Mark Twain, who began his writing career as a frontier humorist and ended it as a bitter satirist, drew on his experiences growing up with little formal schooling in a small Missouri town and on his life as printer’s apprentice, journalist, roving correspondent, silver prospector, world traveler, Mississippi steamboat pilot, and lecturer. He was influenced by Artemus Ward, Bret Harte, and Joel Chandler Harris. Beginning with the publication of his short story “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” (1865; later published as “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”) and proceeding through novels and travel books—The Innocents Abroad (1869), Roughing It (1872), The Gilded Age (1873), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), and The American Claimant (1892)—Twain developed a characteristic style that, while uneven in its productions, made him the most important and representative nineteenth century American writer. His service as delightful entertainer to generations of American youngsters is equaled by his influence on such twentieth century admirers as Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway.
Twain’s generally careful and conscientious style was both a development of the tradition of humor of Augustus Baldwin Longstreet and...
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