AP English 11
28 February 2007
The author and his times
According to Phelan, Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, the sixth of seven children born to John Marshall Clemens and Jane Lampton Clemens. Both from genteel Virginia families, they were proud of their British ancestors. Marshall was a storekeeper, a lawyer, and a justice of the peace. His unfulfilled ambitions made him a gloomy man and a distant father; they also seemed to instill in Samuel a similar desire for riches in his own life. Jane, the model for Aunt Polly in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was a loving and expressive mother—but was also a strict disciplinarian who preached Christian morality. Three of the seven Clemens children died before the age of ten. Samuel’s older brother Orion is the only sibling who seems to have played an important role in his life. In 1839, the family moved to Hannibal, Missouri —where Samuel’s experiences there played a large role in his writing. In 1847, Marshall Clemens died of pneumonia—the beginning towards Samuel’s eventual career. To help support his family, he began to work for a printer, as an assistant to Orion. In 1853, at the age of 17, Samuel set out on his own and, over the next four years, crisscrossed the East and Midwest, working in St. Louis, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and among other places. Clemens’s formal schooling ended when he was only 13. Dissatisfied with his abilities, Clemens headed to South America in 1857, where he hoped to become rich selling cocaine, but never made it. On the steamboat ride down the Mississippi to New Orleans, Samuel persuaded a pilot, Horace Bixby, to let him become an apprentice. The Civil War put an end to commerce along the Mississippi as well as Clemens’s pilot career. Later, he volunteered in the Marion Rangers of the Confederate Army and took a job as a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial... [continues]
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