from "Fields of
Vision” by D.Delaney
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
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
External Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twain