Mark Twain - Life and Racism 

Veit Kühne

Herzberg, November 1996 



   2 YOUTH



   4 THE KEY
   9 THE END






In 1835 Halley's Comet blazed across the night sky of the United States. At that time the country was still rural. When the comet blazed once again across the night sky in 1910, the country had seen the industrial revolution, its population and the number of states had increased dramatically. It had seen many inventions, but also the bloody Civil War.

And the country, as well as the comet, had seen Samuel Langhorne Clemens, alias Mark Twain, come and go. His life was mysteriously tied to the comet, and since they had arrived together in 1835 he was sure and always predicted that they should exit together in 1910.

The seventy-five years in between he filled with an eventful life, restless wandering from one place to another, finally becoming one of America's greatest writers.

Today he is also one of the most often criticised writers, his books being banned on the accuse of racism. So in the second part of this study I shall try to answer the question, whether Mark Twain really was a racist writer.

First let us turn to Twain's biography. In his best works he was always his own biographer, and so it is easy to turn to his books for a lively account of his life. Nonetheless, I will tell his story. I will not reach the standard of the master himself, but I shall try ...up

I. The Creation of Mark Twain

1 Boyhood

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835, in the small village of Florida, Missouri. The sixth of the seven children of Jane and John Marshall Clemens was a weak and sick baby, who barely survived the first two winters. But it should live well into the twentieth century.

John Clemens was a lawyer and storekeeper who had moved his family several times seeking better opportunities. He had invested in land and businesses, hoping to become rich quickly. But by the time Clemens was born, most of his father's wealth had been lost, and his family sank deeper and deeper into poverty.

Hoping to stop this decline, in 1839, he moved his family to Hannibal, Missouri, when Clemens was four years old. Hannibal seemed to be a town with a future, because it lay on the Mississippi and steamboats stopped there several times a day. It was bound to become world famous as St.Petersburg in the books of this little new citizen.

When Clemens was just sixteen, he wrote a description of Hannibal, which was published in the Philadelphia American Courier:

"The first home was built in this city about sixteen years ago ... The town is situated on the Mississippi river, about one hundred and thirty miles above St. Louis, and contains a population of about three thousand."1

He had tripled the number of inhabitants of his hometown, in order to see his description published.

His early life in Hannibal, as his books would later describe, was filled with youthful play and adventure. He and his friends fished, hunted, swam, explored and caused trouble. Clemens spent long and hot summer days on his uncle's farm, he experienced the slow pace of life on the Mississippi. From this childhood would come the settings, scenes, and characters of his most famous works, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

But the dark sides of Hannibal found their way into Clemens' works, too. He witnessed slave beatings, random acts of cruelty, and even a murder or two. One night he discovered the dead body of a man lying on the floor of his father's law office, the victim of a recent stabbing. Maybe because of these experiences, the overly sensitive and still somewhat sickly youth was troubled by nightmares and was known to walk in his sleep.

At the age of five, Clemens started his formal education. "School taught him reading, writing, and arithmetic, and a smattering of history and geography; it exposed him to literature, generally moralistic; it sought to inculcate the virtues of industry, patriotism, and piety; it tried to make him a Model Boy - and failed utterly. His real education would come later."2

His mother Jane made him go to Sunday school, as well, first at the Methodist, later at the Presbyterian church. There he learned, "that bad boys went to Hell and were likely to die early".3 But although the Calvinistic doctrines of depravity and predestination left a deep mark on Clemens' mind, he was never a believer in an orthodox sense.up4

2 Youth

With the death of his father in 1847 Clemens' boyhood ended at the age of eleven. He had to help support his family and so, soon after, when his schooling came to a close, he started working as a printer's apprentice for his hometown newspaper, the Hannibal Courier. He worked there for almost two years, then he joined the Hannibal Western Union, a small weekly newspaper that had recently been bought by his six years older brother, Orion Clemens.

It was right at that time, that the Western Union published his first writing, an anecdote called A Gallant Fireman, which was so brief, that he may have produced it while he stood at the case, setting it into type as fast as he composed it.5

After this first small publication a year of silence followed, and then on May 1, 1852 a short sketch entitled The Dandy Frightening The Squatter appeared - not in one of the local Hannibal newspapers, but in the comic weekly The Carpet Bag in remote Boston.

This was a great success for the then sixteen-year-old, and so sixty years later he would say of this sketch and of his description of Hannibal published a week afterwards: "Seeing them in print was a joy which rather exceeded anything in that line I have ever experienced since."6

Clemens had discovered the joy of seeing his words in print, and after he had proved that his work could be published in the East, he focused on local publication in his brother's paper. He wrote verses, burlesques and local items.

While Orion was gone to Tennessee in September 1852, he printed "three rather outrageous satires on local affairs"7 and adopted his first pen name - W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab. Clemens started an attack on the editor of a rival newspaper, and so after he had come back, Orion would not let him publish anything until May 1853.

Then he went out of town again and Clemens took charge of the paper. He printed some humorous pieces and created new pen names, "the Rambler", "the Grumbler" and "Peter Pencilcase's son, John Snooks".

This usage of pen names shows the strong influence, that comic periodicals like the Boston Carpet Bag, which were flourishing in America at this time, had on the young Clemens. He adopted other techniques of these writings as well, like the use of slang and elaborate misspellings for example.

But most important, he adopted a great deal of humour. One day, he published a headline in the paper:

"Terrible Accident!

500 Men Killed And Missing!!!

We had set above head up, expecting (of course) to use it, but as the accident hasn't yet happened, we'll say (To be continued)."8

After his return, Orion had to admit that Clemens brought life and subscribers to the paper, and so he gave him a column of his own, Our Assistant's column.

For Clemens, this recognition came too late, and by the end of May 1853, after having sworn on oath to his mother that he wouldn't drink or gamble, he left Hannibal. He came back to the place of his boyhood only for brief visits, "but in memory and imagination, the town never left him".up9

3 The East and the Midwest

On his way to see the world, Clemens first worked in St. Louis for a short amount of time. Then he made his way to the great American metropolis, New York City, without telling his mother in advance. Working here and there as a printer, he stayed in the East for a few months.

In letters to Orion, bound to be published in his brother's paper, he reported from his experiences in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., thus starting his career of travel writing that extended well into the 1890s.

In those early travel letters, Clemens already used another literary technique, which would accompany him throughout his life: emphasizing the writer's own response to what he sees. Of "the wild men of Borneo", he had seen in New York, he wrote: "Their faces and eyes are those of the beast, and when they fix their glittering orbs on you with a steady, unflinching gaze, you instinctively draw back a step, and a very unpleasant sensation steals through your veins".10

From these early years, Clemens not only acquired a knowledge of the printing business, but he also learned of the history, the literature, the current events and of the politics of his world. And while he became a lover of books and libraries, the writings of such English and American literary comedians as Lawrence Sterne, Thomas Hood, and George W. Curtis had the biggest influence on him.11

In March 1854, Clemens went back to his family in the Midwest, which had moved 120 miles up the river to Muscatine, Iowa. There he helped Orion for a few months with a new paper, and then left again to go to St. Louis.

From this city, he wrote more letters to Orion's paper, showing that his interest in theatre and his concern about local crime, poverty and business affairs was growing.12

Back with his family in the summer of 1855, he worked for Orion once more, who had bought out the Franklin Book and Job-Printing Office in Keokuk, Iowa. Although this was a boom town and Clemens enjoyed its social life, it could hold him only for one more year. Then he left his family again, this time for good.

Before leaving, he signed a contract with the publisher of the Keokuk Post, offering him 5 Dollar for each travel letter he would send. It was his first arrangement to write for money. He sent only three, though, one from St. Louis and two from Cincinnati, for which he adopted the new pen personality of "Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass", an innocent country boy, ready to become victim of the city.13 There was nothing special about these writings, and so Clemens later preferred to forget about them.up

4 Riverboat pilot and "soldier"

Clemens, like his father, always had a strong desire for quick wealth. So when he heard of the miraculous powers of the coca plant, he decided to commercially grow and market this wonder plant. With this thought in mind, he set off for South America in spring of 1857 and boarded a steamboat in Cincinnati for New Orleans.

But as the boat made its way down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, the South American dream gave way to a dream of his boyhood. Clemens wanted to become a riverboat pilot.

He managed to persuade Horace Brixby, the famous pilot of the boat he was travelling on, to take him on as an apprentice. The then 21-year-old even paid 500 Dollar to be taken, an unusually high sum, which he had to borrow from hid sister's husband.

He did not regret this investment, as his statement in old years shows: "Piloting on the Mississippi River", he wrote, "was not work to me; it was play - delightful play, vigorous play, adventurous play - and I loved it."14

He did not have much time to write during his four years on the river - only two pieces were published. But the experiences of these years should prove to be essential for Clemens' development as an author and lecturer.15 Later he told the story of his river years in Old Times on the Mississippi (1875) and Life on the Mississippi (1883).

His happiness on the river was marred only by the death of his younger brother, Henry , who was killed when a steamboat exploded. Clemens felt great guilt over the tragedy, since he had helped Henry to get a job on the boat. Despite this event, he remained on the river, piloting boats and enjoying the river life.

The outbreak of the Civil War meant the end of Clemens' life as a steamboat pilot. The river was blockaded and turned into a military zone. Clemens returned home to Missouri, where he soon enlisted as a second lieutenant in the Confederate army. His military engagement did not last very long, as within two weeks he left the army, without having fired a single shot. In 1885, he described his time as a soldier in The Private History of a Campaign That Failed.up

5 Nevada

Clemens' next adventure took him far away from the war, into the West. In July 1861, Orion had been appointed Secretary of the Nevada Territory by the Presidents, and so he hired his brother to be a clerk for him at eight dollars a day. Later, in his Roughing It (1872), Clemens made himself "private secretary" of his brother.16

The facts in his books, that are supposed to tell the story of his life, therefore not always had to be true.

Clemens stayed in Nevada for the next three years. After working for Orion for a few months, he tried to make his fortune mining for gold and silver. While mining, he wrote some humorous letters to the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City. Beside his humour, in these letters Clemens invented another element, which he later used in his travel books - the mixture of information and anecdote.17

After a year of hard work and not much outcome, Clemens was broke. And so in August 1862 he accepted an offer to work as a local reporter and free-lance writer for the Enterprise.

He wrote local items, unsigned editorial and reports, many of them in the humorous and satiric style that was to become famous. Also, within a short time at his new paper, he adopted the pen name "Mark Twain".

There are three theories that try to explain, why Clemens used this name. The first two were offered by himself: "Mark Twain was the `nom de plume` of one Capt. Isaiah Sellers", he wrote in 1874, "who used to write river news over it for the New Orleans Picayune. He died in 1863, and as he would no longer need that signature I laid violent hands upon it without asking permission of the prophet's remains." But Sellers was still alive, when Clemens began to call himself Mark Twain, and there has never any evidence been found that Sellers used that pen name.18

In 1899-1900, Twain stated that he began to sign his Nevada newspaper letters "using the Mississippi leadsman's call, `Mark Twain` (two fathoms = twelve feet) for this purpose."19

Finally, some biographers think that the name came from the order one gave the bar tender in a Virginia City saloon, to put two marks after one's name on a running tab when treating a friend.20

In Nevada, Twain became a successful journalist, and his stories were reprinted by other papers. It is only because of this fact, that some of his articles still exist, since no file of the Enterprise survived.

In his articles, he was often insulting and humiliating to others, and it would take him some time, before he discovered, "how much more funny he could be if he himself was humiliated ..."21

One discovery he did make, though. In a letter reporting from one of his trips to San Francisco he introduced the first of his antigenteel narrators, which became an important element of his books. These narrators were authority figures that lacked self-consciousness. In this case, Twain used a stagecoach driver to tell his story and thus avoided presenting himself as "too vulgar a personage."22

Twain continued to attack people in his articles and went too far. In May 1864 he had almost managed to manoeuvre himself into a duel with a rival publisher, and was facing the possibility of a jail sentence for breaking the law against duels. So it was no wonder, that on May 29 he left Nevada, heading for San Francisco.up

6 San Francisco

In San Francisco, Twain joined the staff of the Morning Call, again being a local reporter. Soon he found his work to be "killingly monotonous and wearisome" 23. So he quit the paper and started contributing to the Californian and to the Dramatic Chronicle, two literary journals. He wrote literary sketches and burlesques, and by spending time with such literary people as Artemus Ward, Ambrose Bierce, and Bret Harte developed from a journalist into a writer.

The beginning of this new career was marked by the publication of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County in the New York Saturday Press on November 18, 1865.

Twain picked up the story during the winter of 1864/65, when he lived in a cabin on Jackass Hill in the Mother Lode Hills of California, once more seeking wealth as a miner. There he had spent a lot of time sitting around, listening to the miners tell their favourite stories, one of which was the strange tale about a contest between two jumping frogs.

Twain expanded it into a comic story, and after it had been reprinted all over the country, the frog as well as Mark Twain were known nation-wide.

With this success, Twain seriously began to consider a literary career, and it is here, where some of his biographers draw the line between his early years and his forty-four years to come. Justin Kaplan, for example, starts his biography right at this point in Twain's life, when he discovered "the usable past" .24

For the rest of his life, Twain would use his early years, which include his childhood along the Mississippi, his careers as printer's apprentice, itinerant typesetter, river pilot, Confederate irregular, Western prospector and newspaper reporter in his books. He would become his own biographer, "and the books he wrote about these years are incomparably the best possible accounts, even if they may not always be the truest."25up

II. Years of success

1 Lecturer

In pursuit of his new career as a writer and tired of San Francisco, he left the city on March 7, 1866, aboard a ship sailing to the "Sandwich Islands", now better known as the Hawaiian Islands. He had been hired by the Sacramento Daily Union as a travel correspondent. It was the first time he ever adopted that role, but he would turn to it frequently throughout the rest of his life.

His reports, in which he was "neither the admiring visitor nor his vulgar companion, but the witty, sceptical, and ironic commentator"26 , were so well received that upon his return to San Francisco in August, he gave a lecture based on his voyage to Hawaii.

This lecture proved to be an enormous success, Twain had "discovered a new area of triumph. He could dominate his audience, make it laugh and respond at his will." 27Having found a new way of earning recognition and money, Twain started a two-month-lecture-tour throughout California and Nevada.

This tour marked the beginning of another one of Twain's careers, since he would spend a significant part of his life giving lectures all over the world, whenever he wanted to make a lot of money quickly. And all over the world the people loved his satiric, colourful and entertaining lectures.up

2 The East, again

On December 15, 1866, Mark Twain left San Francisco to go to New York. He had become famous in the West, living there for four and a half years, but now he wanted to conquer the East. When he left San Francisco he was proud of "leaving more friends behind ... than any other newspaperman who ever sailed out of the Golden Gate."28

Travelling in those days was rather dangerous, and on its way down to Nicaragua, the ship was seriously hit by a storm. Twain took the fastest way to cross the continents, passing Nicaragua by horseback and steamer. Upon his arrival on the Atlantic, he took a ship up to New York. During the journey, cholera broke out and five passengers died, before the ship arrived in New York City on January 12, 1867.

There he arranged the publication of his first book, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches, a collection of twenty-seven pieces, most of which had appeared in Western papers. In March, Twain took the train to St. Louis to see his mother and sister, and to lecture in the Midwest as well.

Being back in New York, Twain gave more lectures and described his impressions of the metropolis in letters for the San Francisco Alta. Much like the letters from Hawaii, these accounts combined factual information with personal impressions, social criticism and humour.up29

3 The Innocents Abroad

Shortly after, the Alta paid him a half-year long expedition to Europe and the Middle East, from where he sent travel reports to the paper. From June to November, Twain saw the Azores, Gibraltar, Tangier, Marseilles, Paris, Genoa, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Pompeii, Naples, Athens, Istanbul, Sevastopol, Yalta (where he met the czar), Ephesus, Beirut, Damascus, Bethlehem, Jericho, Jerusalem, Egypt, Seville, Cordoba, Cadiz, Andalusia, and Bermuda before he returned to New York.

This journey gave him plenty of material for his letters, in which he put more emphasis on his reactions, his personal experiences, and less on the places he visited.30 His letters were published in California and New York, thus giving readers throughout the country a chance to follow his observations.

After he had come back, an editor offered him to transform his reports into a book. He did not accept at once, first he went to Washington, D.C., where he served for a short time as secretary to Senator William Stewart of Nevada.

Then, in February 1868, Twain started to write the book that would make his name known across America, The Innocents Abroad. He worked on it until the middle of 1868, editing his reports from the Old World. When it was finished, Twain had composed "the most popular travel book ever written by an American".31

He had made himself "America's premier humorist"32 , by seeing Europe and the holy land "as most Americans would have seen it"33 , by adopting the role of a "purveyor of information, an on-the-spot observer, a satirist who ... strains for effect, a poetic rhapsodizer, a humorous storyteller, an amiable idiot."34

As the book was published as a subscription book, it was ignored by the literary journals, but bought by the masses. So now, with the money from the book and his lectures, which he held during that time, too, Twain began to enjoy the success he had always desired.up

4 Livy and Buffalo

While he was writing on the Innocents he was successful in another way - he found the woman of his life. He had seen an ivory miniature of Olivia "Livy" Langdon aboard the ship touring Europe, and very quickly decided that she would be his wife. Livy's brother, who was on the ship, too, arranged a meeting with his family, and within a year Twain was engaged to beautiful Livy.

She was the daughter of Jervis Langdon, who had made a fortune during the Civil War investing in America's expanding industry. Twain had to lead a long fight against him and his wife, to convince them that he was a man of manners. Finally he succeeded, and they agreed to the marriage, which took place on February 2, 1870. It would last thirty-three happy years.

Right after the marriage, with the help of his father-in-law, Twain bought a third interest in the Buffalo Express. Moving into an elegant three story mansion in Buffalo, which had been given to him and his wife as a wedding present by the Langdons, he started working as an editor for the newspaper.

But it was a hard time for the young couple, as for a few months after the wedding Livy's father died. She had a nervous breakdown as a result, pregnant already. Soon after, she delivered her first baby - Langdon, a boy - prematurely on November 7, 1870. The weak child should live for only one-and-a-half years.

Twain, troubled by his family-life, did not meet the deadline for the new book Roughing It, which he was working on. Later he recalled these early months of his marriage "among the blackest, the gloomiest, the most wretched of my long life".35

In April 1871, Twain gave up his Buffalo life, selling both the house and his interest in the Express. He moved his family to the idyllic Quarry Farm, the home of Livy's brother-in-law. Twain would spend the next fifteen summers with his family there, writing some of his most famous books.up

5 Roughing It

Throughout the summer on the farm, he worked on Roughing It, which dealt with his experiences in the West. Although the book followed the route of Twain's actual travels in Nevada, California and Hawaii, it was an "imaginative autobiography, not a factual one"36. In the very first paragraph, Twain stated: "I had never been away from home,..."37 , where in fact he had travelled in the East and Midwest, and had been a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi.

Most of Twain's biographer's consider Roughing It a better book than the Innocents, since it was written mainly based on memories and not on earlier travel reports. Anyway, Roughing It did not sell as well as the Innocents, but Twain was still able to collect a recognisable sum from it.

After the summer on Quarry Farm in the fall of 1871, Twain moved his family to Hartford, Connecticut, where they would live the next twenty years. Two weeks later, he started a tour of eighty lectures, that took him to Pennsylvania, Delaware, New England, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia and Maryland.

Shortly after his return to Hartford, his daughter Susy was born on March 19, 1872. The family had not much time to enjoy happiness, as on June 2, the small Langdon died of diphtheria. All through his life, Twain blamed himself for his son's death since he had left him uncovered during a carriage-ride.up

6 The Gilded Age

In the fall of 1872, Twain took a trip to England, where he arranged the publication of his books. He quickly fell in love with the country, and while give a banquet by the Lord Mayor, he was impressed by the "responsible educated class" which ruled England.38Twain became eager to criticise America's comparatively "corrupt and irresponsible democracy".39

Upon his arrival in the U. S. he started working on that plan, writing the novel The Gilded Age together with Charles Dudley Warner during the winter of 1873. The book was an attack on corruption in post-Civil War America, mixed with a love-story. It is not considered to be one of Twain's major works40, but it sold well enough.

More profitable than the book itself would prove a dramatisation, focusing on its main character, Colonel Sellers. It was an "artistic disaster"41 , but played 119 times, paid off well.up

7 Productive Summers

After having returned from another trip to England - this time giving lectures there - Twain spent one of his most productive summers on Quarrel Farm in 1874. Among other manuscripts he began writing on Tom Sawyer. On June 8, his second daughter, Clara, was born there.

In the fall, the family returned to Hartford, where they moved into their new big house. Built after plans of Mark and Livy, it was rather a castle, or in Twain's words "part cathedral, part cuckoo clock".42

At the same time, Twain started writing a series of pieces for the Atlantic Monthly. One of them he called A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It. Printed in November 1874, it was the story of an old black woman, telling about her painful life as a slave. Capturing her tale, Twain had successfully tried to use the blacks' dialect. He himself, though, did not value the piece as highly, as the readers of the Atlantic did.

Upon this first story, Twain was driven to write more. And so, in the summer of 1875, Old Times on the Mississippi appeared in the Atlantic. The seven instalments of the story were dealing with Twain's years as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi. To the greatest extent, they concentrated on his time as an apprentice to Horace Brixby.

Once more, he made himself much younger and far more a greenhorn, than he actually was at that time. With this technique, he attracted more sympathy for himself, and the reader was able to learn with the cub, feeling with him, when he was embarrassed and humiliated.

It is widely believed that Old Times is Twain's "finest autobiographical narrative" 43, and so in 1883 he made a book out of it - Life on the Mississippi.up

8 Tom Sawyer

Just after Old Times, Twain completed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a book he had been working on for more than two years. Through the main character, Tom, a boy of twelve or thirteen years, Twain revived the story of his own boyhood.

But although the action took place in "St. Petersburg", a small Missouri town on the Mississippi resembling Hannibal, and although Twain adopted most of the places and characters from his, childhood the book was only a "semiautobiographical" one44 . Twain changed some of the persons and happenings to make the story funnier and more dramatic. Moreover he even used material from other books such as Cervantes' Don Quixote and Cundall's Robin Hood and His Merry Foresters.

Never the less, the success of the book was surpassed only by The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It was sold millions of times and translated into more than two dozen foreign languages. It still appeals to people of all age groups, and Twain himself was never sure, whether he had written it for boys and girls or for adults or for both.

After finishing Tom Sawyer, Twain began writing on the subsequent book, Huckleberry Finn, which would take almost a decade until being ready for publication in 1885.

In the summer of 1876, he also contributed another piece to the Atlantic Monthly. It was named The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut and dealt with a caricature of Twain himself as narrator getting to know his conscience.

Later that year, Twain wrote a play together with Bret Harte. It was set in the Mother Lode mining country of California and brought some of the Western life to the Eastern people. Ah Sin was a flop, being performed only a few times in 1877.up

9 A Tramp Abroad

During the next two or three years, Twain was not very productive, writing only a few, mostly unpublished pieces. And so in April 1878 he took his family to Europe to gather new impressions for a subsequent book to The Innocents Abroad, which was to be called A Tramp Abroad. Twain stayed in Europe for sixteen months, spending most of the time in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France and taking short trips to Belgium, Holland and England.

He took a long walking tour through the Black Forest and into the Alpine region of Switzerland, accompanied by Joseph Twichell, a minister and friend. This experience became the centre-piece of A Tramp, which otherwise chiefly dealt with Heidelberg, the mountains of Switzerland and Italy.

Twain had major problems with writing the book, he almost had to force himself. Upon his return to the U. S., it took him half a year of hard work more, before A Tramp Abroad was published in March 1880. It sold well, a fact that Robert Keith Miller explains with the growing demand for travel literature in these days, not with the quality of the book.up45

10 The Prince and the Mississippi

During the year of 1880, Twain wrote The Prince and the Pauper, a book composed to entertain children, not to make money. Dedicated to his two daughters, it was a historical tale, set in the England of the sixteenth century. It lacked any humour and could not be compared to any other of Twain's works.

The book was reviewed mostly well, but since Twain's readers did not expect such a work from him46 , it was a financial failure.

While Twain was writing a book for children, his family grew bigger. On July 26, 1880, Jean, the last of his four children was born.

Twain's next project was Life on the Mississippi, which was to be published in 1883. Using the instalments, which he had written for the Atlantic Monthly in 1875, he also tried to collect new material by returning to the Mississippi River valley in 1882.

And so he added a study of the river and of the process of change in American life to the book, using a lot of information from his own reading. The narrator, the young riverboat pilot's apprentice, did not appear in that second part and maybe this caused the lacking interest of readers for the book.up

11 Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee

Inspired by the return to "his" Mississippi, Twain finally finished The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the summer of 1883. He was proud of it, as a letter to his English publisher showed: "I've just finished a book, and modesty compels me to say it's a rattling good one, too."47 This time, Twain was to be right - today Huck Finn is considered to be his greatest book.

It began exactly where Tom Sawyer had stopped, but this time Huck was the narrator. He let the reader know of his experiences in St. Petersburg and of his running away with the slave Jim. The book hardly had a plot, but it captured "the majesty, the power, the magnitude of the Mississippi." It was an "idyll, satire, comedy, epic" including "burlesque" and "many features of the picaresque."48

Twain was widely attacked for his "vulgar humor" and his "low moral level" in the book.49 Huck's outspokenness offended - and still offends today - many genteel readers. Nonetheless, the work sold extremely well.

Huck Finn was published by the Charles L. Webster & Co. Publishing Company, which Twain had set up in 1884, putting his nephew Charles Webster in charge. The company did well for its first few years, but in 1894 it collapsed, costing Twain a fortune.

At the same time, Twain was heavily investing in the Paige Typesetter, a machine that was supposed to revolutionise the printing industry. Over a course of fourteen years, Twain spent several hundred thousand Dollars on the invention, hoping to get millions in return later - he still dreamed of sudden wealth.

Until 1889, Twain worked on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. It was a tall tale about an nineteenth-century American travelling to sixth-century Britain. The Yankee was a bitter book50 , satirising both the social injustice of Arthurian England and the commercial values of Twain's America. It therefore can be called an antiutopian novel. The book was not selling too well after being published in December of 1889, but in the long run it has become one of his five most popular works.up

  1. Anderson, F., 1979, p. 67
  2. Lauber, J., 1988, p. 22
  3. Lauber, J., 1988, p. 23
  4. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 4
  5. Lauber, J., 1988, p. 42
  6. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 3
  7. Gerber, J.C.,1988, p. 5
  8. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 5
  9. Lauber, J., 1988, p. 47
  10. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 5 f
  11. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 7
  12. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 6
  13. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 7
  14. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 8
  15. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 9
  16. Anderson, F., 1972, p. 44
  17. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 11
  18. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 9
  19. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 9
  20. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 13
  21. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 15
  22. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 16
  23. Miller, R.K., 1983, p. 9
  24. Kaplan, J., 1967, p. 9
  25. Kaplan, J., 1967, p. 9
  26. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 33
  27. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 14
  28. Lauber, J., 1988, p. 179
  29. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 24
  30. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 44
  31. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 54
  32. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 38
  33. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 37
  34. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 54
  35. Miller, R.K., 1983, p. 17
  36. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 42
  37. Anderson, F., 1972, p. 43
  38. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 53
  39. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 53
  40. Miller, R.K., 1983, p. 33
  41. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 60
  42. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 61
  43. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 65
  44. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 70
  45. Miller, R.K., 1983, p. 23f
  46. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 111
  47. Miller, R.K., 1983, p. 25
  48. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 143
  49. Emerson, E.H., 1984, p. 145
  50. Gerber, J.C., 1988, p. 127 up

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