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Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri.
Shortly after the death of his father in 1847, Samuel ended his brief period of schooling to become a printer’s apprentice.
Between 1853 and 1857 Clemens worked as a journeyman printer in St. Louis, New York, Philadelphia, Muscatine and Keokuk, Iowa, and in Cincinnati. A series of sketches, “The Snodgrass Letters,” signed with the pseudonym Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, were published in the Keokuk Post in 1856 and 1857.
He took a downstream boat, apparently with the intention of going to South America to seek his fortune. During the trip, however, he recalled boyhood memories of the glamour of river life and arranged to become a pilot’s apprentice under Horace Bixby. He won his license in due time and served as a pilot until, in 1861 the civil war slowed traffic.
In 1863, while reporting on meetings of the Nevada legislature, he first used the pseudonym Mark Twain, derived from a call by Mississippi boatmen sounding the depth of the river.
In 1864 he went to San Francisco, where he worked for several newspapers.
In 1866 Twain became a traveling correspondent of the Alta California. The year
1867 saw the publication of Mark Twain’s first book, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveros County, a collection of sketches; it was, too, his first appearance as a humorous lecturer in the East.
The year was also notable for his trip to the Holy Land with an excursion party, reported in letters published in the Alta California and the New York Tribune. These letters, collected and revised, were published as the volume Innocents Abroad (1869), a book that secured his fame as a humorist.
Clemens married Olivia Langdon of Elmira, New York in 1870,
He soon moved to Hartford, and devoted all his time to writing and lecturing. A number of books reaped handsome royalties, notably Roughing It (1872), based on his experiences in the Far West; The Gilded Age (1873), written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner as an expose of the speculative and corrupt spirit of the period; Life on the Mississippi (1883); The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884); Pudd’nhead Wilson (1884), which told of Hannibal and the river life he had known in youth; The Prince and the Pauper (1882) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), the first of which dealt seriously and the second humorously with historical materials; and A Tramp Abroad (1880), a travel book.
Despite the remarkable financial success of these books, Clemens found himself bankrupt by 1894. He had lived lavishly and had made a number of disastrous investments.
Declared insolvent, Clemens nevertheless promised to pay his creditors dollar for dollar. A lecture tour around the world and the publication of two books, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896) and Following the Equator (1897), helped to fulfill his promise.
His bankruptcy, however, and the death of his daughter Susan in 1896 and his wife in 1904 did much to develop Twain’s pessimism.
His agnostic philosophy found its best and most complete expression in The Mysterious Stranger, a misanthropic fantasy written in 1898 but not published until 1906
Although Clemens had at first been considered merely an amusing professional funny man, during his last years he was placed by many among the great fiction writers. Yale and Oxford gave him honorary degrees and leading critics.
“The Dandy Frightening the Squatter,” published in The Carpet Bag (Boston) in 1852, his first published story of life on the Mississippi River.
A series of sketches, “The Snodgrass Letters,” signed with the pseudonym Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, were published in the Keokuk Post in 1856 and 1857.
“Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” published in the New York Saturday Press, November 18, 1865,
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveros County, (1867)
Roughing It (1872),
The Gilded Age (1873)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
A Tramp Abroad (1880),
The Prince and the Pauper (1882)
Life on the Mississippi (1883)
Pudd’nhead Wilson (1884)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)
Following the Equator (1897)The Mysterious Stranger 1906
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