Mark Twain

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His real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but he is I better known by his pen name, Mark Twain. One of the important figures in American literary history, Twain holds a unique position in American literature. He was not only a great writer; he was also a famous humorist, a spinner of yarns, a journalist who satirized the hypocrisy of man and society, and a novelist who used laughter to fight against the tyrannies that seek to take away man's freedom. Born in Florida, Missouri, November 30, 1835, the son of a storekeeper-lawyer father, Samuel Clemens was raised in Hannibal, Missouri, where his family had settled when he was four years old. Sam never finished elementary school but got his education chiefly in the school of experience and from his keen observation of people

and events common to a sleepy frontier town located on the western bank of the Mississippi River. Young Sam's favorite pastime was watching the mighty paddle wheel steamboats as they made their way up and down the river. Nearly every time a steamboat docked at Hannibal, red-haired Sam Clemens was there to greet it, to look, and to listen as fur trappers, Southern gentlemen, homesteaders, salesmen from the East, and ladies in fine clothes came down the gangplank. And he absorbed the talk of riches out West and of new lands to be conquered. In 1847 the death of Sam's father brought an end to his carefree days, and he had to go to work at the age of 12 as a printer's apprentice. Completing his apprenticeship at the age of 15, he went to work as a printer for his brother Orion,

publisher of the Hannibal Journal. In the ensuing years, Sam worked for his brother as foreman, sub-editor, and feature writer and doubtlessly learned a good deal about writing. At about the age of 16, he began to publish some of his own writing in the Hannibal Journal -humorous poems, joking commentaries on the news, and satirical observations of fellow townspeople. When he was 17, Sam left Hannibal and wandered eastward as far as New York. Along the way he worked as a printer in several cities and wrote often to Orion, who printed his letters in a special column in the newspaper. After he returned to the West, Sam again went to work for Orion, who had moved to the state of Iowa. But the lure of the Mississippi was too strong, and at the age of 21, Sam returned to the river to

realize an old ambition, that of being a Mississippi River steamboat pilot, In 1857, after 18 months' apprenticeship under Horace Bixby, pilot of the steamboat, Paul Jones, Samuel Langhorne Clemens earned his steamboat pilot's license. For the next four years he steamed up and down the Mississippi and got to know the name and position of every feature of the river. He describes this experience in Life on the Mississippi, remarking at one point that "when I had learned to read the face of the water as one could cull the news from the morning paper,... I judged that my education was complete; so I got to tilting my cap to the side of my head, and wearing a toothpick in my mouth at the wheel." In 1861, the Civil War disrupted Mississippi River traffic and ended Sam

Clemens' career as a steamboat pilot. His career as Mark Twain, the writer, was about to begin. In that same year, he and Orion boarded an overland stagecoach for a 1,700-mile journey from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Carson City, Nevada. Orion had been appointed territorial secretary for Nevada and had asked Sam to accompany him to his new job. Sam quickly adjusted to the rugged life of a frontier mining town but soon succumbed to silver mining fever. Although he spent a year prospecting for the elusive metal, he met only with failure. All was not lost, however. During the long months of his search for easy wealth, Sam heard and remembered many miner's yarns which he was later to utilize in his writings. In Roughing It, an account of his life in mining country, he observes that he