Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)
Mark Twain was born as Samuel L. Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and grew up nearby the Mississippi River. His father died in 1847, leaving the family with little financial support, and Clemens became a printer's apprentice, eventually working for his brother, Orion, who had set himself up as a newspaper publisher. Through all his years in the printshop, Clemens tried his hand at composing humorous pieces. By 1856, he received a commission from the Keokuk Saturday Post for a series of comical letters reporting on his planned travels to South America. But on his way down the Mississippi, Clemens temporarily abandoned his literary ambitions to fulfill a dream he had since he was a boy. He apprenticed himself to become a riverboat pilot, and spent the next three years navigating the Mississipi River.
When the Civil War closed traffic on the river in the spring of 1861, Clemens returned to Orion again. In 1862 he was employed as a writer by the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, signing for the first time his works "Mark Twain."
With "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," published in 1865 by The Saturday Press of New York his style made its first appearance. In 1867 Clemens reported on a grand tour of Europe and the Mideast in Innocents Abroad (1869) which later became his first best-seller.
On his return to the United States, he married Olivia Langdon, and established with her in Harford, Connecticut, where Clemens finally turned from journalism to literature. The element of self-conscious irony would become the hallmark of Clemens' best work, especially evident in the novels set in his boyhood world beside the Mississippi River, Tom Sawyer (1876) and his masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).
Toward the end of his life, Clemens passed through a period of deep depression, due to his wife's and two of his daughter's death. He died at his home in Redding, Connecticut, in 1910.