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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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Writing to a friend shortly after his wedding, Twain could not believe his good luck: "I have ... the only sweetheart I have ever loved ... she is the best girl, and the sweetest, and gentlest, and the daintiest, and she is the most perfect gem of womankind." Livy, like many people during that time, took pride in her pious, high-minded, genteel approach to life. Twain hoped that she would "reform" him, a mere humorist, from his rustic ways. The couple settled in Buffalo,
and later had four children.
Thankfully, Mark Twain's glorious "low-minded" western voice broke through on occasion. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876, and soon thereafter he began writing a sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (Oddly, the word "The" was not included in the title of book's original edition.) Writing this work, comments biographer Everett Emerson, freed Twain temporarily from the "inhibitions of the culture he had chosen to embrace."
"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn," Ernest Hemingway wrote in 1935, giving short shrift to Herman Melville and others, but making an interesting point. Hemingway's comment refers specifically to the colloquial language of Twain's masterpiece. For perhaps the first time in America, the vivid, raw, not-so-respectable voice of the common folk was used to create great literature.
Huck Finn required years to conceptualize and write, and Twain often put it aside. In the meantime, he pursued respectability with 1881 publication of The Prince and the Pauper, a charming novel endorsed with enthusiasm by his genteel family and friends. In 1883 he put out Life on the Mississippi, and interesting but safe travel book. When Huck Finn finally was published in 1884, Livy Clemens gave it a chilly reception.
After that business and writing were of equal value to Mark Twain as he set about his cardinal task of earning a lot of money. In 1885, he triumphed as a book publisher by issuing the bestselling memoirs of former President Ulysses S. Grant, who had just died. He lavished many hours on this and other business ventures, and was certain that his efforts would be rewarded with enormous wealth, but he never achieved the success he expected. His publishing house eventually went bankrupt.
Twain's financial failings, reminiscent in some ways to his father's, had serious consequences for his state of mind. They contributed powerfully to a growing pessimism in him, a deep-down feeling that human existence is a cosmic joke perpetrated by a chuckling God. Another cause of his angst, perhaps, was his unconscious anger at himself for not giving undivided attention to his deepest creative instincts, which centered on his Missouri boyhood.
In 1889, Twain published A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, a science-fiction/historical novel about ancient England. His next major work, in 1894, was The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson, a somber novel that some observers described as "bitter." He also wrote short stories and essays, and several other books, including a study of Joan of Arc.
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