A Biography of Samuel Langhorne Clemens Aka Mark Twain

Updated on December 3, 2018
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Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about animals and their various characteristics.

Mark Twain
Mark Twain | Source

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.

His Publications

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.


Later Years

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.





Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Nithya Venkat


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      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        22 months ago from Dubai

        Thank you Marlon Kitler.

      • profile image

        Marlon Kilter 

        22 months ago

        Nice, Nithya!

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        2 years ago from Dubai

        Thank you for your visit, yes it is sad.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        2 years ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks for providing these details about Mark Twain. Great accomplishment given his starting line. Sorry depression got hold of him.

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        3 years ago from Dubai

        Thelma Alberts thank you.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        3 years ago from Germany and Philippines

        I don't know much about one of my favourite authors. Thanks for educating me.

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 years ago from Dubai

        AudreyHowitt thank you.

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 

        4 years ago from California

        Very interesting article on Twain--a favorite author of mine--and yet I know so little about him really--so found this interesting

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 years ago from Dubai

        annart thank you, oh yes that he was.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        4 years ago from SW England

        Mark Twain is one of those writers so well known for his wit; it's sad that he died somewhat bitter. He was such a multi-skilled person, wasn't he?

        Interesting bio of an inspiring man.


      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 years ago from Dubai

        swalia thank you for visit and comment.

      • swalia profile image

        Shaloo Walia 

        4 years ago from India

        I knew little about Mark Twain except his works. Thanks for sharing!

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 years ago from Dubai

        Frank Atanacio thank you for your visit and comment.

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 

        4 years ago from Shelton

        what a great Bio-- of a great writer.. he is so well known.. they even portrayed him on Gunsmoke, Bonanza and even Star Trek TNG.. this was fantastic and entertaining Vellur..:)

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 years ago from Dubai

        ChitrangadaSharan thank you for your appreciative comments, you are kind.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        4 years ago from New Delhi, India

        Great biography hub about Mark Twain!

        I knew him only as an author. I learned a lot about Mark Twain that I was not aware. Some of the information is quite surprising.

        You have done an excellent job, by bringing this talented writer to light.

        Thank you for sharing this educative and informative hub!

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 years ago from Dubai

        Nell Rose thank you he wrote many books and his quotes are great.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 

        4 years ago from England

        Living in England I knew his name, but nothing about him, so this was fascinating! I never realised he wrote so many books, just knowing the two main obvious ones. great read! nell

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 years ago from Dubai

        AliciaC thank you for your visit and am glad you learned more about Mark Twain through this hub.

        aviannovice thank you for your visit and comment.

      • aviannovice profile image

        Deb Hirt 

        4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

        This was truly an interesting read. I knew that he'd penned those books, but knew very little about his life in general.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thank you for sharing this information, Vellur. I didn't know much about Mark Twain's life before I read your hub. I've learned some interesting facts!

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 years ago from Dubai

        vocalcoach if only he had found joy in simple things life would have been great for him, thank you for your visit.

        BlossomSB thank you and am glad you came to know more about him.

        alwaysexploring thank you for your visit. It is sad that they suffer with depression and are not able to overcome it.

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

        4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

        Although we know quite a bit about Mark Twain's writing - I possess three of his books - I knew little about his life, so thank you! That was great to learn more.

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        4 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Thanks for this biography of Mark Twain. You've done a great job, bringing this talented writer to light. If only he could have found more joy from the simple things in life.

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        4 years ago from Southern Illinois

        I find it ironic that so many of the great writers suffered with depression. This was an interesting read. Thank you..

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 years ago from Dubai

        Faith Reaper, nice to see you here. It is a shame but as you say he will always be famous. Thank you for your visit.

        DDE am glad that you came to know more about Mark Twain, thank you for your visit.

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 

        4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        Mark Twain so famous but did not know much about him until I stumbled upon your hub. Informative, and useful.

      • Faith Reaper profile image

        Faith Reaper 

        4 years ago from southern USA

        Hi Vellur,

        I learned a lot about Mark Twain that I didn't know. Some of it quite surprising. It's a shame greed took hold of him. Yet, he will always be famous.

      • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

        Nithya Venkat 

        4 years ago from Dubai

        billybuc thank you and am glad you found this a helpful read.

        FlourishAnyway if he had stayed simple and focused only on his writings he would have been happy in life. Thank you for your visit.

        Jackie Lynnley yes it is a shame indeed. He was rich with the talent of writing, and I do not know why he wanted more! Thank you for your visit and the share.

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        4 years ago from the beautiful south

        I have read much about Twain and he is a favorite author of course. Such a shame that he blew so much money trying to make it when if he had left it alone he would have always been wealthy! Guess it teaches us that great men are still "just" men.

        Enjoyable article. Shared.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        4 years ago from USA

        I didn't know he was so money and fame focused. I always perceived him as a simple man who had great quotes and liked cats so I learned something!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Very interesting. Oddly I knew very little about Twain, so I found this a helpful read.


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