Mark Twain – Samuel Clemens
Mark Twain was one of America’s greatest authors. His Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi rank high on any list of great American books.
Mark Twain was the writer’s pen name. His real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens.
Samuel was born on November 30, 1835 in the small town of Florida, Missouri. When he was 4 years old he moved with his family to Hannibal, Missouri, on the Mississippi River. His boyhood home at 206 Hill Street is now a museum. He lived there from 1844 until 1853. In 1847 his father died and the boy had to help support the family. At the age of 12 Sam had to go to work as a printer’s apprentice. 15-year-old boy worked as a printer for his brother Orion, publisher of the Hannibal Journal. Later he worked as a steamboat pilot.
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, Nevada, and in 1863 began signing his articles with the pseudonym “Mark Twain”.
In 1870 Twain married Olivia Langdon. He moved to Hartford, where he lived for 20 years. Sam and Olivia had four children together: Langdon, who died as an infant; Susy, who died from meningitis in her twenties; Jean, who died from heart failure in her twenties; and Clara, their only surviving daughter.
His novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) is a story about a boy and his friends in a small river town. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) tells of a boy’s adventures as he floats down the Mississippi on a raft.
Twain was known as a humorist. But behind his mask of humor lay a serious view of life. He had known the sadness of poverty, the early death of his father and the loss of a daughter.
He was a celebrity during his later years, and received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1907. He died from heart disease in his home near Redding, Connecticut, on April 21, 1910.
In 2001, one of Clemens’s unpublished manuscripts entitled A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage was published by the Atlantic Monthly.
People say that he modeled Tom Sawyer on himself. Just like Tom Sawyer, Sam often missed classes at school and was fond of all sorts of pranks, was in love with a girl who looked very much like Becky Thatcher. Laura Hawkins, Sam’s first sweetheart, became the model for Becky Thatcher. Laura was three years younger than Sam and a good friend. Laura Hawkins married James Frazer, a doctor, and spent her whole life in Hannibal. When her husband died, she became the matron of a Hannibal home for orphans. She died at the age of 91.
Huck Finn was modeled on Tom Blankenship, the son of a drunkard who lived in a small poor house behind the house where Sam Clemens grew up. Nobody knows for sure how Tom Blankenship spent his later years. His family left Hannibal around 1850.
Every July, the town of Hannibal celebrates National Tom Sawyer Days. Both children and adults take part in whitewashing and frog-jumping contests and other interesting events.