The Authentic Mark Twain: A Literary Biography of Samuel L. Clemens

The Authentic Mark Twain: A Literary Biography of Samuel L. Clemens

The Authentic Mark Twain: A Literary Biography of Samuel L. Clemens

The Authentic Mark Twain: A Literary Biography of Samuel L. Clemens

Excerpt

M ARK Twain is America's favorite writer and a world favorite as well. A great personality, he lived a life and created a whole library of books that have an enormous interest, and their intersection is the subject of the following pages. "To me," Mark Twain wrote near the end of his life, "the most important feature of my life is its literary feature." Samuel Clemens drew attention to his identity as a writer by his use of a pen name -- often called it his nom de plume and sometimes his nom de guerre -- but unlike some other writers who adopted this practice, he never encouraged people to forget that he was also Samuel L. Clemens: he signed letters with both names, and the two names appeared together on the title pages of his books. In the early part of his career he was referred to as "Mark Twain," as if it were a sobriquet, and in his review of The Innocents Abroad Bret Harte reminded his readers that "Mark Twain" is "a very eccentric creation of Samuel Clemens." It was one of the writer's voices, first among many; Hank Morgan's (he was the Connecticut Yankee) and Huck Finn's are but two others.

There are tides in literary taste, but the Mark Twain tide has not yet gone out. Although he is not as popular today as he once was in England, where his books appeared simultaneously with American publication, Mark Twain is still much admired and read in Germany and the Soviet Union. In the United States he is inescapable, omnipresent. His image and his writings are before us everywhere, on television, in airline magazines, in drugstore paperback racks. Both his tiny boyhood home in Hannibal and his Victorian mansion in Hartford attract thousands each year.

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