Mark Twain: The Adventures of Samuel L. Clemens

Mark Twain: The Adventures of Samuel L. Clemens

Mark Twain: The Adventures of Samuel L. Clemens

Mark Twain: The Adventures of Samuel L. Clemens

Synopsis

Mark Twain, who was often photographed with a cigar, once remarked that he came into the world looking for a light. In this new biography, published on the centennial of the writer's death, Jerome Loving focuses on Mark Twain, humorist and quipster, and sheds new light on the wit, pathos, and tragedy of the author of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In brisk and compelling fashion, Loving follows Twain from Hannibal to Hawaii to the Holy Land, showing how the southerner transformed himself into a westerner and finally a New Englander. This re-examination of Twain's life is informed by newly discovered archival materials that provide the most complex view of the man and writer to date.

Excerpt

“She was always beautiful,” Mark Twain wrote of his mother following her death in 1890. the woman who had given birth to Samuel Langhorne Clemens died in her eighty-eighth year. At the end, even with her mind in the fog of senility, she still knew him perfectly, this third son who had been born two months premature. “But to her disordered fancy I was not a gray-headed man [of almost fifty-five], but a school-boy, and had just arrived from the east on vacation.” Actually, to be at her bedside, he had traveled from Hartford, Connecticut, where he had lived with his wife and three daughters for almost two decades, but he was soon to embark on a third decade in European exile. Jane Lampton Clemens had lived with her eldest son, Orion, and his wife in Keokuk, Iowa, on the Mississippi River, since 1883. “I knew her well during the first twentyfive years of my life,” he wrote, “but after that I saw her only at wide intervals, for we lived many days’ journey apart.”

The thing he remembered most about “this first and closest friend” was her abiding interest in “people and the other animals.” At one point during his boyhood they shared their home with nineteen cats, undoubtedly nostalgic kin to the felines later found in one or two of his works. “She was the natural ally and friend of the friendless.” It was even asserted that his mother would, as a faithful Presbyterian, put in a good word for the devil himself. Prayer often saved a sinner, “but who prays for Satan?” he recalled her asking him. “Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?” Satan, a staple of Sam’s fundamentalist Christian upbringing in . . .

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