Mark Twain is without a doubt was of the most famous and popular American writers of all time. His most famous books, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are still loved and read today, some one hundred and forty years later. A lot is known about the works that Mark Twain produced, but less is known about the man behind those works. Mark Twain is an interesting figure in American literary history, and there are countless facts about the man worth knowing.
What is in a name?
Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, and as a young writer, he adopted the name Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass before he took on the pseudonym Mark Twain. The name Mark Twain comes from a term well known on the Mississippi, which means “two fathoms deep”.
Life on the Mississippi
The love of the Mississippi River can be felt in many of Mark Twain’s works. He spent time working as a pilot along the great river, and he earned a steamboat license, which he used to work along the Mississippi until the start of the Civil War. He raised his family, including his wife Olivia and their four children, there.
The most successful book of Mark Twain’s life was his first novel entitled The Innocents Abroad. Part of the reason for this was that a review was published by an anonymous critic who raved wildly about the work. That anonymous critic, however, was none other than Twain himself. Clever boy.
The first notable work that Twain wrote, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, was published in 1865. His two most popular books The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer were published in 1867, and then in 1884. Many first edition copies have been found and are treasured by those who own them. After the success of those books, Twain went on to receive an honorary degree from Oxford University in England. For all of his success, Twain still experienced troubles through the enormous debts he accrued. To help pay those debts off, Twain resorted to lecturing all over the world.
In May 1864, Twain challenged a rival Nevada newspaperman with whom he was feuding to a duel but fled before an actual fight took place, supposedly to avoid being arrested for violating the territory’s anti-dueling law.
The model for Huck Finn was Tom Blankenship, a boy four years older than Twain who he knew growing up in Hannibal, and tried to portray him, faults and all, exactly as he remembered.
Twain was born and died under Halley’s Comet, an event that Twain knew of and recognized. Twain was a believer and supporter of parapsychology, and he used the knowledge he learned about to predict his own death.