Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Pseudonym of Samual langhorn Clemens
Susy, Mark Twain’s daughter began the biography of her father when she was fourteen years old. She begins in this way:
“We are a very happy family. We consists of papa, Mama, Jean, Clara and me
It’s a Papa I am wrihting about.
Papa has beautiful gray hair, not any too thick or any too long, but just right, kind blue eyes and a small moustache. In short he is an extraordinary fine-looking man. He is a very funny one. He does tell perfectly delightful stories. Clara and I used to sit on each arm of his chair and listen while he told us stories.”
And that, in 1885, was the family of Mark Twain, whose real name was Samual langhorn Clemens.
Sam was born in a very small town called Florida in Missouri. The village contained a hundred people and Sam “increased the population by 1 per cent.”
Most of the houses were of logs. Beyond and beyond, shining in the sun, the Mississippi roled to the distant sea.
The beside this river, Samual Clemens grew into his boyhood. He saw negrous chained like animals for transportation to richer slave markets to the South. Sam’s father owned slaves. For a girl of fifteen he paid twelwe dollars; for a woman of twenty-five – he paid twenty-five dollars; for a strong negro woman of forty – he paid forty dollars. All the negroes of his own age were good friends of Sam. The young boy has always remember these sad things. Better things he remembered also. He remembered below the village woods “a heavenly place” where he played with the boys.
When he was four Sam’s familly moved to Hannibal. Their in 1849 his father died. Before the funeral Sam promised to his mother to be a better boy, to go to work, and care for her.
Sam soon had to live school and take a part time job as delivery and errand boy for Hannibal’s newspaper; serving at times as grocer’s clerk, blacksmith’s helper and bookseller’s assistant.
Always hungry, poor Sam filched onions and potatoes from the cellar, cooking them over the printing-office stove.
Sam decided he had had enough of such an unhappy life and went to work, as a “skilled printer of fifteen”, for his brother Orion who managed a newspaper in Hannibal.
Here Sam began his career writing humorous scetches, published in a comic weekly.
One night Sam was reading the diary of an Amazon explorer. He read about painted Indians shoting their poisoned arrows at tigers, of coloured parrots and agile monkeys dancing in the high trees. Sam was enchanted. He made up his mind to go to the head-waters of the Amazon and collect coco from coco bushes and make a fortune.
Here is what Sam learned about the coco leaves: “The leaf of this plant is to the Indian of Peru what tobacco is to our laboring classes is to the South.”
From the night on the Amazon fever burnt in Sam. But poor Sam was penniless…
One winter day Sam was walking down the street. A strong wind was blowing. Suddenly a small paper whirling on the pavement caught his eye. He picked it up. It was a fifty dollar bancnote “What a wonderful piece of luck,” he thoght.
Sam gave an advertisment about his find and waited. As nobody was looking for it, the boy left after some days for Amazon, with fifty dollars in his pocket.
He bought a ticket to new Orleans. The streamer Paul Jones took him to the country of coco leaves.
At New Orleans Sam asked about ships leaving to Para, the mouth of the Amazon, only to learn that no ships was expected to sail for that part.
He had but ten dollars left. The dream of macking s fortune was over
One of the pilot of the Paul Jones made a pilot out of Sam. It was in April 1857 that he started his four years of life on the Mississippi – his pilot days.
For seven month Sam trained a cub pilot. The training went on and on. All signs of the sky were very important to him; at night and in fog new dangers came: cool bargers, floating logs...
“Piloting on the Mississippi River was not work to me, it was play – delightful play, adventures play – and I loved it.”
Sam listened to the Mississippi leadman’s call:
“M-a-r-k three M-a-r-k twain”
On the twenty-third birthday he got a pilot’s license, and took the name of Mark Twain.
Sam was happy, and life was beautiful. He played the piano, sang songs of the river; he was gay and everybody liked him.
It was as pilot that Mark Twain learned to know human nature of the world round him.
When in 1861 the Сivil War broke out steamboating ceased and Mark Twain was left without work.
So he went back at his old trade as a writer for newspaper, writing a humorist scetches.
Now he was in Nevada with his brother Orion who was the new secretary of Nevada Territory. Sam, as eager as any for a fast fortune decided to go to the newly discovered Esmeralda mines to find his own mine.
He had expected to see silver lying loose upon the ground. The dissapointed was bitter. Weeks of winter went by, and Sam’s provisions were gone.
Sam was twenty-six. A year of looking for silver had brought him no fortune – he found none. He lived like twenty thousand other men. He observed them and wrote about them.
In 1863 Sam invited to Virginia City to work as a reporter on the Territorial Enterprise, a daily paper.
At the time when Sam arrived in Virginia City, there was no town like it in America. It was fantastically rich. Money burnt in every pocket. Most of the people in the town were miners. Every man carried a gun or a revolver. There were often street fights.
Sam, with miner’s beard, uncut hair, a blue woolen shirt on and a revolver at his belt which he couldn’t manage, learned his new job. He had to fill two collumns a day with local news.
He wrote about the big mines, about the desperados fighting among themselves, about murders which were commited at all hours of the day and night. Some of the desperadors were arrested, but never punished. They had a law of their own. Sam’s news became very popular.
One day the editor-in-chief of the Enterprise went for a week’s holiday and Sam had to take his place. He had no intention of provoking the owner of a rival paper but as dueling became very fashionable in the Territory of Nevada the editor, Mr. Laird , took advantage of the oppotunity an insisted on a duel.
Sam was known as a hopeless ahot.
At four o’clock in the morning of the appointed dueling day, Steve, Sam’s friend, took him a mile from town and taught him to fire a revolver.
“Take all the risk getting murder but don’t run any risk of murdering him. Aim at his legs. Aim below the knee; kripple him, but leave the rest of him to his mother.”
Poor Sam was shooting at a barn door but he couldn’t hit it.
Now just at this moment a little bird, no bigger than a sparrow, flew along about thirty yards away. Steve whipped out his revolver ande shot its head off. They ran down to pick up the bird and just then, Mr. Laird and his second came and saw the bird with its head shot off. Laird lost colour, and asked about who had done it. Steve spoke up, and said quit calmly that Clemens did it.
So Laird and his second said good morning and went home. Laird sent a note decklning to fight a duel with Sam. Thanks to the liittle bird Sam;s life was saved.
Sam was twenty-nine, and had earned his own living since he was twelve. He had been a printer, a pilot, a miner, and a newspaper man.
At just this time, the Pacific Steamboat Company began a regular passenger service between sun Francisco and Honolulu. Sam took the trip, paying for it with letters as a special correspondent of the Sacramento Union.
Now he would travel arround the world, and he would write of the places he saw and the people he meet.
He rode horseback two hundred miles over the island of Hawaii, throught the coffee, sugar and orange region of Kona.
Sam had found the work which suited him best: he could ramble as much as he liked, and write funny letters to many newspapers to make the readers laugh till their sides ached.
The Langdons had been a happy family until the day of the accident. Livy, their daughter, fell on the ice and a partial paralysis followed. For two years after the accident, Livy lay in her bed. She was unable even to sit up.
Then came a new, famous doctor and said to Livy,
“Now we will sit up my child.” Then he added “Take a step. Take just a step”.
Livy stood on her feet, with doctors help.
It was like a dream for the poor girl!
And from this day on Livy’s health was steadily improwing. Livy’s brother, Carsley Langdon, had gone off on a sea voyage. One of his companions was the well-known newspaper correspondent who called himself Mark Twain, the author of many scetches that were making him famous.
The Langdons were spending the Cristmas holiday in 1867 in New York City. Twain was a on this way to his first meeting with Livy.
Now Livy was twenty-two. She was a small delicate girl with serious dark eyes and black hair. She was lovely.
Sam was introduced to the mother and the father and to the “sweet and timid and lovely girl.” He was head over heels in love with Livy. After the first visit he got a standing invitation to the Langdon’s home in Elmira.
During the nights he was writing and soon as he was free, immedietly he ran to the Langdon’s
Livy and Sam were married on the 2nd of February, 1870. The next day they went to Buffalo where Sam bought a share in newspaper. Jervis Langdon had bought and furnished a new and beautiful house for the young couple in a fashionable street in Buffalo. The rambler finally had to settle-down.
Sam worked a lot, editing Buffalo Express, writing for the New York magazines, and collecting material fo a new book Roughing It – the story of his Nevada mining and newspaper days. It was published when he was thity-six. It was a great success.
The twenty years between 1875 and 1894 were the happiest and the wealthiest for Samuel Clemens. He wrote his best book in Hartford, in a wonderful house built for him and his family. The rooms were large and always gay with company and friends.
Here was born Clara, and here in June, 1874, Sam began one of his dreatest books the Adventures of Tom Sawer – the book about his own childhood. In 1880, Mark Twain finished the Prience and the Pauper. In the preface whe writes:
“It may be history, it may be only legend. It may have happend, it may not have happend: but it could have happend.”
The book is dedicated to: “Those good-mannered and agreeable chidren Susy and Clara Clemens.”
Susy writes in his fathers biography: “One of the papa’s latest books is the Prience and the Pauper and it is the best book he haas ever written. The book is full of lovely, charming ideas. Oh, it is so funny and nice! Papa seldom writes a passage without some humor in it.”
The books mark Twain wrotes for chidren, he wrote with great happiness.
Mark Twain was writing and lecturing. At home he was a loving father, playing jokes on his children, telling them stories. To his family and old friends he was always “Sam”. His ftiends never used his pen name of “Mark Twain”.
The tragic end
When Sam was in England Susy died in Hartford. The last thirteen days Susy was very ill. She refused to see a doctor. Then came a sudden change for the worse. When the doctor came it was too late. The poor girl was unconscious during three days. The brain fever was raging.
The last word Susan spoke was “Mamma” – that was Susy’s good bye. She was twenty four years old. For the parentsit was terrible shock. The loved her dearly. A few days after Susy was buried in Elmira, Livy sailed with Clara and Jean, the youngest daughter, for Endland and Italy. The never lived in the Hartford house again.
When the thirty four annivesary came livy was very ill. “Her heart soon began to alarm her.” She went to bed and Sam was allowed to see her five minites a day.
One day Sam, Clara and Jean came to say her good night. The found her silent. Sam bent over her. She was dead.
“She was my life and she is gone; ahe was my riches, and I am a pauper.”
They sailed for home to bury Livy in Elmira, beside Susy. “In this 34 days we have made many voyages together, Livy dear, and now we are making our last.”
In the morning of Cristmas night in 1909, Jean Clemens died. Ther in her bathroom she lay, the fair young creature. The poor girl was an epileptic.
“I shall never write any more.” It was as Sam Clemens said. The death of Jean was Mark Twain’s last work.
“I lost Susy thirteen years ago; I lost her mother – her incomporable mother! – five and a half years ago; Clara has gone away to live in Europe; and now I have lost Jean. Now poor I am, who was the once rich.”
Now, he was alone and he was ill. Clara annd her husbund came back from Europe and they were with their dying father the lust few days.
“Death, the most precious of all gift” he welcomed without fear. Late in the afternoon on the 21st of April, 1910, Samuel Clemens died at the age of seventy-four. At Elmira, next to Livy and Susy and Jean, Sam Clemens was buried. For him, the great American Humonist, who had made the world laugh, the sad pilgrimage was ended.