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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Clemens, Samuel Langhorne

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CLEMENS, Samuel Langhorne, American humorist; more generally known by his pseudonym Mark Twain: b. Florida, Mo., 30 Nov. 1835; d. Redding, Conn., 21 April 1910. He received only a scanty school education, and in 1848 became apprentice to a printer, subsequently working at this trade in Philadelphia, New York and elsewhere. He afterward learned the business of pilot on the Mississippi, but left this occupation to become secretary to his brother, who had been appointed secretary of Nevada Territory. He then tried his fortune at the Nevada mines. In 1862 he became local editor of a newspaper in Virginia City, but soon went to San Francisco, where he was for some time a reporter. After meeting with slight success in the Calaveras gold-diggings he returned to journalism in San Francisco. In 1866 he went to the Sandwich Islands, and on his return commenced his lecturing career. A trip to the Mediterranean, Egypt and Palestine followed. He edited for a time a newspaper in Buffalo, and soon after married and settled in Hartford, Conn. He traveled widely, and many of the scenes and incidents in his works are drawn from his journeys. He lost heavily through the failure of a publishing house which he founded in 1884. In 1905 a dinner was given him at New York by his author friends celebrating his seventieth birthday. When he visited England, in 1907, he was everywhere hailed with respect, and received from Oxford the honorary degree of Litt.D. His humor is characteristically American, but has a coarser side, often sinning against good taste and being irreverent and flippant at wrong times and places. But his comic force and fertility offset all defects; and beneath what seems reckless levity there is sound morality as well as clear-eyed shrewdness and hard common sense. The predilection which he vaunts for exploiting the mean aspect of things venerable or impressive betrays a touch of the spirit of American Philistinism. Of this the ‘Innocents Abroad’ is an instance. But not so ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and ‘Tom Sawyer’; in those, his best books, he appears as a master of humor and pathetic suggestion, and a truly creative genius. No other writer has so vividly portrayed the irrepressible American boy, or given his readers so adequate an impression of the large, homely, spontaneous life led by native Americans in the great valley of the Mississippi. Among his chief books are ‘The Jumping Frog’ (1867); ‘The Innocents Abroad’ ( 1869); ‘Roughing it’ (1873); ‘The Gilded Age’ (with Warner, 1873); ‘Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ (1876); ‘A Tramp Abroad’ (1880); ‘Life on the Mississippi’ (1883); ‘Huckleberry Finn’ (1885); ‘A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur’ (1889); ‘The American Claimant’ (1852); ‘Tom Sawyer Abroad’ (1894); ‘Puddinhead Wilson’ (1894); ‘Joan of Arc’ (1896); ‘More Tramps Abroad’ (1897); ‘The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg’ (1900); ‘Following the Equator’ (1901); ‘Christian Science’ (1903); ‘How to Tell a Story’ (1904); ‘Editorial Wild Oats’ (1905); ‘Eve's Diary’ (1905); ‘A Horse's Tale’ (1906); ‘The $30,000 Bequest’ (1906); ‘Autobiography of Mark Twain’ (published serially). An edition of his collected writings, ‘Writings of Mark Twain,’ was published in 25 volumes (New York 1910). ‘Mark Twain's Speeches,’ edited by W. D. Howells, also was first published in New York in the year of the author's death. For biography, consult Paine, A. B., ‘Mark Twain: A Biography’ (Mew York 1912); for bibliography, see Johnson, M., ‘Bibliography of Mark Twain’ (New York 1910); other books connected with this author are Henderson, A., ‘Mark Twain’ (New York 1911); Sedgwick, H., “Mark Twain,” in the ‘New American Type’ (Boston 1908); Howells, W. D., ‘My Mark Twain’ (New York 1910); Macy, J., “Mark Twain,” in ‘The Spirit of American Literature’ (ib. 1913).


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SAMUEL LANGHORNE CLEMENS (“MARK TWAIN”)