Samuel Langhorne Clemens （November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910），well known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Twain is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ， which has been called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 。 He is extensively quoted. Twain was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.
Twain was very popular, and his keen wit and incisive satire earned praise from critics and peers. Upon his death he was lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age", and William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature".
Twain began his career writing light, humorous verse, but evolved into a chronicler of the vanities, hypocrisies and murderous acts of mankind. At mid-career, with Huckleberry Finn, he combined rich humor, sturdy narrative and social criticism. Twain was a master at rendering colloquial speech and helped to create and popularize a distinctive American literature built on American themes and language. Many of Twain's works have been suppressed at times for various reasons. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been repeatedly restricted in American high schools, not least for its frequent use of the word "nigger", which was in common usage in the pre-Civil War period in which the novel was set.
A complete bibliography of his works is nearly impossible to compile because of the vast number of pieces written by Twain （often in obscure newspapers） and his use of several different pen names. Additionally, a large portion of his speeches and lectures have been lost or were not written down; thus, the collection of Twain's works is an ongoing process. Researchers rediscovered published material by Twain as recently as 1995.
Early journalism and travelogues
Cabin in which Twain wrote Jumping Frog of Calaveras, located on Jackass Hill in Tuolumne County. Historical marker and interior view available.Twain's first important work, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", was first published in the New York Saturday Press on November 18, 1865. The only reason it was published there was that his story arrived too late to be included in a book Artemus Ward was compiling featuring sketches of the wild American West.
After this burst of popularity, Twain was commissioned by the Sacramento Union to write letters about his travel experiences for publication in the newspaper, his first of which was to ride the steamer Ajax in its maiden voyage to Hawaii, referred to at the time as the Sandwich Islands. These humorous letters proved the genesis to his work with the San Francisco Alta California newspaper, which designated him a traveling correspondent for a trip from San Francisco to New York City via the Panama isthmus. All the while, Twain was writing letters meant for publishing back and forth, chronicling his experiences with his burlesque humor. On June 8, 1867, Twain set sail on the pleasure cruiser Quaker City for five months. This trip resulted in The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrims' Progress.
This book is a record of a pleasure trip. If it were a record of a solemn scientific expedition it would have about it the gravity, that profundity, and that impressive incomprehensibility which are so proper to works of that kind, and withal so attractive. Yet not withstanding it is only a record of a picnic, it has a purpose, which is, to suggest to the reader how he would be likely to see Europe and the East if he looked at them with his own eyes instead of the eyes of those who traveled in those countries before him. I make small pretense of showing anyone how he ought to look at objects of interest beyond the sea – other books do that, and therefore, even if I were competent to do it, there is no need.
In 1872, Twain published a second piece of travel literature, Roughing It, as a semi-sequel to Innocents. Roughing It is a semi-autobiographical account of Twain's journey to Nevada and his subsequent life in the American West. The book lampoons American and Western society in the same way that Innocents critiqued the various countries of Europe and the Middle East. Twain's next work kept Roughing It's focus on American society but focused more on the events of the day. Entitled The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, it was not a travel piece, as his previous two books had been, and it was his first attempt at writing a novel. The book is also notable because it is Twain's only collaboration; it was written with his neighbor Charles Dudley Warner.
Twain's next two works drew on his experiences on the Mississippi River. Old Times on the Mississippi, a series of sketches published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1875, featured Twain’s disillusionment with Romanticism. Old Times eventually became the starting point for Life on the Mississippi.
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
Twain's next major publication was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which drew on his youth in Hannibal. Tom Sawyer was modeled on Twain as a child, with traces of two schoolmates, John Briggs and Will Bowen. The book also introduced in a supporting role Huckleberry Finn, based on Twain's boyhood friend Tom Blankenship.
The Prince and the Pauper, despite a storyline that is omnipresent in film and literature today, was not as well received. Telling the story of two boys born on the same day who are physically identical, the book acts as a social commentary as the prince and pauper switch places. Pauper was Twain's first attempt at fiction, and blame for its shortcomings is usually put on Twain for having not been experienced enough in English society, and also on the fact that it was produced after a massive hit. In between the writing of Pauper, Twain had started Adventures of Huckleberry Finn （which he consistently had problems completing） and started and completed another travel book, A Tramp Abroad, which follows Twain as he traveled through central and southern Europe.
Twain's next major published work, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, solidified him as a noteworthy American writer. Some have called it the first Great American Novel, and the book has become required reading in many schools throughout the United States. Huckleberry Finn was an offshoot from Tom Sawyer and had a more serious tone than its predecessor. The main premise behind Huckleberry Finn is the young boy's belief in the right thing to do though most believed that it was wrong. Four hundred manuscript pages of Huckleberry Finn were written in mid-1876, right after the publication of Tom Sawyer. Some accounts have Twain taking seven years off after his first burst of creativity, eventually finishing the book in 1883. Other accounts have Twain working on Huckleberry Finn in tandem with The Prince and the Pauper and other works in 1880 and other years. The last fifth of Huckleberry Finn is subject to much controversy. Some say that Twain experienced, as critic Leo Marx puts it, a "failure of nerve". Ernest Hemingway once said of Huckleberry Finn:
If you read it, you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating.
Hemingway also wrote in the same essay:
All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Near the completion of Huckleberry Finn, Twain wrote Life on the Mississippi, which is said to have heavily influenced the former book. The work recounts Twain's memories and new experiences after a 22-year absence from the Mississippi. In it, he also states that "Mark Twain" was the call made when the boat was in safe water – two fathoms.
Attitude towards revolutions
As pointed out previously, Twain acknowledged that he originally sympathized with the more moderate Girondins of the French Revolution and then shifted his sympathies to the more radical Sansculottes, indeed identifying as "a Marat".
Twain supported the revolutionaries in Russia against the reformists, arguing that the Tsar must be got rid of, by violent means, because peaceful ones would not work.
Abolition, emancipation, and anti-racism
Twain was an adamant supporter of abolition and emancipation, even going so far to say “Lincoln's Proclamation … not only set the black slaves free, but set the white man free also.” He argued that non-whites did not receive justice in the United States, once saying “I have seen Chinamen abused and maltreated in all the mean, cowardly ways possible to the invention of a degraded nature…but I never saw a Chinaman righted in a court of justice for wrongs thus done to him.”He paid for at least one black person to attend Yale University Law School and for another black person to attend a southern university to become a minister.
Mark Twain was a staunch supporter of women's rights and an active campaigner for women's suffrage. His "Votes for Women" speech, in which he pressed for the granting of voting rights to women, is considered one of the most famous in history.
Twain used different pen names before deciding on Mark Twain. He signed humorous and imaginative sketches Josh until 1863. Additionally, he used the pen name Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass for a series of humorous letters.
He maintained that his primary pen name came from his years working on Mississippi riverboats, where two fathoms, a depth indicating safe water for passage of boat, was measured on the sounding line. A fathom is a maritime unit of depth, equivalent to two yards ; twain is an archaic term for "two". The riverboatman's cry was mark twain or, more fully, by the mark twain, meaning "according to the mark [on the line], [the depth is] two [fathoms]", that is, "The water is 12 feet deep and it is safe to pass".
Twain claimed that his famous pen name was not entirely his invention. In Life on the Mississippi, he wrote:
Captain Isaiah Sellers was not of literary turn or capacity, but he used to jot down brief paragraphs of plain practical information about the river, and sign them "MARK TWAIN", and give them to the New Orleans Picayune. They related to the stage and condition of the river, and were accurate and valuable; … At the time that the telegraph brought the news of his death, I was on the Pacific coast. I was a fresh new journalist, and needed a nom de guerre; so I confiscated the ancient mariner's discarded one, and have done my best to make it remain what it was in his hands – a sign and symbol and warrant that whatever is found in its company may be gambled on as being the petrified truth; how I have succeeded, it would not be modest in me to say.
Twain's version of the story about his nom de plume has been questioned by biographer George Williams III,the Territorial Enterprise newspaper, and Purdue University's Paul Fatout. which claim that mark twain refers to a running bar tab that Twain would regularly incur while drinking at John Piper's saloon in Virginia City, Nevada.