Mark Twain was born as Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri. His father was John Marshall Clemens and his mother was Jane Lampton Clemens. His father worked as a Tennessee country merchant. Twain was one of seven children and the second to the last child that was born. Unfortunately, several of his brothers and sisters died throughout their childhood. Only half of his siblings survived, his brothers Orion and Henry and his sister Pamela. In 1839, when Mark Twain was Four, he and his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, which was located near the Mississippi River.
His Connection with Halley’s Comet
He was born two weeks after Halley’s Comet appeared in its closest approach to the Earth. And the comet was scheduled to return in 1910. He told people in 1909 “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.” As predicted, he died on April 21st, 1910 of a heart attack the day after Halley’s Comet made its closest pass. He was 74 years old.
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County was his Claim to Fame
His very first claim to fame was the article “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County”. It was a piece that he wrote for the New York Saturday Press. It became an instant hit and allowed him to secure a job with the Sacramento Union. The Sacramento Union then commissioned him to visit the Sandwich Islands (which is now known as the state of Hawaii) to write the first of a series of travelogues that were nationally popular. The next year, he traveled to the Mediterranean, Europe and the Middle East.
Four of his Books Were Published After his Death
Mark Twain had an interesting and diverse literary career. He wrote a total of 28 books along with several essays, articles and short stories. The four books that were published after his death were Mark Twain’s Autobiography, Mark Twain’s Notebook, Letters from the Earth, and Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
He Was Always Thought of as Being Very Wise
Even though he didn’t go to school as a child for a long time, he knew that no matter where he ended up in life that he could still educate himself by life experiences and by reading at the library in the evening. One of his most famous quotes was…
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Huckleberry Finn was Only Meant to be a Supporting Character
Growing up near the Mississippi River, Twain was inspired to write The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It was published in 1876 and the clever escapades and adventures of the young boy were inspired by Twain’s own youth. The small supporting character of Huckleberry Finn got his own book in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which was published in 1885. It has been called the first “Great American Novel.”
He Met his Wife During his Trip to the Mediterranean
During his trip to the Mediterranean, he met his future brother-in-law who then introduced him to his future wife, Olivia Langdon. He was married after a few short years to Olivia and through his wife’s family, he was able to meet many famous, wealthy people who had liberal views on the issues of the day. He was married to Olivia for 34 years and they had three children together, Clara, Jean and Susy.
He Incorporated Liberal Views into His Writing
Twain was introduced to all types of leaders including abolitionists, socialists, atheists, and political activist. Throughout his life he was very outspoken on issues such as slavery, racism, and animal cruelty. Many of his own liberal ideas were put into his works of literature. His views on religion were very different from the vies that he had during his youth, when he was brought up as a Presbyterian.
Tributes to Mark Twain
Since he was known as a humorist, satirist, and social commentator, the Kennedy Center established an award in 1998 for comedy known as the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. People who have won the award since 1998 include Richard Pryor, Jonathan Winters, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin, Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Simon.