Summary: the Biography of Mark Twain

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During Mark Twain’s childhood, he had many influences that put him on the path to what made him an important literary figure today. Mark Twain grew up with his birth name, Samuel Clemens and he was the sixth child out of a total of seven. Although his father and mother did not own many slaves his uncle did, sometimes he would hear tales and stories from the slaves when he went to visit his uncle all throughout his life. His mother was a Lambton before she got married in Lexington in the year of 1823 at the age of 20 and she was a native of Kentucky. Twain had first gone to school when he was seven years old, but this did not last long. He had dropped out when he had finished fifth grade at the age of 11 shortly after his father’s death in 1847. Twain was not very close with his family and he once said “…I never knew a member of my father’s family to kiss another member of it except once, and that was at a death bed.” (pg. 46). Twain then went on to work as a printer’s apprentice for a newspaper around at the time during this he was able to learn and read about things that were going on in the world which helped him grow as a writer.

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When Twain was eighteen, he decided to venture east to New York City and Philadelphia where he worked on newspapers and wrote a couple of articles himself as well which gave him a small bit of success. At one point he returned to his home to strive for a career in riverboat piloting, but due to the upcoming war, his dreams were postponed during that time. During these times Twain did join a group for the war, but quickly after 2 weeks left it. In the end, he is left without a job until his brother named Orion contacts him after becoming secretary of the Nevada territory. Twain at this point was lured by the silver rush in this territory so he ventures to Nevada in 1861. Along the way, he saw many things such as Native Americans, different types of people, mishaps and disappointing moments in his journey that would become part of his short stories. As he figures out that he is not doing so well as a silver prospector he begins to write. Twain starts to write for an enterprise named Territorial Enterprise‚ a Virginia City‚ Nevada newspaper. His pen name Mark Twain was first used when he started to work at the territorial Enterprise. Twain had finally become somewhat known when he had written “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” in the paper in 1865. A year later he was then hired by the Sacramento Union to visit and report about Hawaii. His writing then started to become more and more popular that he even started to have lectures.

In 1870 he was married to Olivia Langdon after about two years of courting her. They moved and settled down in Buffalo, New York where Twain had become a partner, editor, and writer for the newspaper the Buffalo Express. Their first child Langdon Clemens is born during their time in Buffalo. After a short while, they moved to Connecticut in 1872 where Twain had made it big with the publishing of his book, Roughing it. At this time their second child Susy was born, but sadly their first child Langdon had died at an age of two years old from an illness. In 1873 he co-wrote with the publisher Charles Dudley Warner to write what is known as The Gilded Age which was basically about the corruption of businesses during that time which is known as Laissez-faire.

In the span between 1874 and 1891 Twain had settled down in their Hartford home with his wife and three daughters Susy, Clara, and Jean. He also completed most of his famous books between these times such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and one of his most famous works Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Many of his works are based on his adventures in his life and where he had moved to as well. The first book to become published by his own publishing company was non-other than Adventures of Huckleberry. He had created his publishing company in 1884. He was awarded his Doctor of Letters degree from Yale University in 1901 as well as by Oxford University awarded him a Doctorate of Letters.

Twain made lots of money with his career in writing but did not have such good luck when it came to investments. He invested in inventions that would soon make him go bankrupt. After this Twain and his family had moved to Europe in 1891 soon after in 1894 his publishing company had crashed. Twain then had to find a way to pay back his debts decided to go on tour with his lectures, but a disaster struck when Olivia his wife died at the age of twenty-four of the illness meningitis. Twain broken up about this tragedy never had the heart to return to their home after her death. After this Twain and his family travel to many places in the world in the year 1891 to 1900. During his time traveling, he saw many different governments and many corrupt leaders as well which then after returning to America made Twain announce to become an Anti-imperialist. In the end he had all his finances in order and became the vice-president of the anti-imperialists league until his death in 1910 at the age of 74. Twain’s contribution to American literature is the racial stand against the treatment of people of color and was also against the whole idea of slavery itself.

Mark Twain was a very accomplished American writer and he received his Doctor of Letters degree from Yale University in 1901. He was also awarded by Oxford University with a Doctorate of Letters. A scholar named Vogelback, Arthur Lawrence respected Mark Twain for his literary work The Prince and The Pauper. The scholar goes on to say how well the literary work is understood as well as how it flows. The Prince and The Pauper was praised through many papers such as Atlantic Monthly and Century Magazine. Lawrence explains why this literary work is talked about more than his Tales of Huckleberry Fin at this time. He goes on to say that the reason The Prince and The Pauper is more talked about was because it is easily understood by the common people as well as how humorous yet deep the book is. Lawrence goes on to say that most people wouldn’t have thought Mark Twain to be the writer of this book because of the way it is written and how it is not in his style. The story and plot have a very deep and meaningful story yet still has bits and pieces of humor. Overall this scholar respected and enjoyed Mark Twain’s The Prince and The Pauper.

The second Scholar is named Morris, Christopher and he believes that the Prince and The Pauper is not something he agrees with. He begins to completely bash Mark Twain’s work and says that the work itself is not usually like his other works. Morris believes that Twain did not do a good job doing his research when it came to England and what it was like with Henry the fourteenth. He then starts to call Twain incompetent and says that Mark Twain cannot de-nationalize himself. Morris says, “he completely undermines his own political convictions” which to say I believe he is saying he can’t keep his own opinion or insight out of it. He goes on to say that Twain uses England to compare to America and the difference in their capital punishments. He finishes this off with the last note about how American and England laws are only and have always been an illusion.

The third scholar is named Stahl, John Daniel and he compares The Prince and The Pauper to Huckleberry Finn as well as ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Stahl talks about the father/ son relationship in many of Mark Twain’s books. Due to the fact the Mark Twain did not have such a good relationship with his father Stahl believes it came out in Twain’s works. In The Prince and The Pauper Tom Canty’s father is known as a thief and is also known for beating Tom. The portrayal of Tom’s father is believed to be a portrayal of Twain’s life not necessarily in beatings but just his father figure in general. Stahl also believed that Twain’s portrayal of women as angelic with a couple exceptions was a recurring theme as well. During The Prince and The Pauper, the boys were almost always made to fend for themselves except for when miles help the little prince. Stahl makes a point to say that he believes that Mark Twain thinks fathers will not keep. He also states that were the biological fathers have failed a substitute father is required in order to get the character through the story.




Works Cited:

  1. “Major Works.” Mark Twain House, The Mark Twain House and Museum,
  2. “Mark Twain.” Edited by,, A&E Networks Television, 10 Sept. 2019,
  3. Morris, Christopher. “The Deconstruction of Self and State in the Prince and the Pauper.” Studies in the Humanities, vol. 38, no. 1/2, Dec. 2011, pp. 87–111. EBSCOhost,
  4. Stahl, John Daniel. American Literature, vol. 58, no. 2, May 1986, p. 203. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2307/2925815.
  5. Twain, Mark. Chapters from My Autobiography, The Floating Press, 1907. ProQuest Ebook Central,
  6. Vogelback, Arthur Lawrence. “The Prince and the Pauper: A Study in Critical Standards.” American Literature, vol. 14, no. 1, Mar. 1942, p. 48. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2307/2920892.

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