
A pseudonym (Greek: ψευδόνυμον, pseudo + -onym: false name) is an artificial, fictitious name, also known as an alias
..... Click the link for more information.
November 30 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.


..... Click the link for more information.
18th century - 19th century - 20th century
1800s  1810s  1820s  - 1830s -  1840s  1850s  1860s
1832 1833 1834 - 1835 - 1836 1837 1838

Subjects:     Archaeology - Architecture -
..... Click the link for more information.
Florida, Missouri

Location of Florida shown in Missouri
Country United States
State Missouri
County Monroe
..... Click the link for more information.
State of Missouri

Flag of Missouri Seal
Nickname(s): The Show Me State
Motto(s): Salus populi suprema lex esto
Before Statehood Known as
The Missouri Territory

Official language(s)
..... Click the link for more information.
"In God We Trust"   (since 1956)
"E Pluribus Unum"   ("From Many, One"; Latin, traditional)
..... Click the link for more information.
March 21 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.

In astrology, March 21
..... Click the link for more information.
19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1880s  1890s  1900s  - 1910s -  1920s  1930s  1940s
1907 1908 1909 - 1910 - 1911 1912 1913

Year 1910 (MCMX
..... Click the link for more information.
Redding, Connecticut
Location in Connecticut
NECTA Bridgeport-Stamford
Region Housatonic Valley
Incorporated 1767
..... Click the link for more information.
State of Connecticut

Flag of Connecticut Seal of Connecticut
Nickname(s): The Constitution State, The Nutmeg State[]
Motto(s): Qui transtulit sustinet[0]
..... Click the link for more information.
Employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer and the other being the employee. An employee may be defined as: "A person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written, where the employer has
..... Click the link for more information.
This article or section is written like a personal reflection or and may require .
Please [ improve this article] by rewriting this article or section in an . (, talk)

..... Click the link for more information.
Nationality is a relationship between a person and their state of origin, culture, association, affiliation and/or loyalty. Nationality affords the state jurisdiction over the person, and affords the person the protection of the state.
..... Click the link for more information.
"In God We Trust"   (since 1956)
"E Pluribus Unum"   ("From Many, One"; Latin, traditional)
..... Click the link for more information.
A literary genre is a genre of literature, that is "a loose set of criteria for a category of literary composition", depending on literary technique, tone, or content.

The most general genres in literature are (in chronological order) epic, tragedy,[1]
..... Click the link for more information.
Historical fiction is a sub-genre of fiction that often portrays alternate accounts or dramatization of historical figures or events. Stories in this genre, while fictional, make an honest attempt at capturing the spirit, manners, and social conditions of the person or time they
..... Click the link for more information.
Non-fiction is an account or representation of a subject which is presented as fact.
..... Click the link for more information.
Satire (from Latin satura, not from the Greek mythological figure satyr[1]) is a literary genre, chiefly literary and dramatic, in which human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision,
..... Click the link for more information.
This article or section is written like a personal reflection or and may require .
Please [ improve this article] by rewriting this article or section in an . (, talk)

An essay is a piece of writing, usually from an author's personal point of view.
..... Click the link for more information.
November 30 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.


..... Click the link for more information.
18th century - 19th century - 20th century
1800s  1810s  1820s  - 1830s -  1840s  1850s  1860s
1832 1833 1834 - 1835 - 1836 1837 1838

Subjects:     Archaeology - Architecture -
..... Click the link for more information.
April 21 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.


  • 753 BC - Romulus and Remus found Rome (traditional).

..... Click the link for more information.
19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1880s  1890s  1900s  - 1910s -  1920s  1930s  1940s
1907 1908 1909 - 1910 - 1911 1912 1913

Year 1910 (MCMX
..... Click the link for more information.
A pen name, nom de plume, nom de guerre, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author for various reasons. Authors may use a pen name to replace a long, difficult, or uninteresting name, or a name likely to be confused with the name of another writer
..... Click the link for more information.
"In God We Trust"   (since 1956)
"E Pluribus Unum"   ("From Many, One"; Latin, traditional)
..... Click the link for more information.
A humorist is a person who writes or performs humorous material. The material written and/or performed by humorists tends to be more subtle and cerebral than the material created by stand-up comedians and comedy writers.
..... Click the link for more information.
Satire (from Latin satura, not from the Greek mythological figure satyr[1]) is a literary genre, chiefly literary and dramatic, in which human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision,
..... Click the link for more information.
Professor, which was an extremely prestigious and high ranking position typically held by only one or a very few in a department, and Readers. Neither position traditionally required any teaching, although normally professors or readers would do so at least occasionally by
..... Click the link for more information.
writer is anyone who creates a written work, although the word more usually designates those who write creatively or professionally, or those who have written in many different forms.
..... Click the link for more information.
Adventures of Huсkleberry Finn

On the Raft
Author Mark Twain
Illustrator E. W. Kemble
Cover artist Mark Twain
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Adventure
..... Click the link for more information.

This article is copied from an article on - the free encyclopedia created and edited by online user community. The text was not checked or edited by anyone on our staff. Although the vast majority of the wikipedia encyclopedia articles provide accurate and timely information please do not assume the accuracy of any particular article. This article is distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License.