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Mark Twain Essay, Research Paper

Biography of Mark Twain

Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and grew up in nearby Hannibal, on the Mississippi River. His father died in 1847, leaving the family with little financial support, and Clemens became a printer’s apprentice eventually working for his brother Orion.

Through all his years in the print shop, Clemens tried his hand at composing humorous pieces, using the heavy-handed techniques of local colorists who were popular at the time. By 1856, he was accomplished enough to receive a commission from the Keokuk Saturday Post for a series of comical letters reporting on his planned travels to South America. But on his way down the Mississippi, Clemens temporarily abandoned his literary ambitions to take up a trade he had dreamed about as a boy. He apprenticed himself to become a riverboat pilot, and after 18 months of training, spent the next three years navigating the Mississippi’s waters.

When the Civil War closed traffic on the river in the spring of 1861, Clemens spent a few inglorious weeks as a volunteer in the Confederate army, then deserted to join Orion again, whose abolitionist views had won him appointment as territorial secretary in Nevada. By mid-August, the brothers were in Carson City, where Clemens tried his luck with timber, then mining, then finally found a measure of success in 1862 as a feature writer for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. It was as this paper’s reporter at the Nevada constitutional convention that Clemens began to sign his work “Mark Twain.”

The experience of filing daily reports on the picturesque doings in a Nevada mining town helped Clemens sharpen and broaden his abilities as a writer. After two years, he carried those talents to San Francisco, where he wrote for a variety of newspapers and periodicals.

In 1870, Clemens married Olivia Langdon of Elmira, New York. The couple settled briefly in Buffalo, New York, then permanently in Harford, Connecticut, where Clemens finally turned from journalism to produce the books and novels that are the basis of his fame. One of the first in this string was Roughing It (1872). But the best known novels he ever wrote were: Tom Sawyer (1876) and his masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). The story of these books is set in his boyhood world beside the Mississippi River.

Like his father and brother before him, Clemens was unlucky in business and much of his writing and lecturing was spurred by the need to pay off debts stemming from bad investments. Toward the end of his life, Clemens passed through a period of deep depression, which began in 1896 when he received word on a lecture tour in England that his favorite daughter, Susy, had died of meningitis. His wife’s death in 1904, and the loss of a second daughter in 1909, deepened his gloom. he died at his home in Redding, Connecticut, in 1910.


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