5 Fun Facts About Mark Twain


That Wasn't Really His Name

Born on November 30, 1835, in Missouri, young Samuel Langhorne Clemens was a great lover of science and literature, but despite his passion, he never did well in school. His formal education ended in fifth grade when his father, a judge, died of pneumonia and Clemens took an apprenticeship at a local newspaper to provide for his family.

Even as he worked as a miner and steamboat pilot, however, Clemens continued to visit libraries and read aloud. When he eventually became a journalist, Clemens decided to take on the surname of a writer who had died in 1869. Mark Twain, as he was known, specifically had an old-fashioned way of saying that the water was deep enough for a boat to travel through. safely through.

He Was A Confederate

Clemens was raised in the slave state of Missouri, had an uncle who owned slaves, and once saw a man kill his slave "just for doing something strange." Despite this, a 25-year-old Clemens joined a pro-Union militia almost immediately after the outbreak of the Civil War. However, he lasted two weeks before training proved too difficult, so he gave up and headed west instead.

But he loved Ulysses S. Grant

Later in life, Clemens sang a different tune. Much of his writings changed from racism to anti-slavery, and he wrote the famous Union general Ulysses S. Grant, whom he had first met as a lowly journalist in 1867. "I shook hands [with him], and then there was a pause and silence," he later recalled. "I couldn't think of anything to say. So I only looked at the general's serious, immovable face in silence for a moment or two, and then I said, 'Mr. President, I'm embarrassed—are you there?'"

Despite the uncanny display of verbal clumsiness, Grant took Clemens well and invited him to a dinner reception, where he greeted the author by teasing, "Mr. Clemens, I'm not embarrassed, right?" Never a knowledgeable businessman, Grant struggled financially after leaving office, and when the former president fell ill with cancer, Clemens saved his family from utter ruin when he helped them with his autobiography. stepped on.

He Wasn't Great With Money, Either

Although a prolific writer, Clemens did not do well on the commercial side of things. His biggest mistake was investing in an automatic typesetting machine, which may have seemed like a dream to a writer, but failed miserably and plunged Clemens into a massive $200,000 debt (about $6 million today). Gave. He certainly would have been better off investing in the telephone, an opportunity he was offered but rejected. Maybe he was way ahead of his time. His elastic-waist pants have done great in the intervening decades.

Huck Finn was a real person

In the town where he grew up, Clemens knew a boy named Tom Blankenship, who was "ignorant, unwashed, [and] inadequately fed, but had a heart as good as that of any boy." " He felt for a child who was poor and neglected by his alcoholic father, and that feeling stayed with him into adulthood, even after the two touched him. It is not known for certain what happened to Blankenship, with rumors ranging from trouble with the law to success as a justice of the peace, but he certainly lives on in one of the most successful books in American literature.

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