For most people, when asked to name famous American authors from the past, Mark Twain certainly is one of the first to come to mind. Known for his humor and his portrayal of life on the Mississippi river during the days of slavery, even those who are not fond of reading know of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. A great many of his books are geared toward children, but he also wrote travel books, and historical novels including one about Joan of Arc, in addition to numerous essays and short stories. He was sought after as a speaker and humorist, and had an interest in a great many areas, including science, technology and psychics.
Born Samuel Langhorn Clemens in Florida, Missouri, 1835, he grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which became the setting for some of his novels. According to Wikipedia, he was born shortly after the appearance of Halley's comet, and died in Redding, Connecticut in 1910 upon its return.
Twain's father died when he was eleven, and the following year, he became a printer's apprentice, working as a typesetter and journalist for the Hannibal Journal owned by his brother Orion. He also worked as a printer in other cities such as New York and Cincinnati. But the grandeur of the Mississipi beckoned him, and he began training as a steamboat "cub" pilot, getting his steamboat pilot license in 1859, a prestigious accomplishment. "Mark twain" referred to a measured depth of two fathoms, safe for a steamboat. He continued this occupation until the Civil War began. then he moved out west to join his brother in Nevada, and did other traveling both in the U.S. and abroad.
He married his true love, Olivia Langdon in 1870, and eventually they moved to Hartford Connecticut and spent the summers at Quarry Farm, the home of Olivia's sister. It was here that many of his best known works were written. Though he spent much of his life happy and well-paid, he made a bad investment which brought him to bankruptcy. In 1996, his life to a downturn when his daughter died of meningitis. his beloved wife of 34 years died in 1904, then another daughter in 1909, the same year as his friend Henry Rogers. Twain died of a heart attack the following year. What an interesting man, and what a full life he lived.
I have to admit, I never was much interested in his writings until recently. Perhaps now I appreciate them more. As I hunt through boxes of old books, I find more and more goodies by Mark Twain, which I will share with you as soon as I read them. Here is a start. Check back because this list will grow!