Today is Friday and I bring you another author who’s not with us any longer, at least physically, although I’m sure you’ve heard (and most likely read) him.
Mark Twain or Samuel Langhorne Clemens (his real name). He was born on 30th November 1835, in a small town called Florida (Mo). He was the 6th child of his family. His father, John Marshall was a judge and they moved a few miles East to Hannibal, in the banks of the Mississippi, a stop for steam boats (travelling from St Louis and New Orleans) when he was very young. His childhood home is now his museum. His father died when he was only 12 and a year later he left school to become a printer’s apprentice. After that he spent a fair amount of time involved in the letters business and joined his brother Orion’s newspaper as printer and assistant editor. He moved to another job as a printer in St Louis, and once there he became a river pilot’s apprentice and obtained his pilot’s license in 1858. His pseudonym comes from that period. According to his official website (link below): It is a river term which means two fathoms or 12-feet when the depth of water for a boat is being sounded. “Mark twain” means that is safe to navigate. (Other explanations exist.)
Due to poor trade during the Civil War he started working as a newspaper reporter all over the country. He got married in 1870 to Olivia Langdon and although they had 4 children, only one, Clara, survived them, and she never had any children.
His first story to gain recognition was ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County’ published in New York in 1865. (You won’t be surprised to hear that in Calavaras, California, they celebrate the Jumping Frog contest.) His first novel The Innocents Abroad was published in 1869, The Adventures of Tom Swayer in 1876, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1885…He wrote many other novels, sketches, articles, short stories, letters…
He was interested in science, modern gadgets and inventions and he invested heavily in some of them that resulted in him ending up heavily in debt, despite the money he obtained from selling his books and from his many speaking engagements.
He died on 21st April 1910. His childhood home is now a museum in Hannibal. His birth coincided with a visit by the Halley comet and he was convinced that his death would also be associated with it (he died the day after the next visit of the comet).
He’s renowned as a humorist and has many quotes attributed to him. Here a short selection:
A baby is an inestimable blessing and bother.
– Letter to Annie Webster, 1876
On Economy. So true:
It isn’t the sum you get, it’s how much you can buy with it, that’s the important thing; and it’s that that tells whether your wages are high in fact or only high in name.
– A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
I love this one about Genius:
Geniuses are people who dash off wierd, wild, incomprehensible poems with astonishing facility, & then go & get booming drunk & sleep in the gutter. Genius elevates a man to ineffable speres [sic] far above the vulgar world, & fills his soul with a regal contempt for the gross & sordid things of earth. It is probably on account of this that people who have genius do not pay their board, as a general thing.
– Mark Twain’s Notebooks & Journals, vol. 1, 1855-1873, p. 250.
And a few on humour:
Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a sneeze of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom.
– quoted in Mark Twain and I, Opie Read
Humor is the great thing, the saving thing after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations, and resentments flit away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.
– “What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us”
Humor is the good natured side of a truth.
– quoted in Mark Twain and I, Opie Read
Check the below link for more quotations…
University of Virginia website about Mark Twain:
A page about his quotes:
Free links to his books:
The Prince and the Pauper exits free but in 9 parts. There are cheap editions that might be a better option.
Sketches New and Old and Tales of the Mississippi are also available in several parts also.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (impressively enough between 4 and 5 stars and nearly 1000 reviews, that for a classic is pretty good. It’s one of the most accepted contenders to the title of The Great American Novel)
A Double-Barrelled Detective Story
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (I love many of his novels but I’ve always loved this weird mixture of modern and fantasy medieval and his characterisation in this one and there have been pretty amusing film adaptations that I’d recommend checking.)
And many more…
Thanks for reading and if you’ve enjoyed it remember to comment, share, and as it’s FREE, click! And also, remember that all this books are free thanks to volunteer transcribers so if you have a loved classic book that’s not already available and you’d like to share…What a great contribution to book lovers everywhere!
Also, many of his books are available in German, Spanish, French in free versions also…
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain (yaragmansour.wordpress.com)
- Mark Twain Once Said… (redoyouproject.wordpress.com)
- Day 9: Mark Twain House, First Baptist Church in America, & Newport, RI (jabcut.wordpress.com)