Who Was Mark Twain?: Who Was?
April Jones Prince
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A humorist, narrator, and social observer, Mark Twain is unsurpassed in American literature. Best known as the author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, not unlike his protagonist, Huck, has a restless spirit. He found adventure prospecting for silver in Nevada, navigating steamboats down the Mississippi, and making people laugh around the world. But Twain also had a serious streak and decried racism and injustice. His fascinating life is captured candidly in this enjoyable biography.
THAT, AMERICA HAD A FAST AND DEPENDABLE WAY TO MOVE PEOPLE AND GOODS BOTH DOWN AND UP THE RIVER. BY THE LATE 1800S, TRAINS TOOK OVER MUCH OF THE STEAMBOATS’ BUSINESS, BUT STEAMBOATS NEVER LEFT THE RIVERS ENTIRELY. EVEN TODAY, PEOPLE TAKE SIGHTSEEING AND VACATION CRUISES ON THEM. Slaves belonged to their owners, just like a horse or a dog. “In my schoolboy days,” Sam would remember, “I was not aware there was anything wrong about [slavery].” The newspapers said nothing against it; the churches
year at the Enterprise, Sam wrote to his mother, “Everybody knows me, & I fare like a prince wherever I go.” Sam was growing famous as Mark Twain. His columns were reprinted in California papers and even sometimes in newspapers back East. Soon more people were calling him Mark instead of Sam. (His family and boyhood friends would always call him Sam; others called him Twain or Clemens. The man himself often signed his name “Samuel L. Clemens Mark Twain.”) Mark Twain became known not only for
his wit and wisecracks, but also for exposing injustice and fraud. In one column, Mark wrote about an undertaker who was charging sky-high prices for his funerals. The undertaker, Mark said, was taking advantage of families who were too sad to argue about money. Through his pen, Mark tried to correct the evils in society. Mark wrote freely at the Enterprise until a rival newspaperman he’d poked fun at in the news challenged him to a duel—a formal fight with weapons. Rather than risk his life,
orders for the book, Mark went on a four-month lecture tour to earn money. Webster & Company didn’t plan to publish books by other authors. But then Mark learned that former president and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant was writing his memoirs. Mark offered Grant twice as much money as another publisher had. That clinched the deal. Grant put the finishing touches on his book just days before he died of cancer in 1885. The book was an instant hit. Mark paid Grant’s widow nearly $500,000 in
exhausting. But it made him famous around the world and gave him material for his last travel book, Following the Equator. At last, the tour ended in London in July 1896. Susy, age twenty-four, and Jean, sixteen, were to depart from America and meet Mark, Livy, and Clara in England. It would be a happy family reunion. But Susy never made the journey. She developed spinal meningitis and died August 18. Mark was devastated. Of the three girls, Susy had been the most like her father. Again, Mark