Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called “The Great American Novel.”
Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which provided the setting forHuckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. After an apprenticeship with a printer, he worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to the newspaper of his older brother, Orion Clemens. He later became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River before heading west to join Orion in Nevada. He referred humorously to his singular lack of success at mining, turning to journalism for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. In 1865, his humorous story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” was published, based on a story he heard at Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California, where he had spent some time as a miner. The short story brought international attention, and was even translated into classic Greek. His wit and satire, in prose and in speech, earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.
Twain was born shortly after a visit by Halley’s Comet, and he predicted that he would “go out with it”, too. He died the day after the comet returned. He was lauded as the “greatest American humorist of his age,” and William Faulkner called Twain “the father of American literature.”
Mark Twain, detail of photo by Mathew Brady, February 7, 1871
|Born||Samuel Langhorne Clemens
November 30, 1835
Florida, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||April 21, 1910 (aged 74)
Redding, Connecticut, U.S.
|Pen name||Mark Twain|
|Notable works||Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,The Adventures of Tom Sawyer|
|Spouse||Olivia Langdon Clemens(m. 1870; wid. 1904)|
|Children||Langdon, Susy, Clara, Jean|
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.
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 and 2015.