Widely regarded as one of American literature's most admired and prominent writers, Mark Twain outlines his work based primarily on his own life experiences. His classic masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Life on the Mississippi, are interjected and layered with personal tales, themes which outline the many contrasts between beauty and nastiness, river adventures, and moral and individual perceptions representative of Mississippi River Valley life.
Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835. His father and mother both came from old Virginia families. His father was a somewhat incompetent and unsuccessful lawyer, and was slowly moving his family westward, involving himself in land speculation. In 1939, the family had reached Hannibal, Missouri, a small town on the Mississippi River not far from St. Louis. It was here that Twain spent his early childhood and developed his love for the great river.
After his father died when he was twelve years old, Twain left school to follow the footsteps of his brother and learn the trade of printing. After spending several years as a voyaging printer, Twain was taken on by Horace Bixby, who trained him as a Mississippi riverboat pilot, a trade he practiced until the outbreak of the Civil War. With the war
halting Mississippi River traffic, Mark Twain joined his brother, Orion, in Carson City, Nevada, where his brother was a territorial secretary. After trying out silver mining, Twain met his mentor, the popular humorist Artemus Ward, who recognized Clemens' talent and encouraged him to write 'as much as possible.' Twain went back to journalism with the Virginia City Territorial Express. It was in 1862 that he first adopted the pen name Mark Twain. He felt that he needed a name...