Mark Twain: How His Life Changed Mine

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There are some people whose lives fascinate me and a few whose lives deeply changed mine. Mark Twain is one of the later. His real name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens. And in today's post, I'm going to share with you his biography.

Samuel L. Clemens, known and celebrated as Mark Twain, was born in Florida, USA, on November 30, 1835. He became the world's most famous humorist of his day and also American's best loved citizen. But the beginnings of his life were sufficiently unpromising. He was the sixth of seven children born to a low income family in a village of just 21 houses. He began life as a very sickly child. Then when he was 4, his father moved to a bigger town, Hannibal, to better his chances of improved finances. But things didn't get better. Samuel had very little formal schooling. His dad died just before he turned 12 and he had to work to help contribute to the family income. He worked for a local printing press. Then he joined his brother at his small newspaper company and caught a livelong writing flu.

At the age of 21, he decided to try his luck somewhere else and became a steam boat driver/pilot across the long Mississippi River. He put all his heart into it and in 2 years became one of the best steam boat pilots on that route. He was so good he was getting exclusive deals and entrusted with the most valuable steamers. Then the American Civil war began and put an end to his marine career. It became too dangerous. He change career to mining and became a professional miner. But not a rich one. He eventual quit.

Luckily for him, a newspaper that he had been contributing articles to called him for interview. He was so poor he trekked over one hundred and thirty miles (that's like Lagos to Ore). He got there looking like a vagrant. He got the job and began using the pen name Mark Twain. It was a river term he recalled from his piloting days. His articles began getting him some recognition as one of the best writers in town. After narrowly missing death or a 2 year jail term when another newspaper editor challenged him to a duel, he left to join another newspaper in another town. Then he wrote some articles criticizing the police so severely that they took offence and closed down the Newspaper. Again, he was out of job and still poor.

He switched to mining again, this time as a spectator. He and his partner, Jim, would comb areas near gold mines hoping to discover pocket of gold. One day, they were following specks of gold that led to a hill, then a chill dreary rain set in. Jim, as usual, was washing the soil and examining them for gold nuggets. Samuel fetched water using a pail. They were sure that the pocket was very near. Then Samuel got tired and began complaining. Finally, he stopped fetching water and told Jim he was done for the day. They left. Meanwhile, the rain washed the heap Jim was working on and it exposed pure nuggets of gold. Two strangers came along and bagged the golds and found the pocket. If only Smauel had given Jim just one more pail of water.

He went back to his writing career. He submitted a short story to a publisher, it got there too late for the publisher to use and had it sent to a struggling newspaper. Then the miraculous happened. The article became a hit and made both the newspaper and Mark Twain (the pen name he used) extremely popular. It was almost a national sensation. And that was how Samuel's life began changing for good. He began getting more writing deals and his style of writing made everything that bore his name sell. 

And so it was that Samuel was a total failure till the age of 31. And ended up becoming America's most famous man, best loved citizen, friend of Presidents, guest of Royalties and the author of some of the best books by an American -- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Roughing It, The Prince and the Pauper. Even his Autobiography that was published 100 years after his death, in 2010, in accordance to his order, became a bestseller.

But what I admire most about him is that he was his own man. He was very hardworking, sincere and funny. He was as transparent as air itself and was humor in human form. Whenever he gave a speech, people would laugh so hard they wouldn't be able to stand from their seat after the speech. You can hardly read his novels without laughing hard and often. 


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