Mark Twain, pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens

(1835-1910), American writer and humorist. His best work is characterized by broad, often irreverent, humor or biting social satire; realism of place and language; memorable characters; and hatred of hypocrisy.

Clemens was born Nov. 30, 1835, in Florida, Mo. When he was four years old, his family moved to Hannibal, Mo., a Mississippi river port, where he received a public school education. After the death of his father in 1847, Clemens was apprenticed to two Hannibal printers, and in 1851 he began setting type for and contributing sketches to his brother Orion's Hannibal Journal . Subsequently he was a journeyman printer in Keokuk, Iowa, New York City, Philadelphia, and other cities, and then a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi until the American Civil War brought an end to travel on the river. In 1861 he served briefly as a volunteer soldier in an irregular company of Confederate cavalry. Later that year he accompanied his brother to the newly created Nevada Territory where he tried his hand at silver mining. In 1862 he became a reporter on the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nev., and in 1863 began signing his articles with the pseudonym "Mark Twain," a Mississippi River phrase meaning two fathoms deep. After moving to San Francisco in 1864, Twain met the writers Artemus Ward and Bret Harte, who encouraged him. In 1865 Twain reworked a tale he had heard in the California gold fields; within months the author and the story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," had become national sensations.

In 1867 Twain lectured in New York City; he also visited Europe and the "Holy Land." He wrote of these travels in The Innocents Abroad (1869), a book burlesquing those aspects of Old World culture that impress American tourists. In 1870 he married Olivia Langdon (1845-1904). After a brief residence in Buffalo, N.Y., the couple moved to Hartford, Conn. Much of Twain's best work was written in the 1870s and '80s in Hartford or during the summers at Quarry Farm, near Elmira, N.Y. Roughing It (1872) recounts his early adventures as a miner and journalist; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) celebrates boyhood in a town on the Mississippi River; A Tramp Abroad (1880) describes a walking trip through the Black Forest of Germany and the Swiss Alps; The Prince and the Pauper (1882), a children's book, focuses on switched identities in Tudor England; Life on the Mississippi (1883) combines an autobiographical account of his experiences as a river pilot with a visit to the Mississippi nearly two decades after he left it; A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) satirizes oppression in feudal England. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), the sequel to Tom Sawyer, is considered Twain's masterpiece.

In 1884 he formed a publishing company, but a disastrous investment in an automatic typesetting machine led to the firm's bankruptcy in 1894. Twain's work during the 1890s and the 1900s is marked by growing pessimism and bitterness-the result of his business reverses and later the deaths of his wife and two daughters. Significant works of this period are Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), a novel about miscegenation and murder, and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), a sentimental biography. Other later writings include short stories, "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" (1899) and "The War Prayer" (1905); philosophical, social, and political essays; "The Mysterious Stranger" manuscripts; and autobiographical dictations. Twain raised his voice in protest at a time when American life was dominated by the materialism and corruption of the so-called Gilded Age following the Civil War. His work was inspired by the unconventional West; its popularity marked the end of the domination of American literature by New England writers. One of America's most important writers, Twain is justly renowned as a humorist, but his literary reputation also rests on his realistic use of dialects and the vernacular, especially of the Mississippi River Valley, in delineating characters and scenes of mid-19th century American life. He was a celebrity during his later years, and received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1907. He died in New York City on April 21, 1910.

"When angry, count four; when very angry, swear." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"'Classic:' A book which people praise and don't read." Mark Twain , Following the Equator , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar" [He expressed similar sentiments in a speech in 1900: ". . . a classic--- something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read."]

"Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody." --- Mark Twain , Following the Equator , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

"Ababy is an inestimable blessing and bother." --- Mark Twain , letter (1876)

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--- not absence of fear." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"The report of my death was an exaggeration." --- Mark Twain , cable from London to a New York newspaper [Often quoted as "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."]

"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it--- and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again--- and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore." --- Mark Twain , Following the Equator , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

"Facts, or what a man believes to be facts, are always delightful. . . . Get your facts first, and . . . then you can distort 'em as much as you please." --- Mark Twain , quoted in Rudyard Kipling's From Sea to Sea

"Familiarity breeds contempt--- and children." --- Mark Twain , Notebooks

"Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed." --- Mark Twain , Following the Equator , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

"Adam was but human--- this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple's sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vinchy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce." --- Mark Twain , Innocents Abroad

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them." --- Mark Twain , Following the Equator , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

"The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"To be good is noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble." --- Mark Twain , Following the Equator , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven." --- Mark Twain , Following the Equator , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

"Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"Name the greatest of all the inventors: Accident." --- Mark Twain , Notebooks

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--- 'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning." --- Mark Twain , in The Art of Authorship , ed. George Bainton

"All kings is mostly rapscallions." --- Mark Twain , Huckleberry Finn

"A coin, sleeve-button or a collar-button dropped in a bedroom will hide itself and be hard to find. A handkerchief in bed can't be found." --- Mark Twain , Notebooks

"One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?" --- Mark Twain , The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

"Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person." --- Mark Twain , Notebooks

"There are two times in a man's life when he should not speculate: when he can't afford it, and when he can." --- Mark Twain , Following the Equator , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

"It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else. This is not advice, it is merely custom." --- Mark Twain , Notebooks

"What a good thing Adam had. When he said a good thing he knew nobody had said it before." --- Mark Twain , Notebooks

"Put all your eggs in the one basket and--- WATCH THAT BASKET." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits." --- Mark Twain , Pudd'nhead Wilson , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

"Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to." --- Mark Twain, Following the Equator , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

. . . the remark attributed to Disraeli . . . : "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." --- Mark Twain , Autobiography [This remark has been attributed to others as well.]

"There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice." --- Mark Twain , Following the Equator , "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

"Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest." --- Mark Twain , speech (1901)

"There is a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger's admiration--- and regret. The weather is always doing something there; always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and trying them on people to see how they will go. But it gets through more business in spring than in any other season. In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of twenty-four hours." --- Mark Twain , speech (1876)

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