Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), 1835-1910

[Mentioned in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, pp. 302, 303]

Samuel Clemens, "the Lincoln of our literature," was southern by descent and midwestern by birth and upbringing. He never liked school, and at the age of twelve he was apprenticed to a printer. Alert and sensitive, the boy absorbed many impressions of life in his home town of Hannibal, Missouri, a Mississippi River slave town.

At eighteen, he started forth to see the country, working in St. Louis, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., and Keokuk. His roving spirit wanted to explore the Amazon, and as a first step toward reaching South America, he took passage on a river boat from Cincinnati to New Orleans. Under the spell of the river he had loved so as a boy, he gave up his project and learned to be a pilot, staying on the river till the Civil War. When his brother was appointed by Lincoln to be Territorial Governor of Nevada, Sam joined him. Here, working on a newspaper, he first used the name "Mark Twain"— two fathoms—a call used by Mississippi pilots. Going on to California, he did pocket mining, worked for Bret Harte, and was sent on an assignment to Hawaii. His story about a jumping frog and his lecture in New York about Hawaii led to his going on a Mediterranean cruise. The letters he sent back, "The Innocents Abroad," made him famous as a humorist.

He spent the happiest twenty years of his life in Hartford, surrounded by a devoted family and fellow writers. Here he wrote "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," his two masterpieces. Failure of a publishing firm and a typesetting machine, in which he had invested, made it necessary for him to lecture, for he refused bankruptcy. His debt paid, he and his family lived abroad for several years. In Italy he started "Joan of Arc," his favorite work.

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Signs of the Times
August 11, 1956

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