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An adventurer and wily intellectual, Mark Twain wrote the classic American novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Mark Twain - Early Years (3:41)
In 1884 Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and furthered his rebellious nature as one of America's premiere authors.
One of Mark Twain's most profitable ventures was the New York publishing house he founded and the memoir of Ulysses S. Grant that he published.
In the 1860's, Mark twain lived in San Francisco and was outraged by the treatment of the Chinese people living there.
Mark Twain's early life in Florida, Missouri served as a great inspiration for his later literary works, including his most famous character, Tom Sawyer.
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A licensed pilot by 1859, he soon found regular employment plying the shoals and channels of the great river. He loved his career—it was exciting, well-paying, and high-status, roughly akin to flying a jetliner today. However, his service was cut short in 1861 by the outbreak of the Civil War, which halted most civilian traffic on the river.
As the war began, the people of Missouri angrily split between support for the Union and the Confederacy. Clemens opted for the latter,
joining the Confederate Army in June 1861, but serving for only a couple of weeks until his volunteer unit disbanded.
Where, he wondered then, would he find his future? What venue would bring him both excitement and cash? His answer: the great American West.
In July 1861, Twain climbed onboard a stagecoach and headed for Nevada and California, where he would live for the next five years. At first, he prospected for silver and gold, convinced that he would become the savior of his struggling family and the sharpest-dressed man in Virginia City and San Francisco. But nothing panned out. By the middle of 1862, he was flat broke and in need of a regular job.
He knew his way around a newspaper office, so that September, he went to work as a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. He churned out news stories, editorials and sketches, and along the way, adopted the pen name "Mark Twain"—steamboat slang for 12 feet of water.
Twain became one of the best known storytellers in the West. He honed a distinctive narrative style—friendly, funny, irreverent, often satirical and always eager to deflate the pretentious. He got a big break in 1865, when one of his tales about life in a mining camp, "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog," was printed in newspapers and magazines around the country (the story later appeared under various titles). His next step up the ladder of success came in 1867, when he took a five-month sea cruise in the Mediterranean, writing humorously about the sights for American newspapers with an eye toward getting a book out of the trip. And so it came to pass that in 1869 The Innocents Abroad was published, and became a best-seller.
At 34, this westerner—handsome, red-haired, affable, canny, egocentric and ambitious—had become one of the most popular and famous writers in America.
However, Mark Twain worried about being a westerner. In those years, the country's cultural life was dictated by an Eastern establishment centered in New York and Boston—a straight-laced, Victorian, moneyed group that cowed Twain. "An indisputable and almost overwhelming sense of inferiority bounced around his psyche," wrote scholar Hamlin Hill, competing with his aggressiveness and vanity. Twain's fervent wish was to get rich, support his mother, rise socially, and receive what he called "the respectful regard of a high Eastern civilization."
In February 1870, he improved his social status by marrying 24-year-old Olivia (Livy) Langdon, the daughter of a rich New York coal merchant.
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