Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by his pen name Mark Twain, was born in Florida, Missouri, United States, on 30th November 1835. He was an American writer, entrepreneur, lecturer, publisher, and humorist. The two of the major classics of the American literature of Twain include Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (often called The Great American Novel) and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Mark Twain was also an inventor, journalist, and riverboat pilot. William Faulkner, Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, called him ‘the father of American literature.’ Moreover, Twain was also admired as the ‘greatest humorist the US has ever produced.’
The Early Life of Mark Twain
Mark Twain was the sixth child out of seven of Jane and John Clemens. His family moved to nearby Hannibal, Missouri when he was only four years old; it was a vibrant river town of thousands of people. John Clemens worked as a lawyer, land speculator, storekeeper, and judge. He dreamt of wealth but could not achieve it. Sometimes it used to get hard to feed his family.
The father of Mark Twain was an unsmiling fellow, and his mother was the complete opposite. She was a tenderhearted, fun-loving homemaker. In 1847, Jane became the head of the household after the unexpected death of John. At that time, Mark was only eleven. Soon after, he left his education and started working for a local newspaper as a printer’s apprentice.
Mark’s job was to arrange the type for each of the newspaper stories, which provided him with the opportunities to read the news of the world while doing his job. Everett Emerson, a biographer, wrote this period as the Clemens family ‘now became almost destitute’ and faced an economic struggle for several years. And this is what shaped the career of Marks.
The Young Adult life of Mark Twain
Twain headed east to Philadelphia and New York City when he was only eighteen. There he worked on a lot of different newspapers and got some success at article writing. Twain, by 1857, returned to his home and began his journey on a new career as a riverboat pilot.
In 1861, the Civil War broke out. Mark, inspired by the times, joined Marion Rangers, a Volunteer Confederate Unit. However, only after two weeks, he quit. At the invitation of his brother, Orion, Twain headed west in 1861. There, he encountered Native Americans along his journey for the first time, along with many disappointments, mishaps, and unique characters.
These events would find a way into Twain’s books and short stories, specifically, Roughing It. Twain got his first big break in 1865 by publishing his short tale in papers across the country. The name of this short story was ‘Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog.’ Sacramento Union hired Mark to visit and report on Sandwich Island a year later after writing his story.
Luckily, Mark’s writings become so popular that he started his first lecture tour upon his return. This established him as a successful stage performer, which further paved so many ways for him. Alta California hired him so that he could continue his travel writing from the east. And in 1867, Mark arrived in New York.
Furthermore, he quickly signed up for a steamship tour of the Holy Land and Europe without wasting time. The travel letters of Mark, full of tongue-in-cheek observations and vivid descriptions, met with audience approval. Later, these letters had reworked into his first book, published in 1869, The Innocents Abroad.
Moreover, Mark also met Charles Langdon, his future brother-in-law, on this trip. Langdon showed him a photo of his sister, named Olivia, and he fell in love with her at first sight. Mark Twain was a member of the American Anti-Imperialist League which was started to protest the U.S. annexation of the Philippines in the Philippine-American War.
Most Famous Works of Mark Twain
Mark Twain wrote more than twenty novels during his lifetime. Some of the famous ones include Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, based on the boyhood experiences of Twain in Missouri, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Moreover, Mark wrote several short stories as well. Among them, the most remarkable one is The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.
Books of Mark Twain
1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Twain published this book in 1876, and shortly afterward, he started writing its sequel, named The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It is considered one of the best in American literature. Everett Emerson commented that writing this work has freed Mark temporarily from the restrictions of the culture he had picked to accept.
2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
In 1935, by giving short shrift to Herman Melville and others, Ernest Hemingway wrote that all modern American literature comes from a book, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain. The comment of Hemingway refers, particularly, to the natural language of the masterpiece of Twain. He used the raw, vivid, and not-so-respectable voice of the ordinary people for the first time in America.
It required years to conceptualize and write Huck Finn. So, in the meanwhile, Mark also published The Prince and the Pauper in 1881. It was an endearing novel endorsed with passion by his friends and respectable family.
3. Life on the Mississippi
In 1883, Mark Twain put out a captivating but safe travel book, Life on the Mississippi. Later, Twain set his goal to earn a lot of money. In 1885, by issuing the bestselling chronicle of Ulysses S. Grant, former US president, he triumphed as a book publisher. Twain spent several hours on his business ventures and this book. He was determined that his efforts would make him earn enormous wealth.
However, Twain never attained the success he always expected. Things got worse, and his publishing house got ruined and went bankrupt.
4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Twain published “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” in 1889, a historical/science-fiction novel about prehistoric England. The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, published in 1894, was the succeeding major work of Twain. It was a sad novel and described as ‘bitter’ by some observers.
Moreover, Mark also wrote many books, essays, and short stories. Joan of Arc is another well-known book of Mark’s. Some of the later works of Twain have many admirers, including The Chronicle of Young Satan, his unfinished work.
Mark Twain’s last fifteen years were filled with public honor. He was the most renowned American of the nineteenth century who was much applauded and photographed wherever he went. He was not well-known in America only, but also one of the most noticeable celebrities in the whole world. Due to his popularity, he traveled widely overseas.
The Death of Mark Twain
Mark Twain died at the age of 74, and his funeral was held at the Brick Presbyterian Church, New York. He was buried in his wife’s family plot in Elmira, New York.
The Mark Twain House, located in Hartford, Connecticut, is now a well-known attraction and designated a National Historic Landmark.
Mark Twain explored the American soul with a sharp eye for truth, buoyancy, and wit. He wrote grand tales about the mighty Mississippi River, Sawyer, and Finn.
It won’t be called justice if we don’t credit Mark for writing some of the greatest masterpieces and proving himself as the father of American literature.