Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mark Twain reaches its 100th anniversary

Mark Twain or Samuel Langhorne Clemens

Samuel Langhorne "Mark Twain" Clemens: to one of the greatest writers in Literature and humorist in American history, thanks for all of the great books that you wrote,remembering you after 100 years, may you rest in peace!

He will be remembered as an American author and humorist. Twain is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which has been called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). He is extensively quoted. Twain was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.

Twain was very popular, and his keen wit and incisive satire earned praise from critics and peers. Upon his death he was lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age", and William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature."

Later life

Twain passed through a period of deep depression, which began in 1896 when his daughter Susy died of meningitis. Olivia's death in 1904 and Jean's on December 24, 1909, deepened his gloom.On May 20, 1909, his close friend Henry Rogers died suddenly.

In 1906, Twain began his autobiography in the North American Review. In April, Twain heard that his friend Ina Coolbrith had lost nearly all she owned in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and he volunteered a few autographed portrait photographs to be sold for her benefit. To further aid Coolbrith, George Wharton James visited Twain in New York and arranged for a new portrait session. Twain said four of the resulting images were the finest ones ever taken of him.

Twain formed a club in 1906 for girls he viewed as surrogate granddaughters, the Angel Fish and Aquarium Club. The dozen or so members ranged in age from 10 to 16. Twain exchanged letters with his "Angel Fish" girls and invited them to concerts and the theatre and to play games. Twain wrote in 1908 that the club was his "life's chief delight." Oxford University awarded Twain an honorary doctorate in letters (D.Litt.) in 1907.

In 1909, Twain is quoted as saying:
I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'

His prediction was accurate – Twain died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut, one day after the comet's closest approach to Earth.
Upon hearing of Twain's death, President William Howard Taft said: "Mark Twain gave pleasure – real intellectual enjoyment – to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come... His humor was American, but he was nearly as much appreciated by Englishmen and people of other countries as by his own countrymen. He has made an enduring part of American literature."

Mark Twain headstone in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Twain's funeral was at the "Old Brick" Presbyterian Church in New York. He is buried in his wife's family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York. His grave is marked by a 12-foot (i.e., two fathoms, or "mark twain") monument, placed there by his surviving daughter, Clara.There is also a smaller headstone.

Later writing:
After his great work, Twain began turning to his business endeavors to keep them afloat and to stave off the increasing difficulties he had been having from his writing projects. Twain focused on President Ulysses S. Grant's Memoirs for his fledgling publishing company, finding time in between to write "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed" for The Century Magazine. This piece detailed his two-week stint in a Confederate militia during the Civil War. The name of his publishing company was Charles L. Webster & Company, which he owned with Charles L. Webster, his nephew by marriage.

Twain in his old age:
Twain next focused on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which featured him making his first big pronouncement of disappointment with politics. Written with the same "historical fiction" style of The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee showed the absurdities of political and social norms by setting them in the court of King Arthur. The book was started in December 1885, then shelved a few months later until the summer of 1887, and eventually finished in the spring of 1889.

Twain had begun to furiously write articles and commentary with diminishing returns to pay the bills and keep his business projects afloat, but it was not enough. He filed for bankruptcy in 1894.
His next large-scale work, Pudd'nhead Wilson, was written rapidly, as Twain was desperately trying to stave off the bankruptcy. From November 12 to December 14, 1893, Twain wrote 60,000 words for the novel. Critics have pointed to this rushed completion as the cause of the novel's rough organization and constant disruption of continuous plot. There were parallels between this work and Twain's financial failings, notably his desire to escape his current constraints and become a different person.

Like The Prince and the Pauper, this novel also contains the tale of two boys born on the same day who switch positions in life. Considering the circumstances of Twain's birth and Halley's Comet, and his strong belief in the paranormal, it is not surprising that these "mystic" connections recur throughout his writing.

The actual title is not clearly established. It was first published serially in Century Magazine, and when it was finally published in book form, Pudd'nhead Wilson appeared as the main title; however, the disputed "subtitles" make the entire title read: The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson and the Comedy of The Extraordinary Twins.

Twain's next venture was a work of straight fiction that he called Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc and dedicated to his wife. Twain had long said that this was the work of which he was most proud, despite the criticism he received for it. The book had been a dream of his since childhood; he claimed that he had found a manuscript detailing the life of Joan of Arc when he was an adolescent. This was another piece which Twain was convinced would save his publishing company. His financial adviser, Henry Huttleston Rogers, squashed that idea and got

Twain out of that business altogether, but the book was published nonetheless.
During this time of dire financial straits, Twain published several literary reviews in newspapers to help make ends meet. He famously derided James Fenimore Cooper in his article detailing Cooper's "Literary Offenses". He became an extremely outspoken critic not only of other authors, but also of other critics, suggesting that before praising Cooper's work, Professors Loundsbury, Brander Matthes, and Wilkie Collins "ought to have read some of it."
Other authors to fall under Twain's attack during this time period (beginning around 1890 until his death) were George Eliot, Jane Austen, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

In addition to providing a source for the "tooth and claw" style of literary criticism, Twain outlines in several letters and essays what he considers to be "quality writing". He places emphasis on concision, utility of word choice, and realism (he complains that Cooper's Deerslayer purports to be realistic but has several shortcomings). Ironically, several of his works were later criticized for lack of continuity (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) and organization (Pudd'nhead Wilson).

Twain's wife died in 1904 while the couple were staying at the Villa di Quarto in Florence, and after an appropriate time Twain allowed himself to publish some works that his wife, a de facto editor and censor throughout his life, had looked down upon. Of these works, The Mysterious Stranger, depicting various visits of the Devil to the Earth, is perhaps the best known. This particular work was not published in Twain's lifetime. There were three versions found in his manuscripts made between 1897 and 1905: the Hannibal, Eseldorf, and Print Shop versions. Confusion between the versions led to an extensive publication of a jumbled version, and only recently have the original versions as Twain wrote them become available.
Twain's last work was his autobiography, which he dictated and thought would be most entertaining if he went off on whims and tangents in non-sequential order. Some archivists and compilers had a problem with this and rearranged the biography into a more conventional form, thereby eliminating some of Twain's humor and the flow of the book.

Columbia Missourian
Death of Mark Twain reaches its 100th anniversary
Mark Twain died in 1910, and for the 100th anniversary of his death, his life is being remembered and honored by a number of organizations in Columbia. ¦ The Associated Press
COLUMBIA—In November 1835, Mark Twain was born under the glow of Halley’s Comet.
As it would turn out, the comet's appearance would serve as a bookend to his life. When Twain died 74 years later in 1910, it was again shooting through the sky.
Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the man from Missouri who adopted the name Mark Twain and become a humorist, global lecturer and author of widely celebrated novels.
He once wrote to his wife, "Manifestly, dying is nothing to a really great and brave man," and most centennial events, almost in response to this quote, have focused instead on his remarkable life.
MU invited scholars to speak at a series of lectures in March, and the State Historical Society is planning an exhibition of artist Thomas Hart Benton's illustrations for Twain's books this year.
On Tuesday, the Columbia Public Library will hold a discussion of his short stories, and the library will show the documentary, "Mark Twain Tonight," on April 28.
Twain became famous as a literary master who wrote two especially enduring books, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
During his lifetime, he achieved celebrity status. He dined with Theodore Roosevelt, met Mahatma Ghandi, Sigmund Freud and the Prince of Wales, and knew the corporate titans of his era.
He also worked with abolitionists, suffragists and scientific geniuses. All this was accomplished with a fourth-grade education, apprenticeships and evenings spent alone in a public library. (MU gave him an honorary degree in 1902.)
Born in Florida, Mo., he moved with his family at age 4 to Hannibal where his father opened a general store.
After the death of his father at age 11,Twain dropped out of school. His first jobs were as a printer in Hannibal and several East Coast cities.
Tom Quirk, an English professor at MU and a Mark Twain scholar, said he was fascinated with fiction from the beginning. The writer's first piece of published work, when he was 16, was a magazine piece titled "The Dandy Frightening the Squatter."
Twain was also attracted to the life of adventure, such as riverboat piloting on the Mississippi River.
He and his brother, Henry, both worked on steamboats. Once, they plotted the course of action they would follow if there was an explosion — they would help the passengers rather than escape themselves.
An explosion on a steamboat eventually did kill Henry, and Twain blamed himself, saying he had foreseen the death in a dream.
After the Civil War ended Twain's days on the river, he followed his brother, Orion, to Nevada. He tried his luck at prospecting, then began a journalistic career in California, traveled to Europe and the Middle East and wrote "The Innocents Abroad."The novel later became a bestseller.
He left a body of work that includes not only influential American novels, but also essays, articles, short stories and speeches. He wrote about travel, civil rights, women's rights, pacifism, anti-imperialism, the existence of God and science fiction.
Twain could have been talking about himself when he wrote,"There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things.
"The first group is less crowded."

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