Biography of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was born in Florida, Missouri as the third child of John and Jane Clemens.
When Twain was just four, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri to improve their fortunes. Hannibal later inspired one of Twain's most famous works, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).
Twain's father died in 1847, leaving an enormous debt behind. Mark's oldest brother, Orion, began publishing a newspaper as Twain contributed as a journeyman printer and occasional writer. During this time Twain traveled to St. Louis and New York to work as a printer.
Soon, the Mississippi drew Twain to his career as a steamboat pilot which he recounted in Life on the Mississippi (1883). However, with the death of his brother Henry in an explosion and with the brink of Civil War, the end to commercial steamboat traffic was in danger. As of 1861, Twain had to look for a new job.
After a brief stint in a local militia, which can be read in The Private History of a Campaign That Failed (1885), Twain escaped the war by going west in July of 1861 with Orion, who was appointed secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada. The two traveled for two weeks across the Great Plains by stagecoach and settled in the silver-mining town of Virginia City, Nevada.
Twain's experiences in the West are told in his second book, Roughing It. He became a miner, hoping to dig up silver in Comstock Lode, and stayed long periods with his fellow prospectors. After failing as a miner, Mark began writing for a newspaper, Territorial Enterprise, in Virginia City where he first used his pen name "Mark Twain" on an article published on February 3, 1863.
In Twain's later life, his fortunes declined. He became depressed, but still capable. Twain had four children, but three died along with his wife, Olivia Langdon, before his own death. His publishing company went bankrupt and he lost thousands of dollars on a typesetting machine which was never used. He also faced troubles with plagiarism before he could publish himself. However, in 1893, Twain met an industrialist and financier, Henry Huttleston Rogers who saved his fortune.
Influenced by Twain, Roger's helped finance Helen Keller and made substantial contributions to Dr. Booker T. Washington. Roger's also made contributions to African American education institutions for more than fifteen years.
Rogers and Twain moved to Norfolk in April of 1909. Just two months later, Rogers died suddenly. Stricken by the news, Twain refused to travel to the burial in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
Less than a year later, Mark Twain, also known as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, died. Before his death in 1909, he wrote "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it." Halley's comet can be seen on Earth only once every 75 years. The comet was visible on November 30, 1835, Twain's birth date, and again on April 21, 1910 when he died.
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