Today, we’re observing the birthday of Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on this day in 1835. Known today as one of America’s most famous literary icons, Samuel Clemens grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, a port town on the Mississippi River. After his father’s death, Samuel dropped out of school to be a printer’s apprentice; he later worked as a newspaper printer and editorial assistant. He also worked as a steamboat pilot, where he took his pen name “Mark Twain.” The term “mark twain” means that a river is two fathoms (12 feet) deep and safe for boats to navigate.
When the Civil War ended river trade on the Mississippi River, Twain moved west and found work as a miner and a newspaper reporter. His story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was published in November of 1865 and based on his experience in a mining camp. After a trip to Europe, Twain published his first book, Innocents Abroad in 1869, followed by The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Throughout his career, Mark Twain wrote 28 books and many short stories known for their humor and vivid, memorable characters. He was born shortly after the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1835 and often said that he would “go out with it” as well; Mark Twain died the day after the perihelion of the Halley’s Comet on April 21, 1910.
Most of us are familiar with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but why not read some deeper selections of Mark Twain’s work? Here are a few places to start.
Collected Tales includes nearly 200 of Twain’s works from 1852 to 1890 covering topics of the Civil War in Missouri, the Reconstruction era and the opening of the American West.
You’ll find three of Mark Twain’s novels in one volume: The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.
Read Twain’s first book, The Innocents Abroad, and Roughing It, both of which include stories of his travels in the American West and Europe.