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Mark Twain Biography and Poems

Mark Twain Biography and Poems. This is biographical information on Mark Twain, one of the best poets of all time. This biography page also provides a link to poems written by Twain, as well as, a video biography...if available.

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Twain, Mark

Biography | Poems (5)
| Quotes

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "the Great American Novel ."


Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American humorist, novelist, writer, and lecturer.

Although Twain was confounded by financial and business affairs, his humor and wit were keen, and he enjoyed immense public popularity. At his peak, he was probably the most popular American celebrity of his time. In 1907, crowds at the Jamestown Exposition thronged just to get a glimpse of him. He had dozens of famous friends, including William Dean Howells, Booker T. Washington, Nikola Tesla, Helen Keller, and Henry Huttleston Rogers. Fellow American author William Faulkner is credited with writing that Twain was "the first truly American writer, and all of us since are his heirs." Twain died in 1910 and is buried in Elmira, New York.

Career overview

Twain's greatest contribution to American literature is generally considered to be his novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. As Ernest Hemingway once said:

"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. ...all American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."

Also popular are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and the non-fiction book Life on the Mississippi.

Beginning as a writer of light, humorous verse, Twain evolved into a grim, almost profane chronicler of the vanities, hypocrisies and murderous acts of mankind. At mid-career, with Huckleberry Finn, he combined rich humor, sturdy narrative and social criticism in a way that is almost unrivaled in world literature.

Twain was a master at rendering colloquial speech, and helped to create and popularize a distinctive American literature built on American themes and language.

Twain also had a fascination with science and scientific inquiry. He developed a close and lasting friendship with Nikola Tesla, and the two spent quite a bit of time together (in Tesla's laboratory, among other places). Such fascination can be seen in Twain's book A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which features a time traveler from the America of Twain's day, using his knowledge of science to introduce modern technology to Arthurian England. Twain also patented an improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments.

From 1901 until his death in 1910, Twain was vice president of the American Anti-Imperialist League.[2] The League opposed the annexation of the Philippines by the United States. Twain wrote Incident in the Philippines, posthumously published in 1924, in response to the Moro Crater Massacre, in which six hundred Moros were killed. Many but not all of Mark Twain's neglected and previously uncollected writings on anti-imperialism appeared for the first time in book form in 1992.

In recent years, there have been occasional attempts to ban Huckleberry Finn from various libraries because Twain's use of local color is offensive to some people. Although Twain was against racism and imperialism far ahead of the public sentiment of his time, those who have only superficial familiarity with his work have sometimes condemned it as racist because it accurately depicts language in common use in the 19th-century United States. Expressions that were used casually and unselfconsciously then are often perceived today as racist (today, such racial epithets are far more visible and condemned). Twain himself would probably be amused by these attempts; in 1885, when a library in Concord, Massachusetts banned the book, he wrote to his publisher, "They have expelled Huck from their library as 'trash suitable only for the slums', that will sell 25,000 copies for us for sure."

Many of Mark Twain's works have been suppressed at times for various reasons. 1880 saw the publication of an anonymous slim volume entitled 1601: Conversation, as it was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors. Twain was among those rumored to be the author, but the issue was not settled until 1906, when Twain acknowledged his literary paternity of this scatological masterpiece.

At least Twain saw 1601 published during his lifetime. During the Philippine-American War, Twain wrote an anti-war article entitled The War Prayer. Through this internal struggle, Twain expresses his opinions of the absurdity of slavery and the importance of following one's personal conscience before the laws of society. It was submitted to Harper's Bazaar for publication, but on March 22, 1905, the magazine rejected the story as "not quite suited to a woman's magazine." Eight days later, Twain wrote to his friend Dan Beard, to whom he had read the story, "I don't think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth." Because he had an exclusive contract with Harper & Brothers, Mark Twain could not publish The War Prayer elsewhere; it remained unpublished until 1923.

In later years, Twain's family suppressed some of his work which was especially irreverent toward conventional religion, notably Letters from the Earth, which was not published until 1962. The anti-religious The Mysterious Stranger was published in 1916, although there is some scholarly debate as to whether Twain actually wrote the most familiar version of this story. Twain was critical of organized religion and certain elements of the Christian religion through most of the end of his life, though he never renounced Presbyterianism [1].

Perhaps most controversial of all was Mark Twain's 1879 humorous talk at the Stomach Club in Paris, entitled Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism, which concluded with the thought, "If you must gamble your lives sexually, don't play a lone hand too much." This talk was not published until 1943, and then only in a limited edition of fifty copies.

Epigrams

  • "A habit cannot be thrown out the window, it must be coaxed down the stairs one step at a time." -Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
  • "A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar." -Mark Twain and I by Opie Read
  • "'Classic.' A book which people praise and don't read." -Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar
  • "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." -More Maxims of Mark
  • "I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough." -Speech, September 23, 1907
  • "India: Land of religions, cradle of human race, birthplace of human speech, grandmother of legend, great grandmother of tradition." [5]
  • "The lack of money is the root of all evil." -More Maxims of Mark
  • "It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them." -Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar
  • "Jesus died to save men -- a small thing for an immortal to do, & didn't save many, anyway; but if he had been damned for the race that would have been act of a size proper to a god, & would have saved the whole race. However, why should anybody want to save the human race, or damn it either? Does God want its society? Does Satan?" -Notebook #42
  • "October: This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February." -Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
  • "Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." (The original quote was "The report of my death was an exaggeration"; cf. Ron Powers, Mark Twain: A Life, p. 585)
  • The saying, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics," is sometimes attributed to Twain. He did not coin the phrase, but he did popularize it in the United States.
  • "To create man was a fine and original idea; but to add the sheep was a tautology." -(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 30, 1902; cf. Ron Powers, Mark Twain: A Life, p. 611)
  • "We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. And out of it we get an aggregation which we consider a boon. Its name is public opinion. It is held in reverence. Some think it the voice of God." (Corn-Pone Opinions)
  • "When angry count to four, when very angry, swear." -Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
  • "When I, a thoughtful and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane, not in all things, but in religious matters. When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can prove anything to a lunatic—for that is a part of his insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his... When I look around me, I am often troubled to see how many people are mad." [6]
  • "[The human] race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon--laughter."[7]
  • "If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno." -Letters from the Earth

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