Friday, January 30, 2009

A Man named Mark Twain ...

One of the things I love most about blogging is being able to write about a variety of subjects that interest me ... from sharing recipes and decorating and gardening projects to taking "field trips" with my camera. And, of course, I love sharing stories about and pictures of our 3-1/2-year-old granddaughter Avery Grace.

I also enjoy writing about people I find interesting or admire, and my post today features Mark Twain. [If you don't care to read the biographical information, scroll down the page and read some of his quotations. He was a colorful character and I think you will enjoy his plainspoken wit and wisdom].

On November 30, 1835, the small town of Florida, Missouri, witnessed the birth of its most famous son. Samuel Langhorne Clemens was welcomed into the world as the sixth child of John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens. Little did John and Jane know, their son Samuel would one day be known as Mark Twain - America's most famous literary icon.

Approximately four years after his birth, the Clemens family moved 35 miles east to the town of Hannibal, a growing port city on the banks of the Mississippi River. Hannibal was a frequent stop for steam boats arriving day and night from St. Louis and New Orleans, and served as the inspiration for the fictional town of St. Petersburg, in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

When Samuel was 12, his father died of pneumonia, and at 13, Samuel left school to become a printer's apprentice. After two short years, he joined his brother Orion's newspaper as a printer and editorial assistant. It was here that young Samuel found he enjoyed writing.

At 17, he left Hannibal behind for a printer's job in St. Louis. While in St. Louis, Clemens became a river pilot's apprentice. He became a licensed river pilot in 1858. Clemens' pseudonym, Mark Twain, comes from his days as a river pilot. It is a river term which means two fathoms or 12-feet when the depth of water for a boat is being sounded. "Mark twain" means that is safe to navigate.

Because the river trade was brought to a standstill by the War Between the States in 1861, Clemens began working as a newspaper reporter for several newspapers all over the United States. In 1870, Clemens married Olivia Langdon, and they had four children, one of whom died in infancy and two who died in their twenties. Their surviving child, Clara, lived to be 88, and had one daughter. Clara's daughter died without having any children, so there are no direct descendants of Samuel Clemens living.

Twain began to gain fame in 1965, when his story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County" appeared in the New York Saturday Press. Twain's first book, The Innocents Abroad, was published in 1869, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, in 1876, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in 1885.

He wrote 28 books and numerous short stories, letters, and sketches.

During his lifetime, Twain became a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty. He enjoyed immense public popularity, and his keen wit and incisive satire earned him praise from both critics and peers. American author (and one of Mississippi's most famous sons), William Faulkner, called him the "Father of American Literature."

Mark Twain passed away on April 21, 1910, and his childhood home is open to the public as a museum in Hannibal.

The homespun wit and wisdom of Mark Twain transcend time and can be found in hundreds of quotations by him, as well as in his books. Here are a few of my favorite quotations, some of which you may recognize:

I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said I don't know.

It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not to deserve them.

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.

The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.

Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.

You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

13 comments:

bj said...

Oh, Janie, I love this post. I have always really loved his work and....I've always thought him a handsome fella.
Thanks for all the great info. you supplied us with this morning...
xo bj

Susanne49 said...

I was reading Tom Sawyer in my childhood in Switzerland - but in German language. I loved so much all the adventures also of Huckleberry Finn. I'm glad I discovered your pretty and very tasteful made blog.

Sue's Daily Photography

Tonja said...

I have always loved his quotations! Great post!

Julie @ Sweet Chaos said...

Janie, I just bought a book at our library sale that I had borrowed back in 7th grade to write a term paper. You'd love it, if you don't have it already. The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain, editor Alex Ayres. Hope you can find it, you'll spend hours in it!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Janie, I absolutely love Mark Twain! Thanks for sharing this with us. And my two favorite quotes are these:

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

Love it!

Sending you much love from rainy Florida! PTL that we finally have some rain, but I hope it doesn't rain out our fundraiser!

XO,

Sheila :-)

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Wonderful post, Janie! We live, just 60 miles south of Hannibal, on the same highway. I have a Mark Twain quote at the bottom of the page at Snapshots from the Back Porch blog.

August Rose said...

I do enjoy history. That is really neat becausemy first born son's middle name Orion. That is a very unique name. Like the story.

I am reading a book called Magnolia's. It is history and romance about the town Eufaula, Alabama and my it did not burn in the Civil War. It talks about the paddle wheel boats and the lovely homes in the town. Let me know if you would like to know who the auther is and I will get you the information.

Stacey said...

I always enjoy his quotes. Funny thing about Mark Twain, you read his works mostly as a kid but don't fully appreciate it until you are an adult.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Wonderful post Janie! I do admire Mark Twain and his timeless sentiments. One of my favorite quotes by him is: "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint."
He certainly did have a sense of humor about him!

salmagundi said...

Enjoyable post! I've been to his house in Hannibal - you really get a feel for his childhood adventures!! Sally

Diane@A Picture is Worth.... said...

Hi Janie,
I've always loved the stories about Mark Twain and enjoyed learning more about him.

My students at school were always spell bound by the stories of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. I used a condensed version written on their reading level, and they were so enthused about the stories and couldn't wait til the next chapter!

There is lots of wisdom in his quotes too!

Martha said...

A Missourian by birth, I have always loved Mark Twain -- and consider him one of Missouri's most famous native sons.

And living in Missouri, I love his quote about the weather -- "if you don't like Missouri weather, wait a minute" -- it's true!

Jon said...

Janie,
Great post as usual. Did you get the new cookbook "Moore Groceries" published by the Vicksburg & Warren Co. Historical Society? It features the photos of the famous local photographer J. Mack Moore who everybody said looked more like Mark Twain than Mark Twain did himself.

I have always loved Mark Twain's books, particularly "Life On The Mississippi". A few years back I re-read "Huckleberry Finn" and from an adult perspective now understand why it is considered one of the greatest works in American literature. It is far, far deeper and more profound than just the children's book we all read back in grade school.

Jon at Mississippi Garden