Mark Twain, otherwise known as Samuel Clemens, is to this day considered to be an inspirational American writer. His life was full of ups and downs. He was born prematurely on November 30th in 1835 in Missouri. He was ill most of his childhood. He was the sixth child of John and Jane Clemens. When his father passed away, Mark left school to help his family. He worked as a printer’s apprentice.
He moved East for a while but returned to the Midwest to become a river boat pilot. His memoir, Life on the Mississippi, is influenced by this time in his life. But, then the Civil War started and Mark joined the Confederate Army in 1861. He did not stay in the Army long and headed West to Nevada and California to strike it rich. He ended up penniless instead.
This is when Mark Twain seriously began to write to support himself financially. His big break came when he published a short story called Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog. He later became a reporter and traveled to Hawaii. His writings became so popular that he did a lecture tour and became a successful stage performer. He did a steamship tour. He also traveled around Europe and the Holy Land. His first official book became The Innocents Abroad.
While on the steamboat tour he met and fell in love with Olivia Langdon. They courted for two years and married in 1870. They had three daughters and one son that passed away at the age of two from diphtheria. Mark’s daughter Suzy also became a writer and wrote Roughing It.
After the steamboat tour, his family began renting a house at Nook Farm. They lived near Hartford, Connecticut. There were many writers and publishers living in this area. Mark Twain wrote the majority of his most popular works during the 17 years in Connecticut. He published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876. His memoir, Life on the Mississippi, was published in 1883. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court was published in 1889.
Unfortunately, Mark Twain made several poor choices financially and ended up bankrupt again. He moved his family to Europe in 1891 with hopes of paying off his debts. He traveled extensively and wrote about social injustice in his book Following the Equator.
Mark returned to the United States and, by this point, was quite vocal against what he saw as American imperialism focused on greed and selfishness. His writings grew darker. He became Vice President of the Anti-Imperialist League. He traveled giving public speeches which were described as harsh and condescending. Often times, he was cruel in his depiction of Western society. He was known for making a scathing and sarcastic public introduction of Winston Churchill at one point. He was called a traitor by some and he began having a harder time getting his works published. It is said that many of his later works went unpublished due to being blackballed by the magazine industry. He died on April 21st in 1910 at the age of 74 years old. Many of his works today like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1884, are considered truly great American classics.