The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Clemens, Samuel Langhorne

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The American Cyclopædia
Clemens, Samuel Langhorne
Edition of 1879. See also Mark Twain on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

CLEMENS, Samuel Langhorne (Mark Twain), an American humorist, born at Florida, Monroe co., Missouri, Nov. 30, 1835. He attended a common school until 13 years of age, when he became an apprentice in the printing office of the “Courier” at Hannibal, Mo., and afterward worked at his trade in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and New York. In 1855 he went to New Orleans, intending to take passage for Pará, to explore the Amazon, and to engage in the cacao trade; but the fact that there was no ship from New Orleans to Pará prevented the fulfilment of his plan. On his way down the Mississippi he had made friends with the pilots, and learned to steer the boat, and for the consideration of $500 they engaged to make him a St. Louis and New Orleans pilot. He went up and down the river steering and studying the 1,275 miles of the route, and after a time received his license, and secured a situation as a pilot at $250 a month. In 1861 his brother was appointed secretary of the territory of Nevada, and Samuel accompanied him as his private secretary. He worked in the mines for about a year, and says in his “Roughing It” that he was really worth a million dollars for just 10 days, and lost it through his own heedlessness. He then shovelled quartz in a silver mill for $10 a week, for one week only. In the mean time he had written occasional letters to the Virginia City “Enterprise,” and in the winter of 1862 he became city editor of that journal, and held the position for three years. Part of the time he reported legislative proceedings from Carson, summing up results in weekly letters to the “Enterprise,” which he signed “Mark Twain.” The name was a reminiscence of his steamboat days on the Mississippi, where it is the leadman's term to signify a depth of two fathoms of water. From Virginia City he went to San Francisco, and for five months was a reporter for the “Morning Call” newspaper. He then went to Calaveras county, and worked in the surface gold diggings for three months without result. Returning to San Francisco, he supported himself by newspaper work for several months. In 1866 he went to the Hawaiian Islands, remaining six months, and coming back with a high reputation, which he turned to account as a lecturer in San Francisco and through California and Nevada. He then went to the east and published “The Jumping Frog and other Sketches” (New York, 1867), which was republished in London. In the same year he embarked with a large party of travellers in the steamer Quaker City on a pleasure excursion up the Mediterranean to Egypt and the Holy Land. Of this excursion he gave a humorous account in “The Innocents Abroad” (8vo, Hartford, 1869), of which 125,000 copies were sold in three years. He was for some time editor of a daily newspaper in Buffalo, but afterward resumed lecturing, and visited England in 1872 and 1873. His residence is at Hartford. In 1872 he published “Roughing It” (8vo, Hartford), which reached a sale of 91,000 copies in nine months. A London publisher has gathered all his sketches, many of which have not been collected in America (adding, however, many papers not written by Mark Twain), and has issued them in 4 vols. “Roughing It” and “The Innocents Abroad” have also been republished in London. Editions of all his works, in English and German, are now (1873) in course of publication in Leipsic.