A Biography of Samuel Langhorne Clemens Aka Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (well-known as Mark Twain) was an American author, journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur and a riverboat pilot. He was born on November 30th, 1835 in Florida, Missouri to John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens.
He wrote two great classics under his pen name Mark Twain including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The writings of Mark Twain were highly influenced by his hometown and childhood experiences.
Early Life in Hannibal
Samuel Clemens was four years old when his family moved to Hannibal, a town situated on the Missippi River in 1839. He spent many days watching the steamboats plying on the river.
Samuel Clemens had to deal with violence in his childhood and he witnessed the death of many people and that affected him greatly. When Samuel Clemens was 9 years old, he saw a local man murder a cattle rancher and when he was ten years old, he watched a slave die struck by a piece of iron by his overseer.
He was twelve when his father passed away in 1847after which his family suffered due to financial constraints.
Samuel Clemens went to school till he was twelve years old, after that he took up various jobs to provide for the daily needs of his family. He first joined as an apprentice printer at the Hannibal Courier. Later he worked as a printer, writer and editor for the Hannibal Western Union a newspaper published by Orion, his brother.
Steamboat Pilot on the Mississippi River
When Samuel Clemens was twenty-one years old, he learned how to steer a steamboat on the Mississippi River and he went on to obtain his license by 1859.
After he had got his license, he found employment as a steamboat pilot and plied boats across the Missippi river. Samuel Clemens enjoyed his job and earned an income sufficient to live the high-status life.
The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 put an end to Samuel Clemens’s enjoyment. All traffic up and down the Missippi River was curtailed due to the war and Samuel Clemens lost his job.
The Civil War war divided the people of Missouri into two groups, one group was for the Union and the other the Confederacy. Samuel Clemens supported the Confederacy and joined the Confederate army in June 1861. The army was disbanded after a few weeks and Samuel Clemens was left wondering what he could do next.
Samuel Clemens spent the next five years in Nevada, California. At first, he went in search of silver and gold and hoped that he could find enough to support his family and enjoy a fine living for himself.
Prospecting for gold and silver did not turn out as Samuel Clemens had expected and he was had to look out for a job to earn a living.
A Reporter and Story Writer
In September 1862 Samuel Clemens took up a job as a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. It was here that Samuel Clemens decided to use the pen name, Mark Twain. Mark Twain wrote short stories, editorial pieces, and sketches for the newspaper.
In the year 1865 one of his stories, “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” was printed in the New York Saturday Press and brought him recognition as a story writer. The Innocents Abroad, his first book a book published in 1869 won him recognition as an author and went on to become a bestseller.
Marriage to Olivia Langdon
Mark Twain’s aim was to become rich, support his mother and gain a high social status of the Eastern civilization prevalent in New York and Boston during those times.
In February 1870, Mark Twain married Olivia Langdon, who was the daughter of a wealthy New York coal merchant. The sole purpose of the wedding was to increase his social status.
Mark Twain was enamored by Olivia Langdon and fell in love with her beauty and charm. He also hoped that she would be able to help him to become one among the high-status Eastern Civilization, a richVicotrian group. They settled in Buffalo and in due course had four children.
In 1876, Mark Twain published the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He then started to write a sequel called Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain took a long time to finish this novel.
In 1881 he published The Prince and the Pauper, this book was born from his social standing in the high-flying society. He later published Life on the Mississippi a travel book in 1884.
Finally, Mark Twain was able to publish the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1884. After publishing Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, MarkTwain concentrated on his business ventures. He earned a lot of money by publishing the best-selling memoirs of President Ulysses S. Grant, who had died just then.
During his lifetime Mark Twain wrote 28 books and a number of short stories, letters, and sketches. As time passed his business ventures were not successful and his publishing house went bankrupt.
In his later years, Mark Twain wrote short stories and essays. In 1889, Mark Twain published A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and the year 1894 The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson that reflected his bitter feelings that he harbored. He also published a book about the story of Joan Arc. The Chronicle of Young Satan, his unfinished book is widely read and admired even today.
Mark Twain emerged as the most famous American of the 19th century and won many public honors. The Universities of Yale and Oxford honored him with degrees. In the year 1895 -1896 he undertook a tour during which he lectured in different places across the world to pay off his debts.
Mark Twain spent his last days in bitterness and paranoia. He went into bouts of depression that he tried to overcome by smoking cigars, reading in bed and by playing billiards and cards. Though Mark Twain kept writing until the very end, he was unable to complete his works.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, at his country home in Redding, Connecticut.
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© 2016 Nithya Venkat