Mark Twain Biography

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Huckleberry Finn Author/Context

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri. In 1839, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri. Many people suggest that the family moved due to the death of Sam's younger sister Margaret. It was in Hannibal that Sam witnessed many things he would later incorporate into his novels. For instance, he witnessed slaves being mistreated (similar to Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), and civilized people acting crazy and violent (like the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons). Sam even had a best friend in Hannibal named Tom, who could do as he pleased and was very wild. Tom eventually became the character of Huckleberry Finn.

Other tragic events, aside from the death of Sam's younger sister, influenced Twain. His young brother Benjamin also became ill and died. Then, his older brother Orion left the family business to work as a printer's apprentice for the Hannibal Journal newspaper. In 1847, Sam's father, John Clemens, died of pneumonia. Sam went to work with his brother at the Journal. This is where Sam first developed his writing skills. Later, he moved to St. Louis, where he got a job working at the St. Louis Evening News as a typesetter. He didn't stay there long, and later moved to New York City and then Philadelphia. He spent a lot of time traveling all over the world, and eventually, in 1859, Twain got his river pilot's license. Sam enjoyed this life a lot and his many experiences on the river would later be incorporated into his novels.

Events in American history such the Civil War, the gold rush, and moving west, became important themes for Twain. While working for the Nevada Territorial Enterprise, Sam first wrote under his pen name, Mark Twain.

Twain would later fall in love with Olivia Langdon, his wife and mother to his four children. The early deaths of his children would later lead to bouts of depression and emotional suffering.

In 1888, Twain earned a Master of Arts degree from Yale University. He then was awarded two honorary Doctor of Letters degrees from Yale in 1901, and the University of Missouri in 1902. His works include: The Innocents Abroad, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. In 1910, Samuel Langhorne Clemens died at age 75 in his Connecticut home.


Cox, Clinton. Mark Twain: America's Humorist, Dreamer, Prophet - A Biography. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1995.

Press, Skip. The Importance of Mark Twain. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1994.

Ross, Stewart. Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn. New York: the Penguin Group, 1999.

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: the Penguin Group, 1985.

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