EIGHTH WONDER: THE THOMAS BETHUNE STORY

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Hello, historical fiction fans.  EIGHTH WONDER: THE THOMAS BETHUNE STORY is officially in the copy editing stage. It’s three weeks away from completion.  From there, I begin the process of building a website and deciding whether to self-publish or go the traditional publishing route.  I’m strongly leaning toward self-publishing.

This is my debut novel and the writing process has been a long, sometimes intimidating journey.  But I’ve been committed to bringing the incredible story of the blind slave, Thomas Bethune, known throughout the world as “Blind Tom” to the page.

Born blind and feeble, left in a sweltering smokehouse for dead, Thomas began playing Mozart at the age of three. His story, as seen through the eyes of the master who saved him, is a gripping, inspirational, and intriguing 19th century tale.

I hope you enjoy the read, and appreciate the great effort I put into sharing his captivating story with you.  Like many authors, it’s been a labor of love.

The book will be out in February 2016.  I’m excited, nervous, and proud to share the story of Thomas Bethune with the world.

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EIGHTH WONDER: THE THOMAS BETHUNE STORY

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Where have I been the past two years?  I’ve been teaching and writing.  After receiving an overwhelming response from agents regarding the book and subsequent rejection letters,  it became apparent that I (like most new authors) sent my book out too early.  I needed to learn the craft of novel writing and complete a rewrite on my book.  Since I’d never written a novel, I got a referral from an author about the L.A. workshops.  So finally, I took a workshop for EIGHTH WONDER last March (2013) with Adam Cushman from workshops L.A. and it was an amazing eye opener.  Very beneficial.  Then  most recently I took an editing workshop with the Susan Wyler (author of SOLSBURY HILL) that helped take my writing to another level!  Finally, I’ve acquired the skills necessary to properly rewrite the book.  It’s a great, tough, fulfilling, lengthy journey, this debut novel of mine, however, I know it will be worth it.

So for those asking, the goal is to have EIGHTH WONDER completed before I start my doctoral program.  Yes, I’m going to be Dr. Anita M. Cal in a few years – God willing, that is the goal.

I already know my second novel, however, getting EIGHTH WONDER finished is a priority.  This will be year 5.  It MUST get done and it will get done.  Your interest and your support has been a blessing.  It’s been overwhelming and motivating to have so much interest in a work that is still in progress.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

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Mark Twain, Antebellum, The nom de plume “Mark Twain”

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The Boys’ Life of Mark Twain

by Paine

Presented by
Authorama
Public Domain Books

XXII. “Mark Twain”

It was once when Goodman and Clemens were dining together that the latter asked to be allowed to report the proceedings of the coming legislature at Carson City. He knew nothing of such work, and Goodman hesitated. Then, remembering that Clemens would, at least, make his reports readable, whether they were parliamentary or not, he consented.

So, at the beginning of the year (1863), Samuel Clemens undertook a new and interesting course in the study of human nature–the political human nature of the frontier. There could have been no better school for him. His wit, his satire, his phrasing had full swing–his letters, almost from the beginning, were copied as choice reading up and down the Coast. He made curious blunders, at first, as to the proceedings, but his open confession of ignorance in the early letters made these blunders their chief charm. A young man named Gillespie, clerk of the House, coached him, and in return was christened “Young Jefferson’s Manual,” a title which he bore for many years.

A reporter named Rice, on a rival Virginia City paper, the “Union,” also earned for himself a title through those early letters.

Rice concluded to poke fun at the “Enterprise” reports, pointing out their mistakes. But this was not wise. Clemens, in his next contribution, admitted that Rice’s reports might be parliamentary enough, but declared his glittering technicalities were only to cover misstatements of fact. He vowed they were wholly untrustworthy, dubbed the author of them “The Unreliable,” and never thereafter referred to him by any other term. Carson and the Comstock papers delighted in this foolery, and Rice became “The Unreliable” for life. There was no real feeling between Rice and Clemens. They were always the best of friends.

But now we arrive at the story of still another name, one of vastly greater importance than either of those mentioned, for it is the name chosen by Samuel Clemens for himself. In those days it was the fashion for a writer to have a pen-name, especially for his journalistic and humorous work. Clemens felt that his “Enterprise” letters, copied up and down the Coast, needed a mark of identity.

He gave the matter a good deal of thought. He wanted something brief and strong–something that would stick in the mind. It was just at this time that news came of the death of Capt. Isaiah Sellers, the old pilot who had signed himself “Mark Twain.” Mark Twain! That was the name he wanted. It was not trivial. It had all the desired qualities. Captain Sellers would never need it again. It would do no harm to keep it alive- -to give it a new meaning in a new land. Clemens took a trip from Carson up to Virginia City.

“Joe,” he said to Goodman, “I want to sign my articles. I want to be identified to a wider audience.”

“All right, Sam. What name do you want to use Josh?”

“No, I want to sign them Mark Twain. It is an old river term, a leadsman’s call, signifying two fathoms–twelve feet. It has a richness about it; it was always a pleasant sound for a pilot to hear on a dark night; it meant safe waters.”

He did not mention that Captain Sellers had used and dropped the name. He was not proud of his part in that episode, and it was too recent for confession.

Goodman considered a moment. “Very well, Sam,” he said, “that sounds like a good name.”

A good name, indeed! Probably, if he had considered every combination of words in the language, he could not have found a better one. To-day we recognize it as the greatest nom de plume ever chosen, and, somehow, we cannot believe that the writer of “Tom Sawyer” and “Huck Finn” and “Roughing It” could have selected any other had he tried.

THE FIRST USAGE

The name Mark Twain was first signed to a Carson letter, February 2, 1863, and after that to all of Samuel Clemens’s work. The letters that had amused so many readers had taken on a new interest–the interest that goes with a name. It became immediately more than a pen-name. Clemens found he had attached a name to himself as well as to his letters. Everybody began to address him as Mark. Within a few weeks he was no longer “Sam” or “Clemens,” but Mark–Mark Twain. The Coast papers liked the sound of it. It began to mean something to their readers. By the end of that legislative session Samuel Clemens, as Mark Twain, had acquired out there on that breezy Western slope something resembling fame.

Curiously, he fails to mention any of this success in his letters home of that period. Indeed, he seldom refers to his work, but more often speaks of mining shares which he has accumulated, and their possible values. His letters are airy, full of the joy of life and of the wild doings of the frontier. Closing one of them, he says: “I have just heard five pistolshots down the street. As such things are in my line, I will go and see about it.”

And in a postscript, later, he adds:

“5 A.M.–The pistol-shots did their work well. One man, a Jackson County Missourian, shot two of my friends (police officers) through the heart–both died within three minutes. The murderer’s name is John Campbell.”

The Comstock was a great school for Mark Twain, and in “Roughing It” he has left us a faithful picture of its long-vanished glory.

More than one national character came out of the Comstock school. Senator James G. Fair was one of them, and John Mackay, both miners with pick and shovel at first, though Mackay presently became a superintendent. Mark Twain one day laughingly offered to trade jobs with Mackay.

“No,” Mackay said, “I can’t trade. My business is not worth as much as yours. I have never swindled anybody, and I don’t intend to begin now.”

For both these men the future held splendid gifts: for Mackay vast wealth, for Mark Twain the world’s applause, and neither would have long to wait.

Mark Twain, Antebellum, Tom Sawyer

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The Boys’ Life of Mark Twain
by Paine

Presented by
Authorama
Public Domain Books

V. Tom Sawyer and His Band

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In beginning “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” the author says, “Most of the adventures recorded in this book really occurred,” and he tells us that Huck Finn is drawn from life; Tom Sawyer also, though not from a single individual, being a composite of three boys whom Mark Twain had known.

The three boys were himself, almost entirely, with traces of two schoolmates, John Briggs and Will Bowen. John Briggs was also the original of Joe Harper, the “Terror of the Seas.” As for Huck Finn, the “Red-Handed,” his original was a village waif named Tom Blankenship, who needed no change for his part in the story.

The Blankenship family picked up an uncertain livelihood, fishing and hunting, and lived at first under a tree in a bark shanty, but later moved into a large, barn-like building, back of the Clemens home on Hill Street. There were three male members of the household: Old Ben, the father, shiftless and dissolute; young Ben, the eldest son–a doubtful character, with certain good traits; and Tom–that is to say, Huck, who was just as he is described in the book–a ruin of rags, a river-rat, kind of heart, and accountable for his conduct to nobody in the world. He could come and go as he chose; he never had to work or go to school; he could do all the things, good and bad, that other boys longed to do and were forbidden. To them he was the symbol of liberty; his knowledge of fishing, trapping, signs, and of the woods and river gave value to his society, while the fact that it was forbidden made it necessary to Sam Clemens’s happiness.

The Blankenships being handy to the back gate of the Hill Street house, he adopted them at sight. Their free mode of life suited him. He was likely to be there at any hour of the day, and Tom made cat-call signals at night that would bring Sam out on the shed roof at the back and down a little trellis and flight of steps to the group of boon companions, which, besides Tom, usually included John Briggs, Will Pitts, and the two younger Bowen boys. They were not malicious boys, but just mischievous, fun-loving boys–little boys of ten or twelve–rather thoughtless, being mainly bent on having a good time.

They had a wide field of action: they ranged from Holliday’s Hill on the north to the cave on the south, and over the fields and through all the woods between. They explored both banks of the river, the islands, and the deep wilderness of the Illinois shore. They could run like turkeys and swim like ducks; they could handle a boat as if born in one. No orchard or melon-patch was entirely safe from them. No dog or slave patrol was so watchful that they did not sooner or later elude it. They borrowed boats with or without the owner’s consent–it did not matter.

Most of their expeditions were harmless enough. They often cruised up to Turtle Island, about two miles above Hannibal, and spent the day feasting. There were quantities of turtles and their eggs there, and mussels, and plenty of fish. Fishing and swimming were their chief pastimes, with incidental raiding, for adventure. Bear Creek was their swimming-place by day, and the river-front at night-fall–a favorite spot being where the railroad bridge now ends. It was a good distance across to the island where, in the book, Tom Sawyer musters his pirate band, and where later Huck found Nigger Jim, but quite often in the evening they swam across to it, and when they had frolicked for an hour or more on the sandbar at the head of the island, they would swim back in the dusk, breasting the strong, steady Mississippi current without exhaustion or dread. They could swim all day, those little scamps, and seemed to have no fear. Once, during his boyhood, Sam Clemens swam across to the Illinois side, then turned and swam back again without landing, a distance of at least two miles as he had to go. He was seized with a cramp on the return trip. His legs became useless and he was obliged to make the remaining distance with his arms.

The adventures of Sam Clemens and his comrades would fill several books of the size of Tom Sawyer. Many of them are, of course, forgotten now, but those still remembered show that Mark Twain had plenty of real material.

It was not easy to get money in those days, and the boys were often without it. Once “Huck” Blankenship had the skin of a ’coon he had captured, and offered to sell it to raise capital. At Selms’s store, on Wild Cat Corner, the ’coon-skin would bring ten cents. But this was not enough. The boys thought of a plan to make it bring more. Selms’s back window was open, and the place where he kept his pelts was pretty handy. Huck went around to the front door and sold the skin for ten cents to Selms, who tossed it back on the pile. Then Huck came back and, after waiting a reasonable time, crawled in the open window, got the ’coon- skin, and sold it to Selms again. He did this several times that afternoon, and the capital of the band grew. But at last John Pierce, Selms’s clerk, said:

“Look here, Mr. Selms, there’s something wrong about this. That boy has been selling us ’coonskins all the afternoon.”

Selms went back to his pile of pelts. There were several sheep-skins and some cow-hides, but only one ’coon-skin–the one he had that moment bought.

Selms himself, in after years, used to tell this story as a great joke.

One of the boys’ occasional pastimes was to climb Holliday’s Hill and roll down big stones, to frighten the people who were driving by. Holliday’s Hill above the road was steep; a stone once started would go plunging downward and bound across the road with the deadly momentum of a shell. The boys would get a stone poised, then wait until they saw a team approaching, and, calculating the distance, would give the boulder a start. Dropping behind the bushes, they would watch the sudden effect upon the party below as the great missile shot across the road a few yards before them. This was huge sport, but they carried it too far. For at last they planned a grand climax that would surpass anything before attempted in the stone-rolling line.

A monstrous boulder was lying up there in the right position to go down- hill, once started. It would be a glorious thing to see that great stone go smashing down a hundred yards or so in front of some peaceful-minded countryman jogging along the road. Quarrymen had been getting out rock not far away and had left their picks and shovels handy. The boys borrowed the tools and went to work to undermine the big stone. They worked at it several hours. If their parents had asked them to work like that, they would have thought they were being killed.

Finally, while they were still digging, the big stone suddenly got loose and started down. They were not ready for it at all. Nobody was coming but an old colored man in a cart; their splendid stone was going to be wasted.

One could hardly call it wasted, however; they had planned for a thrilling result, and there was certainly thrill enough while it lasted. In the first place the stone nearly caught Will Bowen when it started. John Briggs had that moment quit digging and handed Will the pick. Will was about to take his turn when Sam Clemens leaped aside with a yell:

“Lookout, boys; she’s coming!”

She came. The huge boulder kept to the ground at first, then, gathering momentum, it went bounding into the air. About half-way down the hill it struck a sapling and cut it clean off. This turned its course a little, and the negro in the cart, hearing the noise and seeing the great mass come crashing in his direction, made a wild effort to whip up his mule.

The boys watched their bomb with growing interest. It was headed straight for the negro, also for a cooper-shop across the road. It made longer leaps with every bound, and, wherever it struck, fragments and dust would fly. The shop happened to be empty, but the rest of the catastrophe would call for close investigation. They wanted to fly, but they could not move until they saw the rock land. It was making mighty leaps now, and the terrified negro had managed to get exactly in its path. The boys stood holding their breath, their mouths open.

Then, suddenly, they could hardly believe their eyes; a little way above the road the boulder struck a projection, made one mighty leap into the air, sailed clear over the negro and his mule, and landed in the soft dirt beyond the road, only a fragment striking the shop, damaging, but not wrecking it. Half buried in the ground, the great stone lay there for nearly forty years; then it was broken up. It was the last rock the boys ever rolled down. Nearly sixty years later John Briggs and Mark Twain walked across Holliday’s Hill and looked down toward the river road.

Mark Twain said: “It was a mighty good thing, John, that stone acted the way it did. We might have had to pay a fancy price for that old darky I can see him yet.”[1]

It can be no harm now, to confess that the boy Sam Clemens–a pretty small boy, a good deal less than twelve at the time, and by no means large for his years–was the leader of this unhallowed band. In any case, truth requires this admission. If the band had a leader, it was Sam, just as it was Tom Sawyer in the book. They were always ready to listen to him–they would even stop fishing to do that–and to follow his plans. They looked to him for ideas and directions, and he gloried in being a leader and showing off, just as Tom did in the book. It seems almost a pity that in those far-off barefoot days he could not have looked down the years and caught a glimpse of his splendid destiny.

But of literary fame he could never have dreamed. The chief ambition– the “permanent ambition”–of every Hannibal boy was to be a pilot. The pilot in his splendid glass perch with his supreme power and princely salary was to them the noblest of all human creatures. An elder Bowen boy was already a pilot, and when he came home, as he did now and then, his person seemed almost too sacred to touch.

Next to being a pilot, Sam thought he would like to be a pirate or a bandit or a trapper-scout–something gorgeous and awe-inspiring, where his word, his nod, would still be law. The river kept his river ambition always fresh, and with the cave and the forest round about helped him to imagine those other things.

The cave was the joy of his heart. It was a real cave, not merely a hole, but a marvel of deep passages and vaulted chambers that led back into the bluffs and far down into the earth, even below the river, some said. Sam Clemens never tired of the cave. He was willing any time to quit fishing or swimming or melon-hunting for the three-mile walk, or pull, that brought them to its mystic door. With its long corridors, its royal chambers hung with stalactites, its remote hiding-places, it was exactly suitable, Sam thought, to be the lair of an outlaw, and in it he imagined and carried out adventures which his faithful followers may not always have understood, though enjoying them none the less for that reason.

In Tom Sawyer, Indian Joe dies in the cave. He did not die there in real life, but was lost there once and was very weak when they found him. He was not as bad as painted in the book, though he was dissolute and accounted dangerous; and when one night he died in reality, there came a thunder-storm so terrific that Sam Clemens at home, in bed, was certain that Satan had come in person for the half-breed’s soul. He covered his head and said his prayers with fearful anxiety lest the evil one might decide to save another trip by taking him along then.

The treasure-digging adventure in the book had this foundation in fact: It was said that two French trappers had once buried a chest of gold about two miles above Hannibal, and that it was still there. Tom Blankenship (Huck) one morning said he had dreamed just where the treasure was, and that if the boys–Sam Clemens and John Briggs–would go with him and help dig, he would divide. The boys had great faith in dreams, especially in Huck’s dreams. They followed him to a place with some shovels and picks, and he showed them just where to dig. Then he sat down under the shade of a pawpaw-bush and gave orders.

They dug nearly all day. Huck didn’t dig any himself, because he had done the dreaming, which was his share. They didn’t find the treasure that day, and next morning they took two long iron rods to push and drive into the ground until they should strike something. They struck a number of things, but when they dug down it was never the money they found. That night the boys said they wouldn’t dig any more.

But Huck had another dream. He dreamed the gold was exactly under the little pawpaw-tree. This sounded so circumstantial that they went back and dug another day. It was hot weather, too–August–and that night they were nearly dead. Even Huck gave it up then. He said there was something wrong about the way they dug.

This differs a good deal from the treasure incident in the book, but it shows us what respect the boys had for the gifts of the ragamuffin original of Huck Finn. Tom Blankenship’s brother Ben was also used, and very importantly, in the creation of our beloved Huck. Ben was considerably older, but certainly no more reputable, than Tom. He tormented the smaller boys, and they had little love for him. Yet somewhere in Ben Blankenship’s nature there was a fine, generous strain of humanity that provided Mark Twain with that immortal episode–the sheltering of Nigger Jim. This is the real story:

A slave ran off from Monroe County, Missouri, and got across the river into Illinois. Ben used to fish and hunt over there in the swamps, and one day found him. It was considered a most worthy act in those days to return a runaway slave; in fact, it was a crime not to do it. Besides, there was for this one a reward of fifty dollars–a fortune to ragged, out-cast Ben Blankenship. That money, and the honor he could acquire, must have been tempting to the waif, but it did not outweigh his human sympathy. Instead of giving him up and claiming the reward, Ben kept the runaway over there in the marshes all summer. The negro fished, and Ben carried him scraps of other food. Then, by and by, the facts leaked out. Some wood- choppers went on a hunt for the fugitive and chased him to what was called Bird Slough. There, trying to cross a drift, he was drowned.

Huck’s struggle in the book is between conscience and the law, on one side, and deep human sympathy on the other. Ben Blankenship’s struggle, supposing there was one, would be between sympathy and the offered reward. Neither conscience nor law would trouble him. It was his native humanity that made him shelter the runaway, and it must have been strong and genuine to make him resist the lure of the fifty-dollar prize.

There was another chapter to this incident. A few days after the drowning of the runaway, Sam Clemens and his band made their way to the place and were pushing the drift about, when, all at once, the negro shot up out of the water, straight and terrible, a full half-length in the air. He had gone down foremost and had been caught in the drift. The boys did not stop to investigate, but flew in terror to report their tale.

Those early days seem to have been full of gruesome things. In “The Innocents Abroad,” the author tells how he once spent a night in his father’s office and discovered there a murdered man. This was a true incident. The man had been stabbed that afternoon and carried into the house to die. Sam and John Briggs had been playing truant all day and knew nothing of the matter. Sam thought the office safer than his home, where his mother was probably sitting up for him. He climbed in by a window and lay down on the lounge, but did not sleep. Presently he noticed what appeared to be an unusual shape on the floor. He tried to turn his face to the wall and forget it, but that would not do. In agony he watched the thing until at last a square of moonlight gradually revealed a sight that he never forgot. In the book he says:

“I went away from there. I do not say that I went in any sort of hurry, but I simply went–that is sufficient. I went out of the window, and I carried the sash along with me. I did not need the sash, but it was handier to take it than to leave it, and so I took it. I was not scared, but I was considerable agitated.”

Sam was not yet twelve, for his father was no longer living when the boy had reached that age. And how many things had crowded themselves into his few brief years! We must be content here with only a few of them. Our chapter is already too long.

Ministers and deacons did not prophesy well for Sam Clemens and his mad companions. They spoke feelingly of state prison and the gallows. But the boys were a disappointing lot. Will Bowen became a fine river-pilot. Will Pitts was in due time a leading merchant and bank president. John Briggs grew into a well-to-do and highly respected farmer. Huck Finn– which is to say, Tom Blankenship–died an honored citizen and justice of the peace in a Western town. As for Sam Clemens, we shall see what he became as the chapters pass.

MARK TWAIN, ANTEBELLUM, The Clemons family

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The Boys’ Life of Mark Twain
by Paine

Presented by
Authorama
Public Domain Books

I. The Family of John Clemens

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A long time ago, back in the early years of another century, a family named Clemens moved from eastern Tennessee to eastern Missouri–from a small, unheard-of place called Pall Mall, on Wolf River, to an equally small and unknown place called Florida, on a tiny river named the Salt.

That was a far journey, in those days, for railway trains in 1835 had not reached the South and West, and John Clemens and his family traveled in an old two-horse barouche, with two extra riding-horses, on one of which rode the eldest child, Orion Clemens, a boy of ten, and on the other Jennie, a slave girl.

In the carriage with the parents were three other children–Pamela and Margaret, aged eight and five, and little Benjamin, three years old. The time was spring, the period of the Old South, and, while these youngsters did not realize that they were passing through a sort of Golden Age, they must have enjoyed the weeks of leisurely journeying toward what was then the Far West–the Promised Land.

The Clemens fortunes had been poor in Tennessee. John Marshall Clemens, the father, was a lawyer, a man of education; but he was a dreamer, too, full of schemes that usually failed. Born in Virginia, he had grown up in Kentucky, and married there Jane Lampton, of Columbia, a descendant of the English Lamptons and the belle of her region. They had left Kentucky for Tennessee, drifting from one small town to another that was always smaller, and with dwindling law-practice John Clemens in time had been obliged to open a poor little store, which in the end had failed to pay. Jennie was the last of several slaves he had inherited from his Virginia ancestors. Besides Jennie, his fortune now consisted of the horses and barouche, a very limited supply of money, and a large, unsalable tract of east Tennessee land, which John Clemens dreamed would one day bring his children fortune.

Readers of the “Gilded Age” will remember the journey of the Hawkins family from the “Knobs” of Tennessee to Missouri and the important part in that story played by the Tennessee land. Mark Twain wrote those chapters, and while they are not history, but fiction, they are based upon fact, and the picture they present of family hardship and struggle is not overdrawn. The character of Colonel Sellers, who gave the Hawkinses a grand welcome to the new home, was also real. In life he was James Lampton, cousin to Mrs. Clemens, a gentle and radiant merchant of dreams, who believed himself heir to an English earldom and was always on the verge of colossal fortune. With others of the Lampton kin, he was already settled in Missouri and had written back glowing accounts; though perhaps not more glowing than those which had come from another relative, John Quarles, brother-in-law to Mrs. Clemens, a jovial, whole-hearted optimist, well-loved by all who knew him.

It was a June evening when the Clemens family, with the barouche and the two outriders, finally arrived in Florida, and the place, no doubt, seemed attractive enough then, however it may have appeared later. It was the end of a long journey; relatives gathered with fond welcome; prospects seemed bright. Already John Quarles had opened a general store in the little town. Florida, he said, was certain to become a city. Salt River would be made navigable with a series of locks and dams. He offered John Clemens a partnership in his business.

Quarles, for that time and place, was a rich man. Besides his store he had a farm and thirty slaves. His brother-in-law’s funds, or lack of them, did not matter. The two had married sisters. That was capital enough for his hearty nature. So, almost on the moment of arrival in the new land, John Clemens once more found himself established in trade.

The next thing was to find a home. There were twenty-one houses in Florida, and none of them large. The one selected by John and Jane Clemens had two main rooms and a lean-to kitchen–a small place and lowly–the kind of a place that so often has seen the beginning of exalted lives. Christianity began with a babe in a manger; Shakespeare first saw the light in a cottage at Stratford; Lincoln entered the world by way of a leaky cabin in Kentucky, and into the narrow limits of the Clemens home in Florida, on a bleak autumn day–November 30, 1835–there was born one who under the name of Mark Twain would live to cheer and comfort a tired world.

The name Mark Twain had not been thought of then, and probably no one prophesied favorably for the new-comer, who was small and feeble, and not over-welcome in that crowded household. They named him Samuel, after his paternal grandfather, and added Langhorne for an old friend–a goodly burden for so frail a wayfarer. But more appropriately they called him “Little Sam,” or “Sammy,” which clung to him through the years of his delicate childhood.

It seems a curious childhood, as we think of it now. Missouri was a slave State–Little Sam’s companions were as often black as white. All the children of that time and locality had negroes for playmates, and were cared for by them. They were fond of their black companions and would have felt lost without them. The negro children knew all the best ways of doing things–how to work charms and spells, the best way to cure warts and heal stone-bruises, and to make it rain, and to find lost money. They knew what signs meant, and dreams, and how to keep off hoodoo; and all negroes, old and young, knew any number of weird tales.

John Clemens must have prospered during the early years of his Florida residence, for he added another slave to his household–Uncle Ned, a man of all work–and he built a somewhat larger house, in one room of which, the kitchen, was a big fireplace. There was a wide hearth and always plenty of wood, and here after supper the children would gather, with Jennie and Uncle Ned, and the latter would tell hair-lifting tales of “ha’nts,” and lonely roads, and witch-work that would make his hearers shiver with terror and delight, and look furtively over their shoulders toward the dark window-panes and the hovering shadows on the walls. Perhaps it was not the healthiest entertainment, but it was the kind to cultivate an imagination that would one day produce “Tom Sawyer” and “Huck Finn.”

True, Little Sam was very young at this period, but even a little chap of two or three would understand most of that fireside talk, and get impressions more vivid than if the understanding were complete. He was barely four when this earliest chapter of his life came to a close.

John Clemens had not remained satisfied with Florida and his undertakings there. The town had not kept its promises. It failed to grow, and the lock-and-dam scheme that would make Salt River navigable fell through. Then one of the children, Margaret, a black-eyed, rosy little girl of nine, suddenly died. This was in August, 1839. A month or two later the saddened family abandoned their Florida home and moved in wagons, with their household furnishings, to Hannibal, a Mississippi River town, thirty miles away. There was only one girl left now, Pamela, twelve years old, but there was another boy, baby Henry, three years younger than Little Sam–four boys in all.

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II. The New Home, and Uncle John Quarles’s Farm

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Hannibal was a town with prospects and considerable trade. It was slumbrous, being a slave town, but it was not dead. John Clemens believed it a promising place for business, and opened a small general store with Orion Clemens, now fifteen, a studious, dreamy lad, for clerk.

The little city was also an attractive place of residence. Mark Twain remembered it as “the white town drowsing in the sunshine of a summer morning, . . . the great Mississippi, the magnificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-wide tide along, …. the dense forest away on the other side.”

The “white town” was built against green hills, and abutting the river were bluffs–Holliday’s Hill and Lover’s Leap. A distance below the town was a cave–a wonderful cave, as every reader of Tom Sawyer knows–while out in the river, toward the Illinois shore, was the delectable island that was one day to be the meeting-place of Tom’s pirate band, and later to become the hiding-place of Huck and Nigger Jim.

The river itself was full of interest. It was the highway to the outside world. Rafts drifted by; smartly painted steamboats panted up and down, touching to exchange traffic and travelers, a never-ceasing wonder to those simple shut-in dwellers whom the telegraph and railway had not yet reached. That Hannibal was a pleasant place of residence we may believe, and what an attractive place for a boy to grow up in!

Little Sam, however, was not yet ready to enjoy the island and the cave. He was still delicate–the least promising of the family. He was queer and fanciful, and rather silent. He walked in his sleep and was often found in the middle of the night, fretting with the cold, in some dark corner. Once he heard that a neighbor’s children had the measles, and, being very anxious to catch the complaint, slipped over to the house and crept into bed with an infected playmate. Some days later, Little Sam’s relatives gathered about his bed to see him die. He confessed, long after, that the scene gratified him. However, he survived, and fell into the habit of running away, usually in the direction of the river.

“You gave me more uneasiness than any child I had,” his mother once said to him, in her old age.

“I suppose you were afraid I wouldn’t live,” he suggested.

She looked at him with the keen humor which had been her legacy to him. “No, afraid you would,” she said. Which was only her joke, for she had the tenderest of hearts, and, like all mothers, had a weakness for the child that demanded most of her mother’s care. It was chiefly on his account that she returned each year to Florida to spend the summer on John Quarles’s farm.

If Uncle John Quarles’s farm was just an ordinary Missouri farm, and his slaves just average negroes, they certainly never seemed so to Little Sam. There was a kind of glory about everything that belonged to Uncle John, and it was not all imagination, for some of the spirit of that jovial, kindly hearted man could hardly fail to radiate from his belongings.

The farm was a large one for that locality, and the farm-house was a big double log building–that is, two buildings with a roofed-over passage between, where in summer the lavish Southern meals were served, brought in on huge dishes by the negroes, and left for each one to help himself. Fried chicken, roast pig, turkeys, ducks, geese, venison just killed, squirrels, rabbits, partridges, pheasants, prairie-chickens, green corn, watermelon–a little boy who did not die on that bill of fare would be likely to get well on it, and to Little Sam the farm proved a life-saver.

It was, in fact, a heavenly place for a little boy. In the corner of the yard there were hickory and black-walnut trees, and just over the fence the hill sloped past barns and cribs to a brook, a rare place to wade, though there were forbidden pools. Cousin Tabitha Quarles, called “Puss,” his own age, was Little Sam’s playmate, and a slave girl, Mary, who, being six years older, was supposed to keep them out of mischief. There were swings in the big, shady pasture, where Mary swung her charges and ran under them until their feet touched the branches. All the woods were full of squirrels and birds and blooming flowers; all the meadows were gay with clover and butterflies, and musical with singing grasshoppers and calling larks; the fence-rows were full of wild blackberries; there were apples and peaches in the orchard, and plenty of melons ripening in the corn. Certainly it was a glorious place!

Little Sam got into trouble once with the watermelons. One of them had not ripened quite enough when he ate several slices of it. Very soon after he was seized with such terrible cramps that some of the household did not think he could live.

But his mother said: “Sammy will pull through. He was not born to die that way.” Which was a true prophecy. Sammy’s slender constitution withstood the strain. It was similarly tested more than once during those early years. He was regarded as a curious child. At times dreamy and silent, again wild-headed and noisy, with sudden impulses that sent him capering and swinging his arms into the wind until he would fall with shrieks and spasms of laughter and madly roll over and over in the grass. It is not remembered that any one prophesied very well for his future at such times.

The negro quarters on Uncle John’s farm were especially fascinating. In one cabin lived a bedridden old woman whom the children looked upon with awe. She was said to be a thousand years old, and to have talked with Moses. She had lost her health in the desert, coming out of Egypt. She had seen Pharaoh drown, and the fright had caused the bald spot on her head. She could ward off witches and dissolve spells.

Uncle Dan’l was another favorite, a kind-hearted, gentle soul, who long after, as Nigger Jim in the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn tales, would win world-wide love and sympathy.

Through that far-off, warm, golden summer-time Little Sam romped and dreamed and grew. He would return each summer to the farm during those early years. It would become a beautiful memory. His mother generally kept him there until the late fall, when the chilly evenings made them gather around the wide, blazing fireplace. Sixty years later he wrote:

“I can see the room yet with perfect clearness. I can see all its belongings, all its details; the family-room of the house, with the trundle-bed in one corner and the spinning-wheel in another–a wheel whose rising and falling wail, heard from a distance, was the mournfulest of all sounds to me and made me homesick and low- spirited and filled my atmosphere with the wandering spirits of the dead; the vast fireplace, piled high with flaming logs from whose ends a sugary sap bubbled out but did not go to waste, for we scraped it off and ate it; . . . the lazy cat spread out on the rough hearthstones, the drowsy dogs braced against the jambs, blinking; my aunt in one chimney-corner, and my uncle in the other, smoking his corn-cob pipe.”

It is hard not to tell more of the farm, for the boy who was one day going to write of Tom and Huck and the rest learned there so many things that Tom and Huck would need to know.

But he must have “book-learning,” too, Jane Clemens said. On his return to Hannibal that first summer, she decided that Little Sam was ready for school. He was five years old and regarded as a “stirring child.”

“He drives me crazy with his didoes when he’s in the house,” his mother declared, “and when he’s out of it I’m expecting every minute that some one will bring him home half dead.”

Mark Twain used to say that he had had nine narrow escapes from drowning, and it was at this early age that he was brought home one afternoon in a limp state, having been pulled from a deep hole in Bear Creek by a slave girl.

When he was restored, his mother said: “I guess there wasn’t much danger. People born to be hanged are safe in water.”

Mark Twain’s mother was the original of Aunt Polly in the story of Tom Sawyer, an outspoken, keen-witted, charitable woman, whom it was good to know. She had a heart full of pity, especially for dumb creatures. She refused to kill even flies, and punished the cat for catching mice. She would drown young kittens when necessary, but warmed the water for the purpose. She could be strict, however, with her children, if occasion required, and recognized their faults.

Little Sam was inclined to elaborate largely on fact. A neighbor once said to her: “You don’t believe anything that child says, I hope.”

“Oh yes, I know his average. I discount him ninety per cent. The rest is pure gold.”

She declared she was willing to pay somebody to take him off her hands for a part of each day and try to teach him “manners.” A certain Mrs. E. Horr was selected for the purpose.

Mrs. Horr’s school on Main Street, Hannibal, was of the old-fashioned kind. There were pupils of all ages, and everything was taught up to the third reader and long division. Pupils who cared to go beyond those studies went to a Mr. Cross, on the hill, facing what is now the public square. Mrs. Horr received twenty-five cents a week for each pupil, and the rules of conduct were read daily. After the rules came the A-B-C class, whose recitation was a hand-to-hand struggle, requiring no study- time.

The rules of conduct that first day interested Little Sam. He wondered how nearly he could come to breaking them and escape. He experimented during the forenoon, and received a warning. Another experiment would mean correction. He did not expect to be caught again; but when he least expected it he was startled by a command to go out and bring a stick for his own punishment.

This was rather dazing. It was sudden, and, then, he did not know much about choosing sticks for such a purpose. Jane Clemens had commonly used her hand. A second command was needed to start him in the right direction, and he was still dazed when he got outside. He had the forests of Missouri to select from, but choice was not easy. Everything looked too big and competent. Even the smallest switch had a wiry look. Across the way was a cooper’s shop. There were shavings outside, and one had blown across just in front of him. He picked it up, and, gravely entering the room, handed it to Mrs. Horr. So far as known, it is the first example of that humor which would one day make Little Sam famous before all the world.

It was a failure in this instance. Mrs. Horr’s comic side may have prompted forgiveness, but discipline must be maintained.

“Samuel Langhorne Clemens,” she said (he had never heard it all strung together in that ominous way), “I am ashamed of you! Jimmy Dunlap, go and bring a switch for Sammy.” And the switch that Jimmy Dunlap brought was of a kind to give Little Sam a permanent distaste for school. He told his mother at noon that he did not care for education; that he did not wish to be a great man; that his desire was to be an Indian and scalp such persons as Mrs. Horr. In her heart Jane Clemens was sorry for him, but she openly said she was glad there was somebody who could take him in hand.

Little Sam went back to school, but he never learned to like it. A school was ruled with a rod in those days, and of the smaller boys Little Sam’s back was sore as often as the next. When the days of early summer came again, when from his desk he could see the sunshine lighting the soft green of Holliday’s Hill, with the glint of the river and the purple distance beyond, it seemed to him that to be shut up with a Webster spelling-book and a cross teacher was more than human nature could bear. There still exists a yellow slip of paper upon which, in neat, old- fashioned penmanship is written:

MISS PAMELA CLEMENS

Has won the love of her teacher and schoolmates by her amiable deportment and faithful application to her various studies.

E. HORR, Teacher.

Thus we learn that Little Sam’s sister, eight years older than himself, attended the same school, and that she was a good pupil. If any such reward of merit was ever conferred on Little Sam, it has failed to come to light. If he won the love of his teacher and playmates, it was probably for other reasons.

Yet he must have learned somehow, for he could read, presently, and was a good speller for his age.

IV. Education Out of School

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On their arrival in Hannibal, the Clemens family had moved into a part of what was then the Pavey Hotel. They could not have remained there long, for they moved twice within the next few years, and again in 1844 into a new house which Judge Clemens, as he was generally called, had built on Hill Street–a house still standing, and known to-day as the Mark Twain home.

John Clemens had met varying fortunes in Hannibal. Neither commerce nor the practice of law had paid. The office of justice of the peace, to which he was elected, returned a fair income, but his business losses finally obliged him to sell Jennie, the slave girl. Somewhat later his business failure was complete. He surrendered everything to his creditors, even to his cow and household furniture, and relied upon his law practice and justice fees. However, he seems to have kept the Tennessee land, possibly because no one thought it worth taking. There had been offers for it earlier, but none that its owner would accept. It appears to have been not even considered by his creditors, though his own faith in it never died.

The struggle for a time was very bitter. Orion Clemens, now seventeen, had learned the printer’s trade and assisted the family with his wages. Mrs. Clemens took a few boarders. In the midst of this time of hardship little Benjamin Clemens died. He was ten years old. It was the darkest hour.

Then conditions slowly improved. There was more law practice and better justice fees. By 1844 Judge Clemens was able to build the house mentioned above–a plain, cheap house, but a shelter and a home. Sam Clemens–he was hardly “Little Sam” any more–was at this time nine years old. His boyhood had begun.

Heretofore he had been just a child–wild and mischievous, often exasperating, but still a child–a delicate little lad to be worried over, mothered, or spanked and put to bed. Now at nine he had acquired health, with a sturdy ability to look out for himself, as boys in such a community will. “Sam,” as they now called him, was “grown up” at nine and wise for his years. Not that he was old in spirit or manner–he was never that, even to his death–but he had learned a great number of things, many of them of a kind not taught at school.

He had learned a good deal of natural history and botany–the habits of plants, insects, and animals. Mark Twain’s books bear evidence of this early study. His plants, bugs, and animals never do the wrong things. He was learning a good deal about men, and this was often less pleasant knowledge. Once Little Sam–he was still Little Sam then–saw an old man shot down on Main Street at noon day. He saw them carry him home, lay him on the bed, and spread on his breast an open family Bible, which looked as heavy as an anvil. He thought if he could only drag that great burden away the poor old dying man would not breathe so heavily.

He saw a young emigrant stabbed with a bowie-knife by a drunken comrade, and two young men try to kill their uncle, one holding him while the other snapped repeatedly an Allen revolver, which failed to go off. Then there was the drunken rowdy who proposed to raid the “Welshman’s” house, one sultry, threatening evening–he saw that, too. With a boon companion, John Briggs, he followed at a safe distance behind. A widow with her one daughter lived there. They stood in the shadow of the dark porch; the man had paused at the gate to revile them. The boys heard the mother’s voice warning the intruder that she had a loaded gun and would kill him if he stayed where he was. He replied with a tirade, and she warned him that she would count ten–that if he remained a second longer she would fire. She began slowly and counted up to five, the man laughing and jeering. At six he grew silent, but he did not go. She counted on: seven, eight, nine–

The boys, watching from the dark roadside, felt their hearts stop. There was a long pause, then the final count, followed a second later by a gush of flame. The man dropped, his breast riddled. At the same instant the thunder-storm that had been gathering broke loose. The boys fled wildly, believing that Satan himself had arrived to claim the lost soul.

That was a day and locality of violent impulse and sudden action. Happenings such as these were not infrequent in a town like Hannibal. And there were events connected with slavery. Sam once saw a slave struck down and killed with a piece of slag, for a trifling offense. He saw an Abolitionist attacked by a mob that would have lynched him had not a Methodist minister defended him on a plea that he must be crazy. He did not remember in later years that he had ever seen a slave auction, but he added:

“I am suspicious that it was because the thing was a commonplace spectacle and not an uncommon or impressive one. I do vividly remember seeing a dozen black men and women, chained together, lying in a group on the pavement, waiting shipment to a Southern slave- market. They had the saddest faces I ever saw.”

Readers of Mark Twain’s books–especially the stories of Huck and Tom, will hardly be surprised to hear of these early happenings that formed so large a portion of the author’s early education. Sam, however, did not regard them as education–not at the time. They got into his dreams. He set them down as warnings, or punishments, intended to give him a taste for a better life. He felt that it was his conscience that made such things torture him. That was his mother’s idea, and he had a high respect for her opinion in such matters. Among other things, he had seen her one day defy a vicious and fierce Corsican–a common terror in the town–who had chased his grown daughter with a heavy rope in his hand, declaring he would wear it out on her. Cautious citizens got out of the way, but Jane Clemens opened her door to the fugitive; then, instead of rushing in and closing it, spread her arms across it, barring the way. The man raved, and threatened her with the rope, but she did not flinch or show any sign of fear. She stood there and shamed and defied him until he slunk off, crestfallen and conquered. Any one as brave as his mother must have a perfect conscience, Sam thought, and would know how to take care of it. In the darkness he would say his prayers, especially when a thunderstorm was coming, and vow to begin a better life. He detested Sunday-school as much as he did day-school, and once his brother Orion, who was moral and religious, had threatened to drag him there by the collar, but, as the thunder got louder, Sam decided that he loved Sunday-school and would go the next Sunday without being invited.

Sam’s days were not all disturbed by fierce events. They were mostly filled with pleasanter things. There were picnics sometimes, and ferryboat excursions, and any day one could roam the woods, or fish, alone or in company. The hills and woods around Hannibal were never disappointing. There was the cave with its marvels. There was Bear Creek, where he had learned to swim. He had seen two playmates drown; twice, himself, he had been dragged ashore, more dead than alive; once by a slave girl, another time by a slave man–Neal Champ, of the Pavey Hotel. But he had persevered, and with success. He could swim better than any playmate of his age.

It was the river that he cared for most. It was the pathway that led to the great world outside. He would sit by it for hours and dream. He would venture out on it in a quietly borrowed boat, when he was barely strong enough to lift an oar. He learned to know all its moods and phases.

More than anything in the world he hungered to make a trip on one of the big, smart steamers that were always passing. “You can hardly imagine what it meant,” he reflected, once, “to a boy in those days, shut in as we were, to see those steamboats pass up and down, and never take a trip on them.”

It was at the mature age of nine that he found he could endure this no longer. One day when the big packet came down and stopped at Hannibal, he slipped aboard and crept under one of the boats on the upper deck. Then the signal-bells rang, the steamer backed away and swung into midstream; he was really going at last. He crept from beneath the boat and sat looking out over the water and enjoying the scenery. Then it began to rain–a regular downpour. He crept back under the boat, but his legs were outside, and one of the crew saw him. He was dragged out and at the next stop set ashore. It was the town of Louisiana, where there were Lampton relatives, who took him home. Very likely the home-coming was not entirely pleasant, though a “lesson,” too, in his general education.

And always, each summer, there was the farm, where his recreation was no longer mere girl plays and swings, with a colored nurse following about, but sports with his older boy cousins, who went hunting with the men, for partridges by day and for ’coons and ’possums by night. Sometimes the little boy followed the hunters all night long, and returned with them through the sparkling and fragrant morning, fresh, hungry, and triumphant, just in time for breakfast. So it is no wonder that Little Sam, at nine, was no longer Little Sam, but plain Sam Clemens, and grown up. If there were doubtful spots in his education–matters related to smoking and strong words–it is also no wonder, and experience even in these lines was worth something in a book like Tom Sawyer.

The boy Sam Clemens was not a particularly attractive lad. He was rather undersized, and his head seemed too large for his body. He had a mass of light sandy hair, which he plastered down to keep from curling. His eyes were keen and blue and his features rather large. Still, he had a fair, delicate complexion when it was not blackened by grime and tan; a gentle, winning manner; a smile and a slow way of speaking that made him a favorite with his companions. He did not talk much, and was thought to be rather dull–was certainly so in most of his lessons–but, for some reason, he never spoke that every playmate in hearing did not stop, whatever he was doing, to listen. Perhaps it would be a plan for a new game or lark; perhaps it was something droll; perhaps it was just a casual remark that his peculiar drawl made amusing. His mother always referred to his slow fashion of speech as “Sammy’s long talk.” Her own speech was even more deliberate, though she seemed not to notice it. Sam was more like his mother than the others. His brother, Henry Clemens, three years younger, was as unlike Sam as possible. He did not have the “long talk,” and was a handsome, obedient little fellow whom the mischievous Sam loved to tease. Henry was to become the Sid of Tom Sawyer, though he was in every way a finer character than Sid. With the death of little Benjamin, Sam and Henry had been drawn much closer together, and, in spite of Sam’s pranks, loved each other dearly. For the pranks were only occasional, and Sam’s love for Henry was constant. He fought for him oftener than with him.

Many of the home incidents in the Tom Sawyer book really happened. Sam did clod Henry for getting him into trouble about the colored thread with which he sewed his shirt when he came home from swimming; he did inveigle a lot of boys into whitewashing a fence for him; he did give painkiller to Peter, the cat. As for escaping punishment for his misdeeds, as described in the book, this was a daily matter, and his methods suited the occasions. For, of course, Tom Sawyer was Sam Clemens himself, almost entirely, as most readers of that book have imagined. However, we must have another chapter for Tom Sawyer and his doings–the real Tom and his real doings with those graceless, lovable associates, Joe Harper and Huckleberry Finn.

MARK TWAIN, ANTEBELLUM, Part 2

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The Boys’ Life of Mark Twain
by Paine

Presented by
Authorama
Public Domain Books

Mark Twain meets his wife

XXVIII. Olivia Langdon. Work on the “Innocents”

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Certainly this was a momentous period in Mark Twain’s life. It was a time of great events, and among them was one which presently would come to mean more to him than all the rest–the beginning of his acquaintance with Olivia Langdon.

One evening in late December when Samuel Clemens had come to New York to visit his old “Quaker City” room-mate, Dan Slote, he found there other ship comrades, including Jack Van Nostrand and Charlie Langdon. It was a joyful occasion, but one still happier followed it. Young Langdon’s father and sister Olivia were in New York, and an evening or two later the boy invited his distinguished “Quaker City” shipmate to dine with them at the old St. Nicholas Hotel. We may believe that Samuel Clemens went willingly enough. He had never forgotten the September day in the Bay of Smyrna when he had first seen the sweet-faced miniature–now, at last he looked upon the reality.

Long afterward he said: “It was forty years ago. From that day to this she has never been out of my mind.”

Charles Dickens gave a reading that night at Steinway Hall. The Langdons attended, and Samuel Clemens with them. He recalled long after that Dickens wore a black velvet coat with a fiery-red flower in his buttonhole, and that he read the storm scene from “David Copperfield”– the death of James Steerforth; but he remembered still more clearly the face and dress and the slender, girlish figure of Olivia Langdon at his side.

Olivia Langdon was twenty-two years old at this time, delicate as the miniature he had seen, though no longer in the fragile health of her girlhood. Gentle, winning, lovable, she was the family idol, and Samuel Clemens was no less her worshiper from the first moment of their meeting.

Miss Langdon, on her part, was at first rather dazed by the strange, brilliant, handsome man, so unlike anything she had known before. When he had gone, she had the feeling that something like a great meteor had crossed her sky. To her brother, who was eager for her good opinion of his celebrity, she admitted her admiration, if not her entire approval. Her father had no doubts. With a keen sense of humor and a deep knowledge of men, Jervis Langdon was from that first evening the devoted champion of Mark Twain. Clemens saw Miss Langdon again during the holidays, and by the week’s end he had planned to visit Elmira–soon. But fate managed differently. He was not to see Elmira for the better part of a year.

He returned to his work in Washington–the preparation of the book and his newspaper correspondence. It was in connection with the latter that he first met General Grant, then not yet President. The incident, characteristic of both men, is worth remembering. Mark Twain had called by permission, elated with the prospect of an interview. But when he looked into the square, smileless face of the soldier he found himself, for the first time in his life, without anything particular to say. Grant nodded slightly and waited. His caller wished something would happen. It did. His inspiration returned.

“General,” he said, “I seem to be slightly embarrassed. Are you?”

Grant’s severity broke up in laughter. There were no further difficulties.

Work on the book did not go so well. There were many distractions in Washington, and Clemens did not like the climate there. Then he found the “Alta” had copyrighted his letters and were reluctant to allow him to use them. He decided to sail at once for San Francisco. If he could arrange the “Alta” matter, he would finish his work there. He did, in fact, carry out this plan, and all difficulties vanished on his arrival. His old friend Colonel McComb obtained for him free use of the “Alta” letters. The way was now clear for his book. His immediate need of funds, however, induced him to lecture. In May he wrote Bliss:

“I lectured here on the trip (the Quaker City excursion) the other night; $1,600 in gold in the house; every seat taken and paid for before night.”

He settled down to work now with his usual energy, editing and rewriting, and in two months had the big manuscript ready for delivery.

Mark Twain’s friends urged him to delay his return to “the States” long enough to make a lecture tour through California and Nevada. He must give his new lecture, they told him, to his old friends. He agreed, and was received at Virginia City, Carson, and elsewhere like a returning conqueror. He lectured again in San Francisco just before sailing.

The announcement of his lecture was highly original. It was a hand-bill supposed to have been issued by the foremost citizens of San Francisco, a mock protest against his lecture, urging him to return to New York without inflicting himself on them again. On the same bill was printed his reply. In it he said:

“I will torment the people if I want to. It only costs them $1 apiece, and, if they can’t stand it, what do they stay here for?”

He promised positively to sail on July 6th if they would let him talk just this once.

There was a good deal more of this drollery on the bill, which ended with the announcement that he would appear at the Mercantile Library on July 2d. It is unnecessary to say that the place was jammed on that evening. It was probably the greatest lecture event San Francisco has ever known. Four days later, July 6, 1868, Mark Twain sailed, via Aspinwall, for New York, and on the 28th delivered the manuscript of “The Innocents Abroad, or the New Pilgrim’s Progress,” to his Hartford publisher.

Mark Twain, Antebellum Literary Figure

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910),[3] well-known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Twain is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which has been called “the Great American Novel“,[4] and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). He is extensively quoted.[5][6] Twain was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.

Twain was very popular, and his keen wit and incisive satire earned praise from both critics and peers. Upon his death he was lauded as the “greatest American humorist of his age”,[7] and William Faulkner called Twain “the father of American literature“.[8]

Contents

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Biography

Early life

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835, to a Tennessee country merchant, John Marshall Clemens (August 11, 1798 – March 24, 1847), and Jane Lampton Clemens (June 18, 1803 – October 27, 1890).[9] John Marshall Clemens was the first of five children born to Samuel B Clemens and Pamela Goggin (1775–1844), who married on October 29, 1797 in Bedford County, Virginia.[10]

Twain was the sixth of seven children. Only three of his siblings survived childhood: his brother Orion (July 17, 1825 – December 11, 1897); Henry, who died in a riverboat explosion (July 13, 1838 – June 21, 1858); and Pamela (September 19, 1827 – August 31, 1904). His sister Margaret (May 31, 1830 – August 17, 1839) died when Twain was three years old, and his brother Benjamin (June 8, 1832 – May 12, 1842) died three years later. Another brother, Pleasant (1828–1829), died at the age of six months.[11] Twain was born two weeks after the closest approach to Earth of Halley’s Comet. On 4 December 1985, the United States Postal Service issued a stamped envelope for “Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet.” [12]

When Twain was four, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri,[13] a port town on the Mississippi River that served as the inspiration for the fictional town of St. Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.[14] At that time, Missouri was a slave state, and young Twain became familiar with the institution of slavery, a theme he would later explore in his writing.

In March 1847, when Twain was 11, his father died of pneumonia.[15] The next year, he became a printer’s apprentice. In 1851, he began working as a typesetter and contributor of articles and humorous sketches for the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper owned by his brother Orion. When he was 18, he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. He joined the union and educated himself in public libraries in the evenings, finding wider sources of information than he would have at a conventional school.[16] At 22, Twain returned to Missouri.

The library of the Mark Twain House, which features hand-stenciled paneling, fireplaces from India, embossed wallpapers and an enormous hand-carved mantel that the Twains purchased in Scotland (HABS photo)

On a voyage to New Orleans down the Mississippi, the steamboat pilot, Horace E. Bixby, inspired Twain to pursue a career as a steamboat pilot; it was a richly rewarding occupation with wages set at $250 per month,[17] roughly equivalent to $72,400 a year today. A steamboat pilot needed a vast knowledge of the ever-changing river to be able to stop at the hundreds of ports and wood-lots along the river banks. Twain meticulously studied 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of the Mississippi for more than two years before he received his steamboat pilot license in 1859.

While training, Samuel convinced his younger brother Henry to work with him. Henry was killed on June 21, 1858, when the steamboat he was working on, the Pennsylvania, exploded. Twain had foreseen this death in a detailed dream a month earlier,[18] which inspired his interest in parapsychology; he was an early member of the Society for Psychical Research.[19] Twain was guilt-stricken and held himself responsible for the rest of his life. He continued to work on the river and served as a river pilot until the American Civil War broke out in 1861 and traffic along the Mississippi was curtailed.

Missouri was a slave state, considered by many to be part of the South, and was represented in both the Confederate and Federal governments during the Civil War. Years later, Twain wrote a sketch, “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed“, which claimed he and his friends had been Confederate volunteers for two weeks before disbanding their company.[20]

Travels

Twain in 1867

Twain joined his brother, Orion, who in 1861 had been appointed secretary to James W. Nye, the governor of Nevada Territory, and headed west. Twain and his brother traveled for more than two weeks on a stagecoach across the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, visiting the Mormon community in Salt Lake City along the way. These experiences inspired Roughing It, and provided material for The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Twain’s journey ended in the silver-mining town of Virginia City, Nevada, where he became a miner.[20] Twain failed as a miner and found work at a Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise.[21] It was here that he first used his famous pen name. On February 3, 1863, he signed a humorous travel account “Letter From Carson – re: Joe Goodman; party at Gov. Johnson’s; music” with “Mark Twain”.[22]

Twain moved to San Francisco, California in 1864, where he continued working as a journalist. He met other writers, such as Bret Harte, Artemus Ward, and Dan DeQuille. The young poet Ina Coolbrith may have romanced him.[23]

His first great success as a writer came when his humorous tall tale, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, was published in the New York Saturday Press on November 18, 1865. It was an immediate hit and brought him national attention. A year later, he traveled to the Sandwich Islands (present-day Hawaii) as a reporter for the Sacramento Union. His travelogues were popular and became the basis for his first lectures.[24]

In 1867, a local newspaper funded a trip to the Mediterranean. During his tour of Europe and the Middle East, he wrote a popular collection of travel letters, which were later compiled as The Innocents Abroad in 1869. It was on this trip that he met his future brother-in-law.

Marriage and children

Charles Langdon showed a picture of his sister, Olivia, to Twain; Twain claimed to have fallen in love at first sight. The two met in 1868, were engaged a year later, and married in February 1870 in Elmira, New York.[24] She came from a “wealthy but liberal family”, and through her he met abolitionists, “socialists, principled atheists and activists for women’s rights and social equality“, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and the writer and utopian socialist William Dean Howells,[25] who became a longtime friend.

The couple lived in Buffalo, New York from 1869 to 1871. Twain owned a stake in the Buffalo Express newspaper, and worked as an editor and writer. Their son Langdon died of diphtheria at 19 months.

In 1871,[26] Twain moved his family to Hartford, Connecticut, where starting in 1873, he arranged the building of a home (local admirers saved it from demolition in 1927 and eventually turned it into a museum focused on him). While living there Olivia gave birth to three daughters: Susy (1872–1896), Clara (1874–1962)[27] and Jean (1880–1909). The couple’s marriage lasted 34 years, until Olivia’s death in 1904.

During his seventeen years in Hartford (1874–1891), Twain wrote many of his best-known works: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889).

Twain made a second tour of Europe, described in the 1880 book A Tramp Abroad. His tour included a stay in Heidelberg from May 6 until July 23, 1878, and a visit to London.

Love of science and technology

Twain in the lab of Nikola Tesla, early 1894

He was fascinated with science and scientific inquiry. He developed a close and lasting friendship with Nikola Tesla, and the two spent much time together in Tesla’s laboratory.

Twain patented three inventions, including an “Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments” (to replace suspenders) and a history trivia game.[28] Most commercially successful was a self-pasting scrapbook; a dried adhesive on the pages only needed to be moistened before use.

His book A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court features a time traveler from contemporary America, using his knowledge of science to introduce modern technology to Arthurian England. This type of storyline would later become a common feature of the science fiction sub-genre, Alternate history.

He appeared as himself in The Prince and the Pauper (1905), a two-reel short film that features the “only known celluloid footage of Mark Twain”.[29]

Financial troubles

Twain made a substantial amount of money through his writing, but he squandered much of it in bad investments, mostly in new inventions, particularly the Paige typesetting machine. It was a beautifully engineered mechanical marvel that amazed viewers when it worked, but was prone to breakdowns. Twain spent $300,000 (equal to $7,518,462 today) on it between 1880 and 1894 [30], but before it could be perfected, it was made obsolete by the Linotype. He lost not only the bulk of his book profits but also a large portion of the inheritance of his wife.[31]

Twain also lost money through his publishing house, which enjoyed initial success selling the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant but went broke soon after, losing money on the idea that the general public would be interested in a biography of Pope Leo XIII. Fewer than two hundred copies were sold.[31]

Twain’s writings and lectures, combined with the help of a new friend, enabled him to recover financially.[32] In 1893, he began a 15-year-long friendship with financier Henry Huttleston Rogers, a principal of Standard Oil. Rogers first made Twain file for bankruptcy. Then Rogers had Twain transfer the copyrights on his written works to his wife, Olivia, to prevent creditors from gaining possession of them. Finally, Rogers took absolute charge of Twain’s money until all the creditors were paid.

Twain embarked on an around-the-world lecture tour in 1894[33] to pay off his creditors in full, despite the fact that he was no longer under any legal obligation to do so.[34] In mid-1900, he was the guest of newspaper proprietor Hugh Gilzean-Reid at Dollis Hill House. Twain wrote of Dollis Hill that he had “never seen any place that was so satisfactorily situated, with its noble trees and stretch of country, and everything that went to make life delightful, and all within a biscuit’s throw of the metropolis of the world”.[35] He returned to America in 1900, having earned enough to pay off his debts.

Speaking engagements

Twain was in demand as a featured speaker, and appeared before a number of men’s clubs, including the White Friars, the Vagabonds, the Authors, the Monday Evening Club of Hartford, and the Beefsteak Club. He was made an honorary member of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco. In the late 1890s, he spoke to the Savage Club in London and was elected honorary member. When told that only three men had been so honored, including the Prince of Wales, he replied “Well, it must make the Prince feel mighty fine.”[36] In 1897, Twain spoke to the Concordia Press Club in Vienna as a special guest, following diplomat Charlemagne Tower. In German, to the great amusement of the assemblage, Twain delivered the speech “Die Schrecken der deutschen Sprache” (“The Horrors of the German Language”).[37]

Later life

Mark Twain in his gown (scarlet with grey sleeves and facings) for his D.Litt. degree, awarded to him by Oxford University.

Twain passed through a period of deep depression, which began in 1896 when his daughter Susy died of meningitis. Olivia’s death in 1904 and Jean’s on December 24, 1909, deepened his gloom.[38] On May 20, 1909, his close friend Henry Rogers died suddenly.

In 1906, Twain began his autobiography in the North American Review. In April, Twain heard that his friend Ina Coolbrith had lost nearly all she owned in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and he volunteered a few autographed portrait photographs to be sold for her benefit. To further aid Coolbrith, George Wharton James visited Twain in New York and arranged for a new portrait session. Twain said four of the resulting images were the finest ones ever taken of him.[39]

Twain formed a club in 1906 for girls he viewed as surrogate granddaughters, the Angel Fish and Aquarium Club. The dozen or so members ranged in age from 10 to 16. Twain exchanged letters with his “Angel Fish” girls and invited them to concerts and the theatre and to play games. Twain wrote in 1908 that the club was his “life’s chief delight.”[40]

Oxford University awarded Twain an honorary doctorate in letters (D.Litt.) in 1907.

In 1909, Twain is quoted as saying:[41]

I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’

His prediction was accurate – Twain died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut, one day after the comet’s closest approach to Earth.

Upon hearing of Twain’s death, President William Howard Taft said:[42][43]

“Mark Twain gave pleasure – real intellectual enjoyment – to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come… His humor was American, but he was nearly as much appreciated by Englishmen and people of other countries as by his own countrymen. He has made an enduring part of American literature.”

Mark Twain headstone in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Twain’s funeral was at the “Old Brick” Presbyterian Church in New York.[44] He is buried in his wife’s family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York. His grave is marked by a 12-foot (i.e., two fathoms, or “mark twain”) monument, placed there by his surviving daughter, Clara.[45] There is also a smaller headstone.

Writing

Overview

Twain began his career writing light, humorous verse, but evolved into a chronicler of the vanities, hypocrisies and murderous acts of mankind. At mid-career, with Huckleberry Finn, he combined rich humor, sturdy narrative and social criticism. Twain was a master at rendering colloquial speech and helped to create and popularize a distinctive American literature built on American themes and language. Many of Twain’s works have been suppressed at times for various reasons. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been repeatedly restricted in American high schools, not least for its frequent use of the word “nigger“, which was in common usage in the pre-Civil War period in which the novel was set.

A complete bibliography of his works is nearly impossible to compile because of the vast number of pieces written by Twain (often in obscure newspapers) and his use of several different pen names. Additionally, a large portion of his speeches and lectures have been lost or were not written down; thus, the collection of Twain’s works is an ongoing process. Researchers rediscovered published material by Twain as recently as 1995.[31]

Early journalism and travelogues

Cabin in which Twain wrote Jumping Frog of Calaveras, located on Jackass Hill in Tuolumne County.[46] Historical marker and interior view available.

Twain’s first important work, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County“, was first published in the New York Saturday Press on November 18, 1865. The only reason it was published there was that his story arrived too late to be included in a book Artemus Ward was compiling featuring sketches of the wild American West.

After this burst of popularity, Twain was commissioned by the Sacramento Union to write letters about his travel experiences for publication in the newspaper, his first of which was to ride the steamer Ajax in its maiden voyage to Hawaii, referred to at the time as the Sandwich Islands. These humorous letters proved the genesis to his work with the San Francisco Alta California newspaper, which designated him a traveling correspondent for a trip from San Francisco to New York City via the Panama isthmus. All the while, Twain was writing letters meant for publishing back and forth, chronicling his experiences with his burlesque humor. On June 8, 1867, Twain set sail on the pleasure cruiser Quaker City for five months. This trip resulted in The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrims’ Progress.

This book is a record of a pleasure trip. If it were a record of a solemn scientific expedition it would have about it the gravity, that profundity, and that impressive incomprehensibility which are so proper to works of that kind, and withal so attractive. Yet not withstanding it is only a record of a picnic, it has a purpose, which is, to suggest to the reader how he would be likely to see Europe and the East if he looked at them with his own eyes instead of the eyes of those who traveled in those countries before him. I make small pretense of showing anyone how he ought to look at objects of interest beyond the sea – other books do that, and therefore, even if I were competent to do it, there is no need.

In 1872, Twain published a second piece of travel literature, Roughing It, as a semi-sequel to Innocents. Roughing It is a semi-autobiographical account of Twain’s journey to Nevada and his subsequent life in the American West. The book lampoons American and Western society in the same way that Innocents critiqued the various countries of Europe and the Middle East. Twain’s next work kept Roughing It’s focus on American society but focused more on the events of the day. Entitled The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, it was not a travel piece, as his previous two books had been, and it was his first attempt at writing a novel. The book is also notable because it is Twain’s only collaboration; it was written with his neighbor Charles Dudley Warner.

Twain’s next two works drew on his experiences on the Mississippi River. Old Times on the Mississippi, a series of sketches published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1875, featured Twain’s disillusionment with Romanticism. Old Times eventually became the starting point for Life on the Mississippi.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

Twain’s next major publication was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which drew on his youth in Hannibal. The character of Tom Sawyer was modeled on Twain as a child, with traces of two schoolmates, John Briggs and Will Bowen. The book also introduced in a supporting role the character of Huckleberry Finn, based on Twain’s boyhood friend Tom Blankenship.

The Prince and the Pauper, despite a storyline that is omnipresent in film and literature today, was not as well received. Telling the story of two boys born on the same day who are physically identical, the book acts as a social commentary as the prince and pauper switch places. Pauper was Twain’s first attempt at fiction, and blame for its shortcomings is usually put on Twain for having not been experienced enough in English society, and also on the fact that it was produced after a massive hit. In between the writing of Pauper, Twain had started Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which he consistently had problems completing[47]) and started and completed another travel book, A Tramp Abroad, which follows Twain as he traveled through central and southern Europe.

Twain’s next major published work, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, solidified him as a noteworthy American writer. Some have called it the first Great American Novel, and the book has become required reading in many schools throughout the United States. Huckleberry Finn was an offshoot from Tom Sawyer and had a more serious tone than its predecessor. The main premise behind Huckleberry Finn is the young boy’s belief in the right thing to do even though the majority of society believes that it was wrong. Four hundred manuscript pages of Huckleberry Finn were written in mid-1876, right after the publication of Tom Sawyer. Some accounts have Twain taking seven years off after his first burst of creativity, eventually finishing the book in 1883. Other accounts have Twain working on Huckleberry Finn in tandem with The Prince and the Pauper and other works in 1880 and other years. The last fifth of Huckleberry Finn is subject to much controversy. Some say that Twain experienced, as critic Leo Marx puts it, a “failure of nerve”. Ernest Hemingway once said of Huckleberry Finn:

If you read it, you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating.

Hemingway also wrote in the same essay:

All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn..[48]

Near the completion of Huckleberry Finn, Twain wrote Life on the Mississippi, which is said to have heavily influenced the former book.[31] The work recounts Twain’s memories and new experiences after a 22-year absence from the Mississippi. In it, he also states that “Mark Twain” was the call made when the boat was in safe water – two fathoms.

Later writing

After his great work, Twain began turning to his business endeavors to keep them afloat and to stave off the increasing difficulties he had been having from his writing projects. Twain focused on President Ulysses S. Grant‘s Memoirs for his fledgling publishing company, finding time in between to write “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed” for The Century Magazine. This piece detailed his two-week stint in a Confederate militia during the Civil War. The name of his publishing company was Charles L. Webster & Company, which he owned with Charles L. Webster, his nephew by marriage.[49]

Twain in his old age

Twain next focused on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which featured him making his first big pronouncement of disappointment with politics. Written with the same “historical fiction” style of The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee showed the absurdities of political and social norms by setting them in the court of King Arthur. The book was started in December 1885, then shelved a few months later until the summer of 1887, and eventually finished in the spring of 1889.

Twain had begun to furiously write articles and commentary with diminishing returns to pay the bills and keep his business projects afloat, but it was not enough. He filed for bankruptcy in 1894.

His next large-scale work, Pudd’nhead Wilson, was written rapidly, as Twain was desperately trying to stave off the bankruptcy. From November 12 to December 14, 1893, Twain wrote 60,000 words for the novel.[31] Critics have pointed to this rushed completion as the cause of the novel’s rough organization and constant disruption of continuous plot. There were parallels between this work and Twain’s financial failings, notably his desire to escape his current constraints and become a different person.

Like The Prince and the Pauper, this novel also contains the tale of two boys born on the same day who switch positions in life. Considering the circumstances of Twain’s birth and Halley’s Comet, and his strong belief in the paranormal, it is not surprising that these “mystic” connections recur throughout his writing.

The actual title is not clearly established. It was first published serially in Century Magazine, and when it was finally published in book form, Pudd’nhead Wilson appeared as the main title; however, the disputed “subtitles” make the entire title read: The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy of The Extraordinary Twins.[31]

Twain’s next venture was a work of straight fiction that he called Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc and dedicated to his wife. Twain had long said that this was the work of which he was most proud, despite the criticism he received for it. The book had been a dream of his since childhood; he claimed that he had found a manuscript detailing the life of Joan of Arc when he was an adolescent.[31] This was another piece which Twain was convinced would save his publishing company. His financial adviser, Henry Huttleston Rogers, squashed that idea and got Twain out of that business altogether, but the book was published nonetheless.

During this time of dire financial straits, Twain published several literary reviews in newspapers to help make ends meet. He famously derided James Fenimore Cooper in his article detailing Cooper’s “Literary Offenses”. He became an extremely outspoken critic not only of other authors, but also of other critics, suggesting that before praising Cooper’s work, Professors Loundsbury, Brander Matthes, and Wilkie Collins “ought to have read some of it”.[50]

Other authors to fall under Twain’s attack during this time period (beginning around 1890 until his death) were George Eliot, Jane Austen, and Robert Louis Stevenson.[51] In addition to providing a source for the “tooth and claw” style of literary criticism, Twain outlines in several letters and essays what he considers to be “quality writing”. He places particular emphasis on concision, utility of word choice, and realism (he complains that Cooper’s Deerslayer purports to be realistic but has several shortcomings). Ironically, several of his works were later criticized for lack of continuity (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) and organization (Pudd’nhead Wilson).

Twain’s wife died in 1904 while the couple were staying at the Villa di Quarto in Florence, and after an appropriate time Twain allowed himself to publish some works that his wife, a de facto editor and censor throughout his life, had looked down upon. Of these works, The Mysterious Stranger, depicting various visits of Satan to the Earth, is perhaps the best known. This particular work was not published in Twain’s lifetime. There were three versions found in his manuscripts made between 1897 and 1905: the Hannibal, Eseldorf, and Print Shop versions. Confusion between the versions led to an extensive publication of a jumbled version, and only recently have the original versions as Twain wrote them become available.

Twain’s last work was his autobiography, which he dictated and thought would be most entertaining if he went off on whims and tangents in non-sequential order. Some archivists and compilers had a problem with this and rearranged the biography into a more conventional form, thereby eliminating some of Twain’s humor and the flow of the book.

Friendship with Henry H. Rogers

While Twain credited Henry H. Rogers, a Standard Oil executive, with saving him from financial ruin, their close friendship in their later years was mutually beneficial. When Twain lost three of his four children and his beloved wife, the Rogers family increasingly became a surrogate family for him. He became a frequent guest at their townhouse in New York City, their 48-room summer home in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and aboard their steam yacht, the Kanawha.

A late life friendship for each, Mark Twain and Henry Huttleston Rogers in 1908

The two men introduced each other to their acquaintances. Twain was an admirer of the remarkable deafblind girl Helen Keller. He first met Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan at a party in the home of Laurence Hutton in New York City in the winter of 1894. Twain introduced them to Rogers, who, with his wife, paid for Keller’s education at Radcliffe College. It was Twain who is credited with labeling Sullivan, Keller’s governess and companion, a “miracle worker”. His choice of words later became inspiration for the title of William Gibson‘s play and film adaptation, The Miracle Worker. Twain also introduced Rogers to journalist Ida M. Tarbell, who interviewed the robber baron for a muckraking expose that led indirectly to the breakup of the Standard Oil Trust. On cruises aboard the Kanawha, Twain and Rogers were joined at frequent intervals by Booker T. Washington, the famed former slave who had become a leading educator.

While the two famous old men were widely regarded as drinking and poker buddies, they also exchanged letters when apart, and this was often since each traveled a great deal. Unlike Rogers’ personal files, which have never become public, these insightful letters were published.[52] The written exchanges between the two men demonstrate Twain’s well-known sense of humor and, more surprisingly, Rogers’ sense of fun, providing a rare insight into the private side of the robber baron.

In April 1907, Twain and Rogers cruised to the opening of the Jamestown Exposition in Virginia. Twain’s public popularity was such that many fans took boats out to the Kanawha at anchor in hopes of getting a glimpse of him. As the gathering of boats around the yacht became a safety hazard, he finally obliged by coming on deck and waving to the crowds.

Because of poor weather conditions, the steam yacht was delayed for several days from venturing into the Atlantic Ocean. Rogers and some of the others in his party returned to New York by rail; Twain disliked train travel and so elected to wait and return on the Kanawha. However, reporters lost track of his whereabouts; when he failed to return to New York City as scheduled, The New York Times speculated that he might have been “lost at sea”. Upon arriving safely in New York and learning of this, the humorist wrote a satirical article about the episode, offering to “…make an exhaustive investigation of this report that I have been lost at sea. If there is any foundation for the report, I will at once apprise the anxious public”.[53] This bore similarities to an earlier event in 1897 when he made his famous remark “The report of my death was an exaggeration”, after a reporter was sent to investigate whether he had died. In fact, it was his cousin who was seriously ill.

Later that year, Twain and Rogers’s son, Henry Jr., returned to the Jamestown Exposition aboard the Kanawha. The humorist helped host Robert Fulton Day on September 23, 1907, celebrating the centennial of Fulton’s invention of the steamboat. Twain, filling in for ailing former U.S. President Grover Cleveland, introduced Rear Admiral Purnell Harrington. Twain was met with a five-minute standing ovation; members of the audience cheered and waved their hats and umbrellas. Deeply touched, Twain said, “When you appeal to my head, I don’t feel it; but when you appeal to my heart, I do feel it”.[54]

In April 1909, the two old friends returned to Norfolk, Virginia for the banquet in honor of Rogers and his newly completed Virginian Railway. Twain was the keynote speaker in one of his last public appearances, and was widely quoted in newspapers across the country.[55]

A month later, Twain was en route from Connecticut to visit his friend in New York City when Rogers died suddenly on May 20, 1909. Twain arrived at Grand Central Station to be met by his daughter with the news. Stricken with grief, he uncustomarily avoided news reporters who had gathered, saying only “This is terrible…I cannot talk about it”. Two days later, he served as an honorary pallbearer at the funeral in New York City. However, he declined to join the funeral party on the train ride for the interment at Fairhaven. He said “I cannot bear to travel with my friend and not converse”.

Political views

Although Twain remained neutral during the Civil War, his views became more radical as he grew older. He acknowledged that his views changed and developed over his life, referring to one of his favorite works:

When I finished Carlyle‘s French Revolution in 1871, I was a Girondin; every time I have read it since, I have read it differently – being influenced and changed, little by little, by life and environment … and now I lay the book down once more, and recognize that I am a Sansculotte! – And not a pale, characterless Sansculotte, but a Marat.[56]

In the New York Herald, October 15, 1900, he describes his transformation and political awakening, in the context of the Philippine-American War, from being “a red-hot imperialist”:

I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific …Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? … I said to myself, Here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American Constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves. But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris [which ended the Spanish-American War], and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.[57]

Anti-imperialism

From 1901, soon after his return from Europe, until his death in 1910, Twain was vice-president of the American Anti-Imperialist League,[58] which opposed the annexation of the Philippines by the United States and had “tens of thousands of members”.[25] He wrote many political pamphlets for the organization. The Incident in the Philippines, posthumously published in 1924, was in response to the Moro Crater Massacre, in which six hundred Moros were killed. Many of his neglected and previously uncollected writings on anti-imperialism appeared for the first time in book form in 1992.[59]

Twain was critical of imperialism in other countries as well. In Following the Equator, Twain expresses “hatred and condemnation of imperialism of all stripes”.[25] He was highly critical of European imperialism, notably of Cecil Rhodes, who greatly expanded the British Empire, and of Leopold II, King of the Belgians.[25] King Leopold’s Soliloquy is a stinging political satire about his private colony, the Congo Free State. Reports of outrageous exploitation and grotesque abuses led to widespread international protest in the early 1900s, arguably the first large-scale human rights movement. In the soliloquy, the King argues that bringing Christianity to the country outweighs a little starvation. Leopold’s rubber gatherers were tortured, maimed and slaughtered until the turn of the century, when the conscience of the Western world forced Brussels to call a halt.[citation needed]

Pacifism

During the Philippine-American War, Twain wrote a short pacifist story entitled The War Prayer, which makes the point that humanism and Christianity’s preaching of love are incompatible with the conduct of war. It was submitted to Harper’s Bazaar for publication, but on March 22, 1905 the magazine rejected the story as “not quite suited to a woman’s magazine“. Eight days later, Twain wrote to his friend Daniel Carter Beard, to whom he had read the story, “I don’t think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth”. Because he had an exclusive contract with Harper & Brothers, Twain could not publish The War Prayer elsewhere; it remained unpublished until 1923. It was republished as campaigning material by Vietnam War protesters.[25]

Attitude towards revolutions

I am said to be a revolutionist in my sympathies, by birth, by breeding and by principle. I am always on the side of the revolutionists, because there never was a revolution unless there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against which to revolt.[60]

As pointed out previously, Twain acknowledged that he originally sympathized with the more moderate Girondins of the French Revolution and then shifted his sympathies to the more radical Sansculottes, indeed identifying as “a Marat“.

Twain supported the revolutionaries in Russia against the reformists, arguing that the Tsar must be got rid of, by violent means, because peaceful ones would not work.[61]

Abolition, emancipation, and anti-racism

Twain was an adamant supporter of abolition and emancipation, even going so far to say “Lincoln‘s Proclamation … not only set the black slaves free, but set the white man free also.”[62] He argued that non-whites did not receive justice in the United States, once saying “I have seen Chinamen abused and maltreated in all the mean, cowardly ways possible to the invention of a degraded nature….but I never saw a Chinaman righted in a court of justice for wrongs thus done to him.”[63] He paid for at least one black person to attend Yale University Law School and for another black person to attend a southern university to become a minister.[64]

Women’s rights

Mark Twain was a staunch supporter of women’s rights and an active campaigner for women’s suffrage. His “Votes for Women” speech, in which he pressed for the granting of voting rights to women, is considered one of the most famous in history.[65]

Native Americans

Twain’s liberal views on race were not shown in his early sketches of Native Americans. Of them, Twain wrote in 1870:

His heart is a cesspool of falsehood, of treachery, and of low and devilish instincts. With him, gratitude is an unknown emotion; and when one does him a kindness, it is safest to keep the face toward him, lest the reward be an arrow in the back. To accept of a favor from him is to assume a debt which you can never repay to his satisfaction, though you bankrupt yourself trying. The scum of the earth![66]

As counterpoint, Twain’s essay on “The Literary Offenses of Fenimore Cooper” offers a much kinder view of Indians.[50] “No, other Indians would have noticed these things, but Cooper’s Indians never notice anything. Cooper thinks they are marvelous creatures for noticing, but he was almost always in error about his Indians. There was seldom a sane one among them”.[67] In his later travelogue Following the Equator (1897), Twain observes that in colonized lands all over the world, “savages” have always been wronged by “whites” in the most merciless ways, such as “robbery, humiliation, and slow, slow murder, through poverty and the white man’s whiskey”; his conclusion is that “there are many humorous things in this world; among them the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages”.[68]

Labor unions

He wrote glowingly about unions in the riverboating industry in Life on the Mississippi, which was read in union halls decades later.[69] He supported the labor movement in general, especially one of the most important unions, the Knights of Labor.[70] In a speech to them, he said:

Who are the oppressors? The few: the King, the capitalist, and a handful of other overseers and superintendents. Who are the oppressed? The many: the nations of the earth; the valuable personages; the workers; they that make the bread that the soft-handed and idle eat.[71]

Vivisection

Twain was opposed to vivisection of any kind, not on a scientific basis but rather an ethical one.[72]

I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t. … The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.

Religion, Belief in God, but no more belief in the Bible

Although Twain was raised as a Presbyterian, he was critical of organized religion and certain elements of Christianity through most of his later life. He wrote, for example, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so”, and “If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be – a Christian”.[73]

Twain generally avoided publishing his most “heretic” opinions on religion in his lifetime, and they are known from essays and stories that were published later. In the essay Three Statements of the Eighties in the 1880s, Twain stated that he believed in an almighty God, but not in any messages, revelations, holy scriptures such as the Bible, providence, or retribution in the afterlife. He did believe that “the goodness, the justice, and the mercy of God are manifested in His works”, but also that “the universe is governed by strict and immutable laws“, which determine “small matters” such as who dies in a pestilence.[74] In later writings in the 1890s, he was less optimistic about the goodness of God, observing that “if our Maker is all-powerful for good or evil, He is not in His right mind”. At other times, he conjectured sardonically that perhaps God had created the world with all its tortures for some purpose of His own, but was otherwise indifferent to humanity, which was too petty and insignificant to deserve His attention anyway.[75]

In 1901 Twain criticized the actions of missionary Dr. William Scott Ament (1851–1909) as a consequence of the fact that Ament and other missionaries had collected indemnities from Chinese subjects in the aftermath of the Boxer Uprising of 1900. Twain’s response to hearing of Ament’s methods was published in the North American Review in February 1901: To the Person Sitting in Darkness, and deals with examples of imperialism in China, South Africa, and with the U.S. occupation of the Philippines.[76] A subsequent article, “To My Missionary Critics” published in The North American Review in April 1901, unapologetically continues his attack, but with the focus shifted from Ament to his missionary superiors, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.[77]

After his death, Twain’s family suppressed some of his work which was especially irreverent toward conventional religion, notably Letters from the Earth, which was not published until his daughter Clara reversed her position in 1962 in response to Soviet propaganda about the withholding.[78] The anti-religious The Mysterious Stranger was published in 1916. Little Bessie, a story ridiculing Christianity, was first published in the 1972 collection Mark Twain’s Fables of Man.[79]

Despite these views, he raised money to build a Presbyterian Church in Nevada in 1864, although it has been argued that it was only by his association with his Presbyterian brother that he did that.[80]

Freemasonry

Twain was a Freemason.[81][82] He belonged to Polar Star Lodge No. 79 A.F.&A.M., based in St. Louis. He was initiated an Entered Apprentice on May 22, 1861, passed to the degree of Fellow Craft on June 12, and raised to the degree of Master Mason on July 10.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910),[3] well-known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Twain is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which has been called “the Great American Novel“,[4] and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). He is extensively quoted.[5][6] Twain was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.

Twain was very popular, and his keen wit and incisive satire earned praise from both critics and peers. Upon his death he was lauded as the “greatest American humorist of his age”,[7] and William Faulkner called Twain “the father of American literature“.[8]

// <![CDATA[// MARK TWAIN’S FAVORITE PEN

From http://www.kamakurapens.com (The site has a lot of information on the history of pens)

While it is a mistake to call these the first fountain pens, afterall there were dozens of earlier patents, the stylographic pens were the first successful selling fountain pens. Shipman, Caws, and several other early pen makers sold Stylographic pens, but the druggist from Stratford Canada, Duncan Mackinnon, is credited with being the inventor.

Mackinnon’s story is somewhat sad. After he patented this pen he started looking for someone to manufacture it for him. He made the mistake of showing the pen and leaving a sample with A.T. Cross. Cross studied the design and saw where a spring would improve the pen. He quickly patented this change and started manufacturing his own Stylographic pens. In disgust, Mackinnon contracted John Holland out of Cincinatti to manufacture these stylos for him. Mackinnon added the spring to his own design and was promptly sued by Cross for copyright infringement. Mackinnon died a few years afterwards of a heart attack.

Holland had a lot of problems with supplying the iridium for the MacKinnon contract. He first tried welding a tiny bead to the ink tube and then drilling through it. This worked but it was murder on the drill bits that broke at an alarming frequency. Then he hit on the idea of welding even smaller bits of iridium around the ring of the ink tube. The workers had to use microscopes to do this, but it saved a lot of drill bits and Holland patented the idea. But still finding enough iridium to fill this contract seemed impossible. It was then that Holland discovered a way to melt and fuse the commonly available iridium powder, something that earlier was considered due to iridiums ultra high melting point. (See my article “Iridium Kiss” in the Spring issue of the Pennant Magazine or write me for a copy)

Probably more interesting is Mark Twain’s connection with this pen. While Samuel Langhorne Clemens is widely known by pen collectors for his endorsing Wirt and Conklin pens, few people know that he loved his Mackinnon long before the other pens were ever invented. From my research I have found that a friend of Twain’s in Elmira NY(sorry I can not read the name in the letter from Mackinnon to Twain) was having a pen sent for repair to the Mackinnon Office in Brooklyn, NY, and in his letter he asked to include another Stylographic pen for Mark Twain who was presently staying at Quarry Farm in Elmira, NY. The Mackinnon Office quickly seized the opportunity to mail a stylo to Twain directly. I have letters in my possession written by Twain and to him from the Mackinnon Office, and I will publish an in depth article about Twain’s pens in the near future.

Twain was one of the very earliest authors to own one of the pre 1865 fountain pens, probably a Prince Protean fountain pen, but I have not been able to doccument this. For a while it seemed that the world had known no greater boon since the invention of printing; but these early pens were dismal failures and when it clogged and balked, or suddenly deluged his paper and spilled in his pocket, he flung it out his window. After which, Twain received his Mackinnon Stylographic pen. He wrote to his friends Dr. Brown, to William Dean Howells, and to Rev. Joseph Twichell, urging its adoption. Even in a letter to Mrs. Howells he could not forget his new possession:

“…And speaking of Howells, he ought to use the Stylographic pen, the best fountain-pen yet invented; he ought to, but of course he won’t — a blamed old sodden-headed conservative — but you see yourself what a nice, clean, uniform MS. it makes. “

And at the same time to Twichell:

” I am writing with a Stylographic pen. It takes a royal amount of cussing to make the thing go the first few days or a week, but by that time the dullest ass gets the hang of the thing, and after that no enrichments of expression are required, and said ass finds the stylographic a genuine God’s blessing. I carry one in each breeches pocket, and both loaded. I’d give you one of them if I had you where I could teach you how to use it — not otherwise. For the average ass flings the thing out of the window in disgust the second day, believing it hath no virtue, no merit of any sort; whereas the lack lieth in himself.”

It was not easy to withstand Mark Twain’s enthusiasm. Howells, Twichell, and Dr.John Brown were all presently struggling and swearing (figuratively) over their stylographic pens, trying to believe that salvation lay in their conquest. But in the midst of one letter, at last, Howells broke down, seized his old steel dip pen, and wrote savagely:

“No white man ought to use a stylographic pen, anyhow!”

Then, with the more ancient implement, continued in a calmer spirit. It was only a little later that Clemens himself wrote:

” You see I am trying a new pen. I stood the stylograph as long as I could, and then retired to the pencil. The thing I am trying now is the Wirt fountain-pen which is advertised to employ and accommodate itself to any kind of pen. So I selected an ordinary gold pen — a limber one — and had it cut and fitted to this thing. It goes very well indeed — thus far; but doubtless the devil will be in it by tomorrow. ”

Nevertheless, Twain used his Stylo well. He made revisions and additions to Tramp Abroad , and much of the original manuscript for Huck Finn was written with this pen.


A page from Chapter 2 of the “Tramp Abroad” manuscript, the start of “Baker’s Blue-Jay Yarn.” The chapter was penned with a MacKinnon Stylograph. The manuscript is part of the Bancroft collection.

Mark Twain signed Huck’s signature on the last page with his stylo

Dr. John Brown
In mid-July 1873 the Clemenses left London for Edinburgh, “fleeing thither for rest and refuge,” as Clemens later expressed it. There they met Dr. John Brown (the author of “Rab and His Friends,” a popular dog story), with whom they developed a warm friendship. Here they are pictured with Dr. Brown, who, according to Clemens, had “the face of a saint at peace with all the world.” Susy is in Clara’s lap. Twain felt a special kinship with Dr. Brown and they used each other to develop ideas for each other’s work.

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