November 30, 1835
Born In: Florida, Missouri, US
Died On: April 21, 1910
Career: Writer, Lecturer
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, popularly known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an acclaimed American author and humorist. He has been one of the most quoted authors and is still widely popular, due to his ability to spin words coated with extreme wit and satire. Posthumously, he was awarded the title of being the “greatest American humorist of his age”, and William Faulkner even went on to refer Twain as the “father of American Literature”. Today, Mark Twain is primarily noted for his two novels, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, which is also known as the “Great American Novel”, and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.
Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri and was the sixth of seven children of a Tennessee country merchant, John Marshal Clemens and Jane Lampton Clemens. Out of six siblings of Clemens, only three survived childhood. When Samuel was four years old, Clemens’s family moved to Hannibal, a port town on the Mississippi River. This slave town was later portrayed as the fictional town of St. Petersburg, in his books “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.
When Clemens was just eleven years old, his father died of pneumonia. A year later, he took up a job of a printer’s apprentice. By the year 1851, he was working as a typesetter. He even contributed articles and humorous sketches for “Hannibal Journal”, a newspaper which was owned by his brother Orion. By the age of 18, Clemens left the town of Hannibal to work as a printer in cities like New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Cincinnati. He went on to join the union and spent time reading and educating himself in the public libraries during evening times. When he was 22 years old, Clemens returned to Missouri.
On his journey to New Orleans, down the river Mississippi, the steamboat pilot influenced Clemens enough to take up piloting as a profession. After religiously studying over 2000 miles of the Mississippi river for more than two years, Clemens received his steamboat pilot license in 1859. During his training period, he pulled in his younger brother Henry to work along with him. Henry died in a steamboat explosion and strangely enough, Clemens seemed to have foreseen the impending death of his brother in his dream, seen a month back. This incident left him guilty and he held himself responsible for the ordeal all through his life. Until the American Civil War broke out in 1861 and the traffic was prohibited on the Mississippi River, Clemens continued with his profession as a steamboat pilot.
Career In Writing
After Clemens’s return to Hannibal which also marked the end of his profession as a steamboat pilot, he once again picked up his pen and began to write. He went on to join the working staff of the Virginia Territorial Enterprise and became an acclaimed reporter and humorist. In the year 1863, he adopted the pseudonym “Mark Twain”, a name derived from a river pilot term, which described safe navigating conditions. In 1869, he published his first book named “Innocents Abroad”, which entailed his letters written during his voyages. However, the book was criticized enough to discourage Clemens to stop pursuing writing as a career. In the following years, he instead published several articles, made lecture circuits and shuttled between San Francisco, New York and Missouri.
In the year 1872, the book named “Roughing It” was published, which documented the post-Gold Rush mining epoch. However, even this book was mildly successful adding on to the bad patch that Clemens and his family were undergoing. Next, Clemens wrote a novel called “The Gilded Age”, in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner which was published in 1873. This was Clemens’s first work of fiction which won him recognition as an author rather than a journalist. With the immense success of “The Gilded Age”, he delved into serious business of writing. The year 1876 saw the publication of the novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”. Eventually, “The Prince and the Pauper” came up in 1882, while in 1885 “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was published. This array of novels catapulted his popularity to a huge extent.
Marriage & Children
Clemens married Charles Langdon’s sister named Olivia in the year 1870 in Elmira, New York. They met in the year 1868, fell in love at the first sight and got engaged a year later. The couple lived in Buffalo, New York from 1869 to 1871 where Clemens worked both as an editor and writer in the Buffalo Express Newspaper. They had a premature baby son called Langdon, who died of diphtheria at the age of 19 months. In 1871, the family moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where Olivia gave birth to three daughters named Susy, Clara and Jean. The marriage of Clemens and Olivia lasted for 34 years.
Clemens’s daughter Susy died of meningitis in the year 1896, followed by Olivia's death in 1904 and Jean's in 1909. Moreover in the same year, his close friend Henry Rogers also suddenly died. In the year 1906, he began penning down his own autobiography in the North American Review. In this very year, he also formed clubs by the names of “Angel Fish” and “Aquarium Club” for girls he viewed as surrogate grand-daughters. In 1907, Oxford University awarded Clemens with an honorary doctorate in letters.
Strangely, Clemens was born in 1835, two weeks after the rare Halley Comet’s closest approach towards earth and he died in 1910, just one day after the comet’s sighting on earth. Twain breathed his last on April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut, of a heart attack.
Several schools, such as the Mark Twain Elementary School in Houston, Texas and Mark Twain Intermediate School in New York have been named after Clemens. There are numerous other schools located in different states of America. Even several structures such as the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge are named after the author. A lot many awards continue to exist by his name. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts created the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The Mark Twain Award is an award given annually to a book for children by the Missouri Association of School Librarians. Some of Clemens’s many homes have been preserved as museums and his birthplace has been preserved in Florida, Missouri. Actor Hal Holbrook created a one-man show called "Mark Twain Tonight", which he performed regularly for about fifty long years, and he also won an Emmy Award for it. Clemens was also honored by having an asteroid, 2362 Mark Twain, named after him.
1835: Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri.
1839: Clemens family moved to Hannibal, a town on the Mississippi River.
1847: Clemens father, passed away this year due to pneumonia.
1853: Worked as a printer in St. Louis, New York City, Philadelphia etc. He also worked as a correspondent for Iowa's Muscatine Journal from Philadelphia.
1859: Received his steamboat pilot license.
1861: Worked as a river pilot till this year.
1863: Clemens adopted the pen name Mark Twain.
1869: Mark Twain wrote a collection of travel letters. These were compiled as “The Innocents Aboard”.
1870: Married Olivia Langdon in Elmira, New York.
1876: Published ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’.
1885: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was published.
1906: Began working on his autobiography.
1907: Received the honorary Doctor of Letters.
1910: Passed away on April 21st in Redding, Connecticut.