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Short Biography of Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain

Nithya Venkat loves to read books and write biographies about authors who have captured her heart.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was an American author, journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur, and riverboat pilot. He was born on November 30, 1835, in the town of 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. His writings were highly influenced by his hometown and childhood experiences.

Early Life in Hannibal, Missouri

Samuel Clemens was four years old when his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a town situated on the Mississippi River, in 1839. He spent many days watching the steamboats plying on the river.

Clemens had to deal with violence in his childhood, and he witnessed the death of many people, which affected him greatly. When he was nine years old, he saw a local man murder a cattle rancher, and when he was 10 years old, he watched a slave die struck by a piece of iron by his overseer.

He was 12 when his father passed away in 1847, after which his family suffered due to financial constraints.

Clemens went to school until he was 12 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 Clemens was 21 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. He enjoyed his job and earned an income sufficient to live a high-status life.

The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 put an end to Clemens’s enjoyment. All traffic up and down the Mississippi River was curtailed due to the war, and 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 for the Confederacy. Clemens supported the Confederacy and joined the Confederate army in June 1861. The army was disbanded after a few weeks, and Clemens was left wondering what he could do next.

He 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 he had expected, and he had to look out for a job to earn a living.

A Reporter and Story Writer

In September 1862, Clemens took up a job as a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. It was here that he decided to use the pen name, Mark Twain. Under that name, he wrote short stories, editorial pieces, and sketches for the newspaper.

In 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. His first book, The Innocents Abroad, published in 1869, won him recognition as an author and went on to become a bestseller.

Marriage to Olivia Langdon

Mark Twain aimed to become rich, support his mother, and gain a high social status in the society of New York and Boston during those times.

In February 1870, Twain married Olivia Langdon, the daughter of a wealthy New York coal merchant. The sole purpose of the wedding was to increase his social status.

Twain was enamored by 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 East Coast society, a rich victorian group. They settled in Buffalo, New York, 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. 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, he was able to publish the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1884. After publishing Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he concentrated on his business ventures. He earned a lot of money by publishing the best-selling memoirs of President Ulysses S. Grant, who had recently died.

During his lifetime Twain wrote 28 books and several 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, Twain wrote short stories and essays. In 1889, he published A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and in 1894, he published The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, which reflected the bitter feelings that he harbored. He also published a book about the story of Joan of Arc. The Chronicle of Young Satan, his unfinished book, is widely read and admired even today.

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 1895–1896, he undertook a tour during which he lectured in different places across the world to pay off his debts.

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 playing billiards and cards. Though he 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.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Nithya Venkat


Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on August 01, 2018:

Thank you Marlon Kitler.

Marlon Kilter on July 30, 2018:

Nice, Nithya!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 08, 2018:

Thank you for your visit, yes it is sad.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 07, 2018:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 23, 2016:

Thelma Alberts thank you.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on June 23, 2016:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 28, 2016:

AudreyHowitt thank you.

Audrey Howitt from California on May 25, 2016:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 21, 2016:

annart thank you, oh yes that he was.

Ann Carr from SW England on May 21, 2016:

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.


Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 08, 2016:

swalia thank you for visit and comment.

Shaloo Walia from India on May 08, 2016:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 27, 2016:

Frank Atanacio thank you for your visit and comment.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on April 27, 2016:

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..:)

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 20, 2016:

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

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 18, 2016:

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!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 16, 2016:

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

Nell Rose from England on March 14, 2016:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 12, 2016:

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.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on March 12, 2016:

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

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 11, 2016:

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!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 10, 2016:

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.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on March 09, 2016:

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.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 08, 2016:

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.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 08, 2016:

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

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 08, 2016:

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.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 08, 2016:

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

Faith Reaper from southern USA on March 07, 2016:

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.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 07, 2016:

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 from the beautiful south on March 07, 2016:

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 from USA on March 07, 2016:

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!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2016:

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