Mark Twain Biography

Mark Twain Biography

Mark Twain himself was Twain’s first successful work of fiction. Born in 1835 as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Twain worked as a river boat captain on the Mississippi while a young man. When the pilots called out the depth of the river, “mark twain” meant that the river was two fathoms deep. A master of vernacular English, Twain eventually traveled all over America (and beyond), paying attention to how people really spoke and what really entertained them. He published poetry, jokes, tall tales, nonfiction, and, of course, some of the greatest novels in American history. His characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn seem to capture the meaning of boyhood, America, and life on the wild Mississippi River.

Facts and Trivia

  • Twain grew up in Missouri, a slave state. However, when the Civil War broke out, Missouri didn’t join the Confederacy, so Twain and some friends formed a militia to fight on the Confederate side. This lasted until the first battle. When a man was killed, Twain deserted.
  • Twain was a successful lecturer, generating money and fame via speaking tours throughout the United States and Europe.
  • When Twain disliked you, you knew it. His essay “Fennimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” does an entertainingly malicious job of taking apart the author of Last of the Mohicans.
  • Twain made lots of money, but he lost most of it. He was as bad at investing as he was good at writing, and he eventually had to declare bankruptcy.
  • Ernest Hemingway once said, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”
Additional Content
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