Biography of Mark Twain | Life and Writing
Mark Twain was an American writer, lecturer, humorist, entrepreneur, and publisher. William Faulkner called him “the father of American literature”. Twain was not only interested in writing. He also had a keen interest in politics, science, and technology. Mark Twain was also praised as the “greatest humorist the United States has produced”. Let’s read more about Mark Twain.
Early Life of Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (popularly known as Mark Twain) was on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. He was the sixth child of John Marshall Clemens and Jane Lampton. When he was four, the family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, which inspired the fictional town of St, Petersburg in his popular Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn books. In 1847, when he was 11, his father died due to pneumonia. The following year he left school to become a printer’s apprentice. In 1851, he started working as a typesetter for the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper owned by his elder sibling Orion. When he was 18 he started working for the International Typographical Union. He educated himself in public libraries gaining more knowledge than at a conventional school.
As a young pilot, he served with Grant Marsh who became popular for his exploits as a steamboat captain on the Missouri River. He even convinced his younger brother Henry to work and arranged a job as a mud clerk on a steamboat Pennsylvania. On June 13, 1858, the boiler of the boat exploded. Twain admitted to having foreseen this death a month earlier in his dream. This inspired his interest in parapsychology; he was a member of the Society for Psychical Research. He blamed himself for this thing his entire life.
Mark Twain and Olivia Langdon got married in February 1870 in Elmira, New York. Through Olivia, Mark met abolitionists and women’s rights activists including Frederick Douglas, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and utopian socialist writer William Dean Howells. The couple lived in Buffalo, New York from 1869 to 1872. During their stay, their son Langdon died of diphtheria at the age of 19 months. They had three daughters – Susy, Clara, and Jean. In 1873, the family moved to Hartford, Connecticut. Twain wrote a lot during his 17 years of stay in Hartford. Some of the works include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Life on Mississippi, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Mark Twain – Science and Technology
Mark Twain was curious about science. He developed a lasting and close friendship with Nikola Tesla. They spent a lot of time together in Tesla’s laboratory. Twain also patented three inventions including an “Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments”. The most commercially successful was a dried adhesive on the pages. Over 25,000 were sold. He was an early proponent of fingerprinting as a forensic technique. Twain also featured it in Life on the Mississippi and in Pudd’nhead Wilson. His novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court features a time traveler from the contemporary United States utilizing his knowledge of science to introduce modern technology. In 1909, Thomas Edison visited Twain at his home in Stormfield and filmed him. It is also the only known existing film footage of Twain.
Mark Twain began his career with humorous verse but he became a chronicler of the vanities, murderous, and hypocrisies of mankind. He was an expert in rendering colloquial speech and helped to popularize American literature built on American themes and language. Several works by Twain have been suppressed at times. American high schools repeatedly restricted Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the use of the word “nigger”. Twain’s works are an ongoing process as a huge portion of lectures and speeches have been lost. It is nearly impossible to compile a bibliography due to the vast number of pieces he wrote and the use of different pen names. Some of his other pen names other than Mark Twain are Josh and Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was a major publication. It draws on Twain’s youth in Hannibal. The book also introduces Huckleberry Finn in a supporting role based on Tom Blankenship, Mark Twain’s boyhood friend. His other major work Adventures of Huckleberry Finn confirmed Twain a notable American writer. Ernest Hemingway said, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn”. Later in life, he became an outspoken critic and popular writers like Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Robert Louis Stevenson got attacked.
Later Life of Mark Twain
Mark Twain lived his later years in Manhattan. He passed through a period of profound depression which began in 1896 after the loss of his daughter Susy. Olivia’s death in 1904 and Jean’s death in 1909, deepened the gloom in his life. His close friend Henry Rogers also died in 1909. In 1901, Mark Twain was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by Yale University. He was awarded a Doctor of Law by Missouri University. Oxford University also awarded him with a Doctorate of Law in 1907.
Mark Twain was born two weeks after Halley’s Comet’s closest approach to Earth in 1835. In 1909 he said he wishes to go with it as well or else it will be his greatest disappointment. Eerily, Twain’s prediction was accurate. He died on April 21, 1910, in Stormfield, of a heart attack one day after the comet’s closest approach to the planet.