Honors U.S. History
October 14, 2013
Mark Twain: The Father of American Literature
Mark Twain’s personal works made him famous in the literary world, not only in America but worldwide. His humor and American insight, coming from a little port city to the companion of kings, made him hard not to love.
John Clemens was a hard workingman. His family was well off with their possession of land and slaves in Campbell County, Virginia. In 1805 Johns father died, whereupon the family moved to Kentucky, where his mother remarried and young John went to work at the age of eleven. He worked as a clerk at an iron mine. With age John was able to study his true passion, the law. By the age of 21 he was a licensed attorney. With his fancy new job added responsibilities became necessary, John was now responsible for the family’s financial obligations. In 1823 John met the love of his life, Jane Lampton, with her and his law degree he moved to Tennessee where he took on the responsibility of country commissioner, clerk, and attorney general of Fentress County.
With the arrival of his first child the couple moved to Missouri, there Jane gave birth to 7 beautiful babies, five boys and two girls. There he served as a railroad and steamboat commissioner and became a county judge. John was also part of the Missouri militia, but never fought in battle. In the March of 1847, strong John died of pleurisy and pneumonia, leaving his family to fend for them selves.
Samuel took to the papers, he became a printer’s apprentice, and after practice he went into business with his brother, Orion, at the Hannibal Journal. With age, Clemens moved from place to place as a newspaper correspondent but his true ambition was never fulfilled. Samuel always dreamed of becoming a steamboat conductor in Mississippi. In 1857, Clemens basked in the knowledge of a veteran pilot as an apprentice. Civil war blockades along the river brought an end to river commerce.
Clemens and Orion traveled to Nevada in hopes rustling up some gold in 1861, yet was unsuccessful, and over back to Virginia to continue on with his career as a journalist at the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. Clemens began writing humorous observations off western life under the name “Josh” but a few years later “Mark Twain” which he is now affectionately remembered by.
The jump in Twain’s fame occurred in San Francisco with his publication of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” , a humorous story capturing the reality of life for California gold miners. The next year Twain traveled to Hawaii by boat, there the beauty of the island engulfed him, giving him material for his first public lecture. It was a hit, this was the beginning of a successful and very long public speaking career. In 64’ Twain took a tour of the holy land and the Mediterranean, along his journey he wrote letters, and reworked them into a book when he returned called “The Innocents Abroad”, creating a buzz worldwide.
The successful jetsetter returns to America to settle down with the lovely Olivia Langdon, they married 1870 in Elmira, New York, there Mark took the editor position at the Buffalo Express. In 71’ the couple moved to Hartford Connecticut, and it was at this time Twain dove into the world of “serious” literature. Twain used all of his life experiences in his work, making them relatable and exciting, in 72’ he published Roughing It, an amazing insight into the way of the west, Twain recounts his travels into the west, the perilous and remarkable journey. His next peace showed a drastically different side of Twain with his publication of The Gilded Age, the writing was draped in wealthy characterization, influenced by the era. The book became so influential many still refer to the 1870’s as “the gilded era”.
“ There are many young men like him in American society, of his age, opportunities, education, and abilities, who have really been educated for nothing and have let themselves