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Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He was born on 30 November 1835 in Florida, Missouri, the sixth child of John and Jane Clemens.
In 1839, the family moved to nearby Hannibal, a town on the Mississippi River. Steamboats landed at Hannibal many timesa day, and Clemens' boyhood dream was to become a steamboatman on the river.
In 1847 his father died and a year later he was apprenticed to the publisher of the Missouri Courier. In 1851, Sam was working for his brother at the Hannibal Journal and contributing his own articles and humerous sketches. When he was 21 Sam met steamboat pilot Horace Bixby who agreed to apprentice Clemens. Clemens received his steamboat license in 1859, aged 23.
The start of the American Civil War in 1861 meant that all river traffic on the Mississippi was suspended and Clemen's steamboat career ended. He accompanied his brother Orion to the Nevada Territory (Orion had been appointed by President Lincoln as secretary of the new Teritory, and Sam was to be his secretary). In 1862, Clemens accepted a job as a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise (the territory's most popular newspaper). He covered all of the territory's local news and also contributed his own articles.
In 1864, Clemens left the Enterprise for San Francisco (probably to avoid antiduelling laws after challenging a rival editor to fight). In San Francisco in 1864, Clemens went to work for the Call, a local paper as a full-time reporter, and then was the Pacific correspondent for the Territorial Enterprise. Later he worked for Golden Era, the Californian, and other publications.
In 1866, he took a four-month trip to Hawaii as a correspondent for the Sacramento Union. Upon returning to San Francisco, he capitalized on the success of his "Sandwich Islands" letters by organizing a lecture on the topic. The success of this lecture prompted him to arrange his first lecture tour, a two-month tour through northern California and western Nevada. For the remainder of his life, Clemens was one of the most popular speakers in the United States.
Clemens left California at the end of 1866 for New York. Soon after arriving in New York, Clemens became a correspondent for the San Francisco Alta California aboard a ship named Quaker City, which was departing for a voyage to Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. Upon his return to New York, Clemens became secretary to Senator William M. Stewart, in Washington, D.C. In 1868, Sam went back to California and Nevada on a lecture tour, finished Innocents Abroad in San Francisco, published several sketches in various publications, and was engaged to Olivia (Livy) Langdon. Over the next two years, Clemens travelled extensively on lecture tours around the East and Midwest, published Innocents Abroad, bought an interest in the Buffalo Express, and wrote numerous sketches.
Clemens married in 1870 and settled down in Buffalo, N.Y. Sam worked on the Buffalo Express as editor and also wrote a monthly column for the Galaxy (a New York literary magazine). Clemens also contracted to write Roughing It, an account of his experiences in Nevada and California. Tragedy struck the young couple. First Livy's father died; then her close friend died while staying with the Clemenses; finally, their first child, Langdon, was born premature, and lived only two years.
In 1871 Sam rented a house in Hartford, Connecticut. Soon he bought land of his own and built his own house. Clemens settled down in his new house and apart from his lecture tours in the United States and abroad (he went to England in 1872 and again in 1874) he devoted himself to writing novels and sketches. Sam started to draw on his childhood experiences for his inspiration for some of his most famous novels - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
In the 1880s, Clemens invested large amounts of his own money in a publishing company (Charles L. Webster and Company) and in a new printing machine (the Paige compositor). Both companies failed and in 1891 he left America for Europe to escape his debts. By 1898 he had repaid all of his debts and returned to America, settling in New York. In 1904 his wife Livy died in Florence, Italy after a long illness and in 1909 his youngest daughter (Jean) died suddenly.
Clemen's last major work was "The Death of Jean" and following it's completion Clemens vowed to never write again. His health declined quickly after Jean's death and he died on 21 April 1910.
In November 1835, at the time of Clemens' birth, Halley's Comet made an appearance in the night sky. Strikingly, the comet's next appearance came during April 1910, the period of Clemens' death. Throughout his life, Clemens said that he would "go out with the comet," knowing the 75-year span between the comet's appearances. His prediction was amazingly accurate.
Books by Mark Twain