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Know Your Author: Mark Twain’s Adventures and Pursuits

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, is a celebrated writer from Missouri, USA. Aside from being a writer, he was also an entrepreneur, a riverboat pilot, a humorist, a journalist, a lecturer, and a novelist who acquired international fame for his travel narratives.

Early Years

Mark Twain was born on November 30, 1835, in Missouri. When he reached four years old, he and his family moved to a new home near the Mississippi River. Here, Twain’s young and imaginative mind was impressed by seeing riverboat pilots and lavish travelers in his hometown, and reading novels inspired by Sir Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper.

During the summer, Twain would visit his uncle’s farm to play with his cousins and listen to his uncle’s stories. He would also play with his friends and pretend as if they were pirates, Robin Hood, or other fabled adventurers. These childhood memories were bound to be little adventures that would soon be symbols of his later writings.

Twain’s Writing Apprenticeships

Twain’s father died by the time he reached 13 years old. Because of this, he was pushed to work odd jobs to support his family’s financial needs. His older brother began to set up his own little journal-publishing house where Twain worked as a typesetter while occasionally contributing sketches and articles in his brother’s paper.

By the age of 17, Twain left home and became self-sufficient through trying out different occupations. He wanted to see the world on his own and to open new possibilities for himself, so he traveled to New York to work at a large printing shop and to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. to continue writing.

Life as a Steamboat Pilot

Twain was very restless and ambitious. He left again for Ohio to work as a typesetter before he decided to find his fortune in South America. He found a bigger opportunity by trying a riverboat pilot apprenticeship for 500 dollars. Twain became a licensed steamboat pilot at the age of 21. He sailed through the shoals and channels of the great rivers. He loved his career very much – it was exciting, high-paying, and akin to flying a jetliner if it were compared with today. However, his service was cut short when the American Civil War began in 1861.

Twain as a Journalist

Twain was very restless and ambitious. He left again for Ohio to work as a typesetter before he decided to find his fortune in South America. He found a bigger opportunity by trying a riverboat pilot apprenticeship for 500 dollars. Twain became a licensed steamboat pilot at the age of 21. He sailed through the shoals and channels of the great rivers. He loved his career very much – it was exciting, high-paying, and akin to flying a jetliner if it were compared with today. However, his service was cut short when the American Civil War began in 1861.

He quickly became one of the best-known storytellers in West America because of his distinctive narrative style of writing – it was friendly, funny, and often satirical. Then in 1865. His tale about “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” was printed in newspapers and magazines which was quickly known around America.

Literary Fame and Legacy

Twain was almost at the spike of his literary career when he married Livy Langdon, to whom he had four children. At this point, Twain started to write his first novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, where he got most of his reminiscences about his days as a riverboat pilot. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer sold well and its popularity grew as it appealed to young and old readers alike.

Then he wrote, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was considered to be Twain’s greatest masterpiece in his own vernacular. Even if it took Twain years to conceptualize and write this novel, it quickly received positive criticism from readers, including one of America’s great writers in the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway.

Twain continued writing until his deathbed. Some would even say that his writings were bittersweet after he lost his wife and two daughters from serious illnesses. However, many have regarded his writings as ones that have captured the “American soul”. His legacy continued until the 19th century where his sketches, stories, and articles inspired many of his readers. He also published excerpts of his autobiography until he died on April 21, 1910.

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