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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Clemens, Samuel Langhorne (1835-1910) a.k.a. "Mark Twain"
"Concentration of power in a political machine is bad; and an Established Church is only a political machine; it was invented for that; it is nursed, cradled, preserved for that; it is an enemy to human liberty, and does no good which it could not better do in a split-up and scattered condition."

-- Samuel Clemons


Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was a famous American humorist, novelist, writer, and lecturer.

Although Twain was confounded by financial and business affairs, his humor and wit were keen, and he enjoyed immense public popularity. At his peak, he was probably the most popular American celebrity of his time. In 1907, crowds at the Jamestown Exposition thronged just to get a glimpse of him. He had dozens of famous friends, including Booker T. Washington, Nikola Tesla, Helen Keller, and Henry Huttleston Rogers. Fellow American author William Faulkner is credited with writing that Twain was "the first truly American writer, and all of us since are his heirs."

Early life
Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri to John and Jane Clemens, and was the third of four surviving children. His family was always moving; when he was four years old, the Clemenses moved to Hannibal, Missouri, praying that they would have good fortune there. Clemens used this town imaginatively in one of his most famous works, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

In 1847 Samuel's father died, leaving the family with many debts. The eldest son, Orion, began publishing a newspaper, and Samuel began work as a journeyman printer and occasional writer. Samuel later traveled to St. Louis and New York City to work as a printer.

The adventure of the Mississippi eventually drew Clemens to a career as a steamboat captain. He later stated in his book, Life on the Mississippi (1883), that it would have held him to the end of his days. But the Civil War and the advent of the railroad effectively put an end to commercial steamboat traffic in 1861, and Clemens was forced to look for a new job. Clemens also may have drawn away from life on a steamboat when his younger brother, Henry, was killed in a boiler explosion.

Clemens said that the numerous people he met on the river were a great help to improving his enjoyment of reading. These people included a man named Horace Bixby (later the head pilot of the Union navy fleet), who took Clemens on as a cub pilot; and Mr. Brown, a tyrannical pilot who made Clemens feel like an "emancipated slave" when he no longer Had to put up with Brown's cruelty.

"Roughing it" out West
In July of 1861, after a brief stint with a Confederate militia (an experience he mentioned in his 1885 short story, "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed"), Clemens escaped the Civil War by going west with his brother, Orion, who was appointed secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada. They traveled for over two weeks on a stagecoach across the great plains and the Rocky Mountains to the silver-mining town of Virginia City, Nevada. On the way they visited the polygamous Mormon community in Salt Lake City. Clemens' experiences in the West contributed significantly to his formation as a writer, and became the basis of his second book, Roughing It.

Once in Nevada, Clemens became a miner, hoping to strike it rich discovering silver in the Comstock Lode. He stayed for long periods in camp with his fellow prospectors—another life experience that he later put to literary use. After failing as a miner, Clemens obtained work at a newspaper called the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, where he adopted the pen name "Mark Twain" for the first time.

Pen names
Clemens usually maintained that his primary pen name, "Mark Twain," came from his years on the riverboat, where two fathoms (12 ft, approximately 3.7 m) or "safe water" was measured on the sounding line and marked by calling "mark twain." However, the name may also have come from his wilder days in the West, where he would buy two drinks and tell the bartender to "mark twain" on his tab. The complete origin of the pseudonym is unknown. Clemens is also known to have used the pen name "Sieur Louis de Conte" on occasion.

Of his most famous pen name, Twain himself later wrote:

[Captain Isaiah Sellers] was not of literary turn or capacity, but he used to jot down brief paragraphs of plain practical information about the river, and sign them "MARK TWAIN," and give them to the "New Orleans Picayune." They related to the stage and condition of the river, and were accurate and valuable; and thus far, they contained no poison.
[...]
I burlesqued it broadly, very broadly, stringing my fantastics out to the extent of eight hundred or a thousand words. I was a "cub" at the time. I showed my performance to some pilots, and they eagerly rushed it into print in the "New Orleans True Delta." It was a great pity; for it did nobody any worthy service, and it sent a pang deep into a good man's heart. There was no malice in my rubbish; but it laughed at the captain. It laughed at a man to whom such a thing was new and strange and dreadful. I did not know then, though I do now, that there is no suffering comparable with that which a private person feels when he is for the first time pilloried in print.
[...]
He never printed another paragraph while he lived, and he never again signed Mark Twain to anything. At the time that the telegraph brought the news of his death, I was on the Pacific coast. I was a fresh new journalist, and needed a nom de guerre; so I confiscated the ancient mariner's discarded one, and have done my best to make it remain what it was in his hands—a sign and symbol and warrant that whatever is found in its company may be gambled on as being the petrified truth; how I have succeeded, it would not be modest in me to say.

Regardless of the source of the name, "Mark Twain" was "born" as Clemens' pen name in the office of the Nevada Territorial Enterprise, when Clemens first used the name on an article published on February 3, 1863.

1864-1866: Literary success and lecturing
In 1864, Twain moved on to San Francisco and wrote for several papers there. In 1865, he had his first literary success. At the behest of humorist Artemus Ward (whom he had met and befriended in Virginia City during Ward's 1863 lecture tour), he submitted a humorous short story for a collection Ward was publishing. The story arrived too late to be included in the anthology, but the publisher passed it to the Saturday Press. That story, originally entitled "Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog" but now better known as "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," was reprinted nationwide; Atlantic Monthly editor James Russell Lowell called it "the finest piece of humorous literature yet produced in America."

In the spring of 1866 Twain was commissioned by the Sacramento Union newspaper to travel to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) and write a series of letters reporting on his journey. The success of these letters and the personal encouragement of Colonel John McComb (publisher of San Francisco's Alta California newspaper) led Twain to try his hand at the lecture circuit once he had returned to San Francisco. He rented the Academy of Music and charged admission at the rate of a dollar a head. "Doors open at 7 o'clock," Twain wrote on the advertising poster. "The trouble to begin at 8 o'clock."

The first lecture was a wild success, and soon Twain was traveling up and down the state, lecturing and entertaining to packed houses.

1867-1880: First book and family
It was on another trip, however, that Twain's fame as an author was firmly established. In 1867, he convinced Col. McComb of the Alta California to pay for his passage aboard the steam packet Quaker City on an American excursion to Europe and the Middle East.

The resulting letters Twain produced for the newspaper as a report of the trip would form the basis of his first book, The Innocents Abroad (1869), a large and humorous travelogue that pointedly failed to worship Old World arts and conventions. Sold by subscription, the book became hugely popular and put its author in a spotlight that he would never willingly relinquish for the rest of his life.

In 1868, Twain published two short stories in Francis Pharcellus Church's popular The Galaxy magazine. In 1869, he moved to Buffalo, New York to take a position as Managing Editor for the Buffalo Express newspaper.

After the success of Innocents Abroad, Twain married Olivia Langdon in the Langdon family home in Elmira, New York on February 2, 1870. That year he began to write a monthly column called Memoranda for The Galaxy. A son, Langdon, was born to the couple on November 7. In 1871, the family moved to the Nook Farm neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut. A daughter, Olivia Susan or "Susy," was born on March 19, 1872. In June, young Langdon succumbed to diphtheria and died. Two more daughters were born: Clara Langdon (1874) and Jane Lampton or "Jean" (1880). During this period, Twain lectured often in the United States and England.

Later life and friendship with Henry H. Rogers
Twain's fortunes then began to decline; in his later life, he was a very depressed man, although still capable. Following the erroneous publication of a premature obituary in the New York Journal, Twain famously responded: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" (June 2, 1897).

His only son, who was sick from the time of his birth, died after Twain took him out for a walk on a blustery day without covering his carriage. His favorite daughter died while Twain was in Australia completing a lecture series. After giving birth to four children, his wife was sickly for most of her adult life. All in all, he lost 3 out of his 4 children, and his beloved wife, Olivia Langdon, before his own death in 1910. He also went through some very bad times with his businesses; his publishing company ended up going bankrupt, and he lost thousands of dollars on one typesetting machine that was never finished. Twain also lost a great deal of revenue on royalties from unauthorized copies and plagiarism of his books, sometimes even before he had a chance to publish them himself.

In 1893, Twain was introduced to industrialist and financier Henry Huttleston Rogers, one of the principals of Standard Oil. Rogers reorganized Twain's tangled finances, and the two became close friends for the rest of their lives. Rogers' family became Twain's surrogate family, and Twain was a frequent guest at the Rogers townhouse in New York City and summer home in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. The two were drinking and poker buddies. In 1907, they traveled together in Rogers' yacht Kanawha to the Jamestown Exposition held at Sewell's Point near Norfolk, Virginia in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown Colony.

While Twain openly credited Rogers with saving him from financial ruin, there is also substantial evidence in their published correspondence that their close friendship was mutually beneficial, apparently softening to some degree the hard-driving personality of Rogers, who had apparently earned the nickname "Hell Hound Rogers" when helping build Standard Oil earlier in his career. In one of history's ironies, Twain introduced the industrialist to investigative journalist Ida Tarbell, who is widely credited with exposing the dark side of Standard Oil, largely through information she obtained in meetings with Rogers. During the years of their friendship, influenced by Twain, Rogers helped finance the education of Helen Keller and made substantial contributions to Dr. Booker T. Washington. After Rogers' death, Dr. Washington revealed that Rogers (despite his much-hated public persona) had been generously funding many small country schools and institutions of higher education in the South for the betterment and education of African Americans for over 15 years.

Although by this late date he was in marginal health, in April of 1909 Twain returned to Norfolk with Rogers, and was a guest speaker at the dedication dinner held for the newly-completed Virginian Railway, a "Mountains to Sea" engineering marvel of the day. The construction of the new railroad had been solely financed by Rogers.

Rogers died suddenly in New York less than two months later. Twain, on his way by train from Connecticut to visit Rogers, was met with the news at Grand Central Station that same morning by his daughter. His grief-stricken reaction was widely reported. He served as one of the pallbearers at the Rogers funeral in New York later that week. When he declined to ride the funeral train from New York on to Fairhaven, Massachusetts, for the burial, he stated that he could not undertake to travel that distance among those whom he knew so well, and with whom he must of necessity join in conversation.

Twain himself died less than a year later. He wrote in 1909, "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it." And so he did. Halley's comet can be seen in the Earth's skies once every 75-76 years. It was visible on November 30, 1835, when Mark Twain was born and was also visible on April 21, 1910, when he died (although the exact dates of Halley's highpoint were November 16th and April 10th, respectively).

After his death, one of the prominent figures who paid public tribute to him was the President of the United States at the time, William H. Taft. In his words, "Mark Twain gave real intellectual enjoyment to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasures to millions yet to come. He never wrote a line that a father could not read to a daughter." (Taft was presumably unaware of 1601).

Career overview
Twain's greatest contribution to American literature is generally considered to be his novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. As Ernest Hemingway once said:

"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. ...all American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."

Also popular are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and the non-fiction book Life on the Mississippi.

Beginning as a writer of light, humorous verse, Twain evolved into a grim, almost profane chronicler of the vanities, hypocrisies and murderous acts of mankind. At mid-career, with Huckleberry Finn, he combined rich humor, sturdy narrative and social criticism in a way that is almost unrivaled in world literature. Twain was a master at rendering colloquial speech, and helped to create and popularize a distinctive American literature built on American themes and language.

Twain had a fascination with science and scientific inquiry. He developed a close and lasting friendship with Nikola Tesla, and the two spent quite a bit of time together (in Tesla's laboratory, among other places). Such fascination can be seen in Twain's book A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which features a time traveler from the America of Twain's day, using his knowledge of science to introduce modern technology to Arthurian England. Twain also patented an improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments.

From 1901 until his death in 1910, Twain was vice president of the American Anti-Imperialist League. The League opposed the annexation of the Philippines by the United States. Twain wrote Incident in the Philippines, posthumously published in 1924, in response to the Moro Crater Massacre, in which six hundred Moros were killed. Many but not all of Mark Twain's neglected and previously uncollected writings on anti-imperialism appeared for the first time in book form in 1992.

In recent years, there have been occasional attempts to ban Huckleberry Finn from various libraries because Twain's use of local color is offensive to some people. Although Twain was against racism and imperialism far ahead of the public sentiment of his time, those who have only superficial familiarity with his work have sometimes condemned it as racist because it accurately depicts language in common use in the 19th-century United States. Expressions that were used casually and unselfconsciously then are often perceived today as racist (today, such racial epithets are far more visible and condemned). Twain himself would probably be amused by these attempts; in 1885, when a library in Massachusetts banned the book, he wrote to his publisher, "They have expelled Huck from their library as 'trash suitable only for the slums', that will sell 25,000 copies for us for sure."

Many of Mark Twain's works have been suppressed at times for various reasons. 1880 saw the publication of an anonymous slim volume entitled 1601: Conversation, as it was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors. Twain was among those rumored to be the author, but the issue was not settled until 1906, when Twain acknowledged his literary paternity of this scatological masterpiece.

At least Twain saw 1601 published during his lifetime. During the Philippine-American War, Twain wrote an anti-war article entitled The War Prayer. It was submitted to Harper's Bazaar for publication, but on March 22, 1905, the magazine rejected the story as "not quite suited to a woman's magazine." Eight days later Twain wrote to his friend Dan Beard, to whom he had read the story, "I don't think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth." Because he had an exclusive contract with Harper & Brothers, Mark Twain could not publish The War Prayer elsewhere; it remained unpublished until 1923.

In later years, Twain's family suppressed some of his work which was especially irreverent toward conventional religion, notably Letters from the Earth, which was not published until 1962. The anti-religious The Mysterious Stranger was published in 1916, although there is some scholarly debate as to whether Twain actually wrote the most familiar version of this story.

Perhaps most controversial of all was Mark Twain's 1879 humorous talk at the Stomach Club in Paris, entitled Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism (masturbation), which concluded with the thought, "If you must gamble your lives sexually, don't play a lone hand too much." This talk was not published until 1943, and then only in a limited edition of fifty copies.

Museums and attractions
Twain's Hartford, Connecticut home is a museum and National Historic Landmark known as The Mark Twain House. Twain also lived in Elmira, New York in the latter part of the 19th century; he had met his wife there and had other close ties to the area. He and many members of his family lie buried in a wooded knoll in Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira. A small octagonal study, given to Twain as a gift when he lived at Quarry Farm east of Elmira and in which he wrote all or part of several works, is now located on the grounds of Elmira College.

The big town of Hannibal, Missouri is another place with many Mark Twain attractions, including one of Twain's boyhood homes and the caverns he used to explore, featured in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Two American steam-powered paddle boats traveling the Rivers of America attractions at Disneyland and Disneyland Paris are named after Mark Twain, and the island in the middle of the river at Disneyland is called Tom Sawyer's Island after one of Twain's characters. An Audio-Animatronic Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin host The American Adventure show at EPCOT.

Quotes
"I have never let my schooling get in the way of my education."

"You can have heaven, I'd rather go to Bermuda."

"Familiarity breeds contempt—and babies."

"Golf is a good walk spoilt."

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them."

"Truth is our most valuable commodity, so let us economize."

"To create man was a fine and original idea; but to add sheep was a tautology." (notebook, 1902)

"We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. And out of it we get an aggregration which we consider a boon. Its name is public opinion. It is held in reverence. Some think it the voice of God." (Corn-Pone Opinions)

"Never put off until tomorrow that which could be done the day after tomorrow."

"A habit cannot be thrown out the window, it must be coaxed down the stairs one step at a time."

"The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter."

"Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

"The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner."

"There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice."

"Suppose you were a congressman, and suppose you were an idiot. But, I repeat myself."

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you, too, can become great."

"When I, a thoughtful and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious matters. When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can prove anything to a lunatic—for that is a part of his insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his... When I look around me, I am often troubled to see how many people are mad."

The saying "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics" is sometimes attributed to Twain. He did not coin the phrase, but he did popularise it in the United States.

Mark Twain in literature and popular culture
Hal Holbrook famously portrayed Mark Twain in a one-man show on stage and on television.

Sam Clemens is a character in Philip José Farmer's Riverworld. In the TV version, he is portrayed by actor Cameron Daddo.

The journalist Clemens makes an appearance in Neil Gaiman's comic book series The Sandman, in issue #31, "Three Septembers and a January", where he is proclaimed Royal Storyteller by the Emperor of the United States, Norton I.

Samuel Clemens is a character in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "Time's Arrow Part I" and "Time's Arrow Part II", portrayed by actor Jerry Hardin.

Samuel Clemens appears as a viewpoint character in Harry Turtledove's book How Few Remain.

Robert A. Heinlein modeled the father of Maureen in To Sail Beyond the Sunset after Mark Twain, and included him as a minor character in one scene.

Twain is a major character in The Adventures of Mark Twain, a claymation film by Will Vinton Studios.
Samuel Clemens arrives in Virginia City, Nevada, in an episode of Bonanza, as a reporter who causes some trouble for the Cartwrights.

In an episode parodying "The Prince and the Pauper," Mark Twain appeared in the animated show Johnny Bravo to complain about the episode's inadequacies.

The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944) starred Fredric March as Twain.

Bibliography
(1867) The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (fiction)
(1868) General Washington's Negro Body-Servant (fiction)
(1868) My Late Senatorial Secretaryship (fiction)
(1869) The Innocents Abroad (non-fiction travel)
(1870-71) Memoranda (monthly column for The Galaxy magazine)
(1871) Mark Twain's (Burlesque) Autobiography and First Romance (fiction)
(1872) Roughing It (non-fiction)
(1873) The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (fiction)
(1875) Sketches New and Old (fictional stories)
(1876) Old Times on the Mississippi (non-fiction)
(1876) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (fiction)
(1877) A True Story and the Recent Carnival of Crime (stories)
(1878) Punch, Brothers, Punch! and other Sketches (fictional stories)
(1880) A Tramp Abroad (non-fiction travel)
(1880) 1601: Conversation, as it was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors (fiction)
(1882) The Prince and the Pauper (fiction)
(1883) Life on the Mississippi (non-fiction)
(1884) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (fiction)
(1889) A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (fiction)
(1892) The American Claimant (fiction)
(1892) Merry Tales (fictional stories)
(1893) The £1,000,000 Bank Note and Other New Stories (fictional stories)
(1894) Tom Sawyer Abroad (fiction)
(1894) Pudd'n'head Wilson (fiction)
(1896) Tom Sawyer, Detective (fiction)
(1896) Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (fiction)
(1897) How to Tell a Story and other Essays (non-fictional essays)
(1897) Following the Equator (non-fiction travel)
(1900) The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg (fiction)
(1901) Edmund Burke on Croker and Tammany (political satire)
(1902) A Double Barrelled Detective Story' (fiction)
(1904) A Dog's Tale (fiction)
(1905) King Leopold's Soliloquy (political satire)
(1905) The War Prayer (fiction)
(1906) The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories (fiction)
(1906) What Is Man? (essay)
(1907) Christian science (non-fiction)
(1907) A Horse's Tale (fiction)
(1907) Is
Shakespeare Dead? (non-fiction)
(1909) Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven (fiction)
(1909) Letters from the Earth (fiction, published posthumously)
(1910) Queen Victoria's Jubilee (non-fiction)
(1916) The Mysterious Stranger (fiction, possibly not by Twain, published posthumously)
(1924) Mark Twain's Autobiography (non-fiction, published posthumously)
(1935) Mark Twain's Notebook (published posthumously)
(1969) No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger (fiction, published posthumously)
(1992) Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire: Anti-Imperialist Writings on the Philippine-American War. Jim Zwick, ed. (Syracuse University Press) ISBN 0815602685 ((previously uncollected, published posthumously)
(1995) The Bible According to Mark Twain: Writings on Heaven, Eden, and the Flood (published posthumously))

 
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