Photograph of Mark Twain – Pixabay/ Skeeze Photograph of Mark Twain – Pixabay/ Skeeze

Today in History: Mark Twain is born

Thu, Nov. 30, 2017
CAIRO – 30 November 2017: On November 30 falls the birthday of the much celebrated American author Mark Twain. The writer of “The adventure of Huckleberry Film” and many other beloved classics is one of the most influential authors in the U.S., even today.

Twain was born as Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, but his family soon moved to the larger nearby town of Hannibal, next to the Mississippi River, a location that would prove quite inspiring for Twain’s future work. A rather sickly child, Twain was doted on by his humorous mother, who frequently told him stories. Though Twain loved the town of Hannibal, it was also filled with much violence, and since a very young age, Twain was frequently exposed to murder.

After the death of his father, Twain helped support the family by working as an apprentice printer for the Hannibal Courier, and would later, at the age of 15, work for the Hannibal Western Union newspaper, which was owned by his brother. By the time he was 21 Twain had become the captain of a steamboat on the Mississippi river, a career he absolutely adored. Unfortunately, Twain lost his brother Henry in a steamboat accident, and the outbreak of the Civil War put a swift end to his career.

He traveled to the American West, hoping to strike it rich by finding gold but unfortunately came up short. By about 1863, he went on to work for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, which marked the first usage of his permanent pen-name, Mark Twain - ‘Two fathoms’, steamboat slang for 12 feet of water.

He would eventually get his recognition as a skilled author with the publishing of his short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, originally "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog", in 1865, which was read in newspapers all across the country and was immensely popular. A few years later, Twain wrote several humorous logs about his experiences on a five-month sea cruise on the Mediterranean, which was well-received, and brought him further success when he published the travel logs in the 1869 book “The Innocents Abroad”, a bestseller.

His adventurous spirit, good humor and witty writing style quickly ensured that Twain would become one of the most popular writers in the nation, especially with the release of his groundbreaking masterpiece “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in 1876. Set in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, based off Twain’s beloved Hannibal, the book followed the adventures of its titular character, a young boy who played frequent pranks and scammed the other children into doing his chores, along with numerous other escapades.

Twain’s next book was “The Prince and the Pauper” in 1881, the classic tale of two young boys in London, one born in poverty and the other as a Prince, who look identical and decide to switch places. His follow-up was “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in 1884, which has been hailed as one of America’s greatest works of literature.

Alas, though Twain was adored by his country and indeed, much of the world, his personal life was filled with much tragedy, including repeated financial struggles and worse still, the deaths of most of his children. Worst of these was the untimely passing of his 24 year old daughter, Susy, in 1896 due to spinal meningitis. The loss sunk Twain into a deep depression from which he never truly recovered. His relationship with his only surviving child, Clara Clemens, was cold and distant.

Apart from his wit, Twain was also known as a fierce proponent of human rights, fighting to end slavery and a proponent of women's rights. Twain lived to be 74 before he died on April 21, 1910, and was buried in New York. His final work was his autobiography, which by his odd request, could not be published until 100 years after his death. Indeed, the first volume “The Autobiography of Mark Twain” was published on November 2010.

Becoming a bestseller, Mark Twain proved his lasting popularity even a century after he passed.
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