Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy 178th to Mark Twain, author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great!”
~~ Samuel Langhorne Clemens, pen name Mark Twain,
American humorist and author of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (1876) and sequel, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1885) (b. November 30, 1835– d. April 21, 1910) ; known as the “Father of Literature.”

Would you believe the author of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” known as the “Greatest American Novel” of all time was born 178 years ago today? And would you believe that his advice on family and public etiquette as well as inspiring wit and wisdom from greatness, getting things done, and morals, to dress, health, food, and childrearing, etc., are forever relevant. Twain, perhaps the greatest, genius storyteller put himself in everything he did.
Image above courtesy of

Born Samuel Clemens Langhorne in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835, to Jane (née Lampton; 1803–1890), a native of Kentucky, and John Marshall Clemens (1798–1847), a Virginian by birth. Twain was born two weeks after the closest approach to Earth of Halley's Comet and when he was 74 years old (1909) Twain was quoted saying:

"I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet …"

Intriguing that Twain would die of heart attack one day after the comet's closest approach to Earth on April 21, 1910, at his home in Redding, Connecticut.

Interesting that although Twain earned a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he lost a great deal of money in investments. He filed for bankruptcy, and with the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers, principal of Standard Oil, gradually resolved his financial issues.

Twain’s first great success as a writer, was in 1865 when he wrote a short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" which brought him national attention.

There is speculation about his pen name. Before deciding on his pen name "'Mark Twain" he used different ones – “Josh" until 1863 and pen name "Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass" for a series of humorous letters. Twain stated that his famous pen name of Mark Twain was not only his idea but also from a captain who used the name “MARK TWAIN” the call made regarding safer condition of the Mississippi River– two fathoms (12 feet or 3.7 metres), as written in his book “Life on the Mississippi.”

However biographer George Williams III claims that he used “mark twain” in reference to a running bar tab that he frequently incurred while drinking at John Piper's saloon in Virginia City, Nevada.

Friend and future Twain biographer Albert Bigelow Paine reported shortly after Twain’s death at his home in Redding, Connecticut that although doctors listed his death as “angina pectoris,” he died of a broken heart.

Despite Twain’s successes, his life was filled with tremendous sorrows – the loss of his only son at 2 years old, Langdon (1870 – 1872), a daughter in her early 20s, Suzy (1896 at 24 years old), another at 29 years old, Jean (in 1909), his wife Olivia of 34 years (1904 at 59 years old).

His surviving daughter, contralto concert singer, Clara (2nd born of Twain’s 3 daughters), was by his side during his death.

Other Resources
► Mark Twain’s Non de Plume Mark Twain’s Family Tree, The Mark Twain House & Museum
Mark Twain: A Biography by Albert Bigelow Paine, University of Adelaide Library
► Mark Twain is Dead at 74. End Comes Peacefully at His New England Home After a Long Illness," The New York Times. April 22, 1910
► Mrs. Jacques Samossoud Dies; Mark Twain's Last Living Child

Works by Mark Twain
▌▒ Helpful Hints for Good Living: A Handbook for the Damned Human Race
▌▒ Mark Twain Project Online
▌▒ 38 Facsimile copies of 1st editions
▌▒ Works by Mark Twain at Project Gutenberg. More than 60 texts are freely available.
▌▒ Works by or about Mark Twain in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
▌▒ Mark Twain's letters ed. by Albert Bigelow Paine (2 vol 1917) vol 2 online
▌▒ Mark Twain Library, University of California Press. This series re-prints texts from the Papers and Works for students and the general reader.
▌▒ The Works of Mark Twain, University of California Press. This series prints authoritative critical editions of Mark Twain's published works.
▌▒ Mark Twain Papers, University of California Press. This series publishes Mark
▌▒ Twain's private papers–his letters, notebooks, unpublished literary works, and autobiography.
▌▒ Jumping Frogs: Undiscovered, Rediscovered, and Celebrated Writings of Mark Twain, University of California Press. The Jumping Frogs series of books brings neglected Mark Twain treasures—stories, tall tales, novels, travelogues, plays, imaginative journalism, speeches, sketches, satires, burlesques, and much more—to readers.
▌▒ A True Story, Repeated Word for Word As I Heard It. From The Atlantic Monthly. Nov. 1874: 591–594. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Co., November 1874. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Co., November 1874.
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