On November 30, 1835, Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri. Throughout the rest of his life, he would write many influential works, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, under the name Mark Twain. In honor of his birthday, almost two centuries later, we’re taking a look at Samuel Clemens’ life and some of his most famous works and quotes.


Hannibal, Missouri

“Hannibal has had a hard time of it ever since I can recollect, and I was ‘raised’ there. First, it had me for a citizen, but I was too young then to really hurt the place.”

–Letter to the Alta California

Though Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri, he is more closely associated with Hannibal, Missouri, as his family moved there when he was four. Hannibal inspired many aspects of Clemens’ later works, such as a few of the settings in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. After Clemens’ oldest brother, Orion, bought the Hannibal Journal, Clemens began to work as a typesetter and later contributed sketches and articles.


Fun Fact: It was in writing for his brother’s newspaper that Clemens began using pseudonyms. These pseudonyms included Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass and Quintius Curtius Snodgrass before Clemens started using Mark Twain.


World Travels

“A pilot, in those days, was the only unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived in the earth.”

Life on the Mississippi

After receiving a riverboat pilot’s license in 1859 and traveling up and down the Mississippi River, Clemens would begin traveling farther and farther from Hannibal. His travels to California, Hawaii and abroad inspired his writing, and he worked as a correspondent for several newspapers.


"Books are the liberated spirits of men." –Mark Twain

Clemens continued to write and began authoring novels in the 1870’s. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was one of Clemens’ first examples of novel-writing, while also demonstrating his comedic skills. However, despite the success of his writing, financial woes followed Clemens — he was forced to continue to write for magazines to pay the bills, and he declared personal bankruptcy in 1893.


Later Life

“There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.”

–"The Refuge of the Derelicts"

Clemens would continue to write and to give lectures, including going on a tour where he gave lectures in South Africa, Canada, India and beyond. Although this tour would pay off his financial debts, sadness followed Clemens — in 1896, his daughter Susy died, and the next thirteen years would bring the declining health and deaths of his wife and another daughter, Jean. Clemens died in 1911, but he continued writing both humorous and thought-provoking pieces through his final years.


"Travel is fatal to prejudice." –Mark Twain

Travel and experiencing the world proved key to the successes and inspirations of Samuel Clemens’ works. In honor of his birthday, continue to learn more about his life, and consider enrolling in two Road Scholar programs that will expand on the history surrounding Clemens’ life. Hop on a paddlewheeler on the Mississippi River to explore American history (including Hannibal, Missouri itself) or enjoy a learning adventure at home as you gain insight into Samuel Clemens’ time in California.


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