Childhood & Early Life
Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri in the United States. He was the sixth of seven children of his father, a country merchant John Marshall Clemens and mother Jane Lampton Clemens and only three of his siblings could survive into their adulthood. At age four, Mark along with his family, moved to a port town Hannibal, situated on the bank of world’s second largest river Mississippi.
Mark’s father John Clemens died of pneumonia in 1847, and the family was left in financial upheaval. An eleven year old Mark took a job of typesetter in 1851, to aid the family during its hard pressed finance and began contributing articles and humorous sketches for the Hannibal Journal a newspaper run by his brother Orion. At age 18, Mark twain left this job and became a printer in New York City.
As a child, Mark Twain received no formal schooling, but a keen learner, he widened his circle of knowledge by finding information in public libraries. It was his traveling to New Orleans in 1857, that he grew immensely fascinated with the steamboats and became an apprentice cub river pilot, earning his license in 1858. While working as a successful river pilot, he developed a huge attachment for the river, which would become a subject of his books in later life. He lost his brother Henry in 1858, who was also working with him on the boat.
Travels and Early Career
With the outbreak of Civil War in 1861, route on the Mississippi was blocked and he had to move to the silver mining town of the Carson City with his brother Orion. They traveled to the Rocky Mountains and many places including the Mormon community in Salt Lake City and ending at the silver mining town of Virginia City, Nevada. Here Mark experimented with the work of mining but failed miserably and finally got a job at a Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise. In year 1863, Mark wrote the first humorous account of his travel.
Mark next journeyed to San Francisco, where he began to work as a journalist and lecturer. In 1867, he traveled to Europe and the Middle East and wrote a collection of travel letters in 1869, which became known as The Innocents Abroad. He wrote some notable short stories during this period including Advice for Little Girls and The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County.
Marriage & Family
Mark Twain first met Olivia Livy Langdon in 1868 and they married after two years in February 1870. The marriage proved to be contributing towards his career and he met many writers and socialists through his wife, who came from a wealthy but liberal family. The couple settled in Buffalo in New York for sometime where he became an editor in the Buffalo Express. Here their first child, a son, was born who died of diphtheria at 19 months. In 1871, they moved to Hartford, Connecticut where Olivia gave birth to three daughters: Susy, Clara and Jean. Only Clara could survive her twenties and lived to the age of eighty eight.
Mark Twain as a Writer
Twain as a writer initiated with humorous and light verse but embarked on more serious and harsh subjects in his later career. His one of the important works in this category was Huckleberry Finn, which combined humor and social criticism. Aside from this, he wrote several travelogues and lectures. A Tramp Abroad(1880), his first travelogue and a satirical account of his travels to Germany, Italy and the Alps, was a sequel to his early work Innocent abroad and was next followed by The Prince and the Pauper in 1882. Mark wrote his first important work, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County In year 1865, which was first published in the New York Saturday Press and became a bestseller within a short span of time. Yet many of his work were suppressed, censored or banned in America for various reasons. In 1888, Mark Twain was awarded the Master of Art degree from Yale University.
Towards the end of his life, Mark Twain traveled and lectured actively. During this period he lost money in many bad investment schemes like mining and printing machines thus acquiring a huge debt. In 1895, he set off on a world tour to Australia, Canada, India and New Zealand and only returned when he was able to pay off the debt. Though he suffered from many losses in his personal life, he never lost his sense of humor and talent as a writer. Meanwhile, he had written the famous series Tom Sawyer Abroad in 1894 followed by Tom Sawyer, Detective in 1896. Mark suffered from yet another emotional set back when his daughter Susy died of meningitis in 1896. Olivia’s death in 1904 and Jean’s death in 1909 further deepened his pain and left him in the depth of despair.
In 1901, Yale University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters degree for his literary efforts and he received the same award from Oxford University in 1907. The same year, he published two books- A Horse’s Tale and Christian Science. Now a celebrated novelist and much more admired author, he enjoyed a huge section of followers and wrote around thirty books, essays and short stories. He was also a guest of the then American president Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. After the death of his wife and daughter Susy, Mark moved to his home in Redding, Connecticut in 1908.
Mark Twain died of a heart attack on 21 April 1910 in Redding in Connecticut and now rests at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York, where his wife and other children were buried. He was survived by his daughter Clara.