The New International Encyclopædia/Clemens, Samuel Langhorne

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The New International Encyclopædia
Clemens, Samuel Langhorne
Edition of 1905. See also Mark Twain on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

CLEMENS, Samuel Langhorne (1835—). An American novelist and humorist, better known as ‘Mark Twain’ — a name derived from calls used in taking soundings on the Mississippi, and first employed by Mr. Clemens in newspaper work in 1863. It had previously been taken as a pen-name by Capt. Isaiah Sellers, in the New Orleans Picayune. Mr. Clemens was born at Florida, Mo., November 30, 1835. He received the common-school education of a frontier town, entered a printing-ofiice in 1848, and, becoming an expert compositor, worked at this trade in Saint Louis, New York, and other cities. In 1851 he gave up printing, and became a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi, accumulating a fund of experience that he was later to turn to unique literary account. The Civil War closed this livelihood to him. He joined a volunteer squad of Confederate sympathizers, remaining with the command for a few weeks, but seeing no active service. Then he went to Nevada with his brother, who had been appointed Territorial Secretary, and at Virginia City became a reporter and staff writer for the Territorial Enterprise, revealing here first to the public his powers of humorously exaggerated description and sarcastic wit. From Nevada he followed the trend to San Francisco, tried mining in Calaveras County, made a voyage to the Sandwich Islands, and attracted attention us a humorous lecturer and writer of localized fiction. The success of his lectures and a book called by the name of the first story, The Jumping Prog of Calaveras County (1867), led to his participating, with journalistic intent, in an excursion to the Orient. His letters about his trip, in revised form, became the well-known Innocents Abroad (1869), which won him fame on both continents. Then for two years (1869-71) Clemens edited the Buffalo Express. In 1872 ho gathered reminiscences of far-Western life in Roughing It. He moved to Hartford and became a frequent contributor to magazines and journals, chiefly in a vein of exaggerated humor. His next book was The Gilded Age (1873), written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, and afterwards successfully dramatized. Then came The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). A second trip to Europe furnished material for A Tramp Abroad (1880); then followed The Stolen White Elephant (1882); The Prince and the Pauper (1882), an historical romance; Life on the Mississippi (1883); and Huckleberry Finn (1885). In 1884 he engaged in the publishing enterprise of Charles L. Webster and Company, the failure of which, about a decade later, led him to make a lecture tour around the world (1895-96), by means of which he reëstablished his fortune and more than cleared his commercial honor. For ten years after 1890, Mr. Clemens lived chiefly in Europe. During this period he published A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889); The American Claimant (1892); Merry Tales (1892); The £1,000,000 Bank Note (1893); The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894); Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894); Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896); More Tramps Abroad (1897); Following the Equator (1897); The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg (1900); and since his return to America A Double-Barreled Detective Story (1902). A uniform edition of his works is issued by the Harpers. Although popularly known as a humorist, Mr. Clemens has a thoroughly serious side to his character, as has been shown by his discussion of political questions. He is also gifted with literary acumen, as he showed in a review of Professor Dowden's Life of Shelley, and in other papers subsequently collected in book form. But his best, and perhaps his most permanent work, has been done as a picaresque novelist in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. No other writer has so vividly portrayed the irresponsible American boy, or so given his readers an adequate impression of the large, homely, spontaneous life led by native Americans in the great Valley of the Mississippi.