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Mark Twain


from "Fields of Vision” by D.Delaney


Early years Mark Twain, the pen-name of Samuel Longhorne Clemens, was born in a small village in Missouri in 1835. Four years later he moved with his family to Hannibal, a town on the banks of the Mississippi River. After his father’s death in 1847 he left school and became an apprentice to a printer.

A variety of jobs When his older brother bought out a small newspaper in Hannibal, he went to work for him, first as a printer and later he contributed humorous articles about local characters and events. In 1853, not yet eighteen years old, he decided he wanted to expand his horizons. He traveled in the East and the Midwest visiting New York, Philadelphia and Washington and setting for a time in Iowa and New Orleans, where he got a job as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi. When the Civil War broke out in 1860 he served for a brief period as a volunteer in the Confederate army, before deserting and heading first for Nevada and then for California, where he became a miner.

Success as a writer In 1862 he was asked to become the editor of a newspaper to which he had contributed some humorous essays. He started signing his articles "Mark Twain”, a cry used in river piloting to refer to the river’s depth. His articles became popular and the publication of a collection of his stories, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1865), consolidated his reputation as a humorous writer.       

Family life and success In 1870 he married Olivia Langon and settled into a comfortable lifestyle in Connecticut, which was occasionally interrupted by trips to Europe or lecture tours. For the next fifteen years he dedicated himself to his family and writing. He  produced an account of his years as a miner, Roughing It (1872), the best-selling The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), a historical fantasy The Prince and the Pauper (1882), and the sequel to Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885).

More travels and anti-imperialism In 1886 he traveled to Hawaii where he stated that the ‘disease’ of civilization was destroying the islands’ inhabitants. He took a strong stand against his country’s foreign policy of acquiring of new territories outside mainland USA. He was a busy activist in the Anti-Imperialist League and championed freedom for the colonies of the British Empire in his lectures.

Last years In the final two decades of his life he became involved in a series of bad business ventures which left him nearly bankrupt. He tried to recover his losses by carrying out exhausting lecture tour which included visits to India, South Africa, and Australia. His desperation was compounded by the death of his wife and two of his three daughters. He continued writing up until his death in 1910.


During his lifetime Mark Twain became an icon of American culture because he embodied most of the traits that characterize the spirit of his people. He was enterprising and idealistic, an optimist and a realist.  

External Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twain


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