Samuel Langhorne Clemens
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Related to Samuel Langhorne Clemens: Charles Dickens
Clemens, Samuel Langhorne:see Twain, MarkTwain, Mark,
pseud. of Samuel Langhorne Clemens,
1835–1910, American author, b. Florida, Mo. As humorist, narrator, and social observer, Twain is unsurpassed in American literature.
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Clemens, Samuel Langhorne (Mark Twain, pen name)(1835–1910) writer, journalist, lecturer; born in Florida, Mo. Growing up along the Mississippi River, he left school at age 12 and worked as a printer (1847–57), then as a Mississippi riverboat pilot (1857–61). In 1863 he took as his pen name the call used when sounding the river shallows, "Mark twain!" referring to two fathoms. In 1861, after a few unhappy weeks as a Confederate volunteer, he went to Nevada where he tried gold mining and then edited a newspaper. In 1864 he went to San Francisco as a reporter and achieved his first success with "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" (1865). In 1866 he visited the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) on a newspaper assignment and his articles gained him some reputation, which in turn launched his career as a lecturer. In 1867 he took a trip to Europe and the Holy Land, and his humorous description of his experiences in The Innocents Abroad (1869) broadened his reputation; he would repeat its success with later travel books: Roughing It (1872); A Tramp Abroad (1880); and Life on the Mississippi (1883). On his return to America in 1867, he settled in the East, marrying Olivia Langdon, daughter of a wealthy New York coal merchant (1870); they had four children. In 1871 he moved to Hartford, Conn., and built a distinctive house (now open to the public) at the center of a community of artists known as Nook Farm. He collaborated with one of them, Charles Dudley Warner, on a novel satirizing post-Civil War America, The Gilded Age (1873). He won wide popularity with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1882), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), but it was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884, England; 1885, U.S.A.) that eventually became regarded as a seminal work of American literature. Poor investments wiped out most of his earnings by 1894, but a world lecture tour and sales of his books restored some of his wealth. Beneath his humor there had always been a layer of disillusion and pessimism; the loss of two daughters (1896, 1909) and his wife (1904) hardened this attitude, expressed in such works as What is Man? (1906) and The Mysterious Stranger (1916). In his final years he was greatly honored (especially in England) and his opinions on everything were sought out by the public, but the posthumous publication of his autobiography (1924) revealed the dim, indeed dark view he held of his fellow humans.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.