Mark Twain : American Writer

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     Mark Twain was the pen-name of Samuel L. Clemens (1835-1910), who, like his fellow-humorist Bret Harte, had an early career not devoid of - picturesque incident. Born in Florida, Missouri, he was in turn a pilot on the Mississippi, a silver-miner in Nevada, a journalist, and an editor. A pleasure-trip to Europe provided him with material for The Innocents Abroad (1869), which established his reputation as an American humorist of the first rank. He wrote much after this, and with much applause, but his run of prosperity was interrupted by the bankruptcy of a firm with which he was connected. This was the cause of his undertaking a lecturing tour round the world. In 1907, after the conclusion of his tour, he visited England, where he was warmly, received, Oxford conferring upon him the degree of D.Litt.

Mark Twain's work falls into three main classes, travel books, novels of the Mississippi, and romances. In the first group we have, in addition to The Innocents Abroad, Roughing It (1872), an account of his own experiences in the West, A Tramp Abroad (1880), which tells of further travels in Europe, and Following the Equator (1897), in which he writes of the world-wide lecture tour made toward the end of his life.
Mark Twain

      Mark Twain's work falls into three main classes, travel books, novels of the Mississippi, and romances. In the first group we have, in addition to The Innocents Abroad, Roughing It (1872), an account of his own experiences in the West, A Tramp Abroad (1880), which tells of further travels in Europe, and Following the Equator (1897), in which he writes of the world-wide lecture tour made toward the end of his life. In the best of them, The Innocents Abroad, we see a typical American turning on the Old World the sceptical eye of the New. And the result is a series of philistine, but vivid and amusing, pictures of Europe. His fascination about India is shown in his writings, the best compliment India have ever received "anything that can ever be done either by man or God has been done in this land"

      His best work is to be found in the novels of the Mississippi. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) break away from the cultured gentility of New England literature to give vivid, realistic, and racy pictures of life in the southern states. Of the two, Huckleberry Finn is generally adjudged the greater, in that it plumbs deeper levels of human experience than the more romantic Tom Sawyer. Life on the Mississippi (1883), though a travel book, belongs to this group, for its first half also deals with the great waterway, as Twain remembered it from his youth.

      The romances, which include The Prince and the Pauper (1881), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), and Joan of Arc (1896), are of a poorer quality. In these Twain lacked the stimulus of personal experience.

      Like Whitman, Twain is important in American literature in that he broke away from the strong influence of European models, and helped to lay the foundations of a distinctively American tradition. Anumorist, aiming to please the masses, his strokes are bold and Droad, and the humour ranges from farce to bitter satire. Always he writes with his eye on the object, and his best works are firmly grounded in reality. His plots are rather episodic, but the episodes are well handled; his characters are drawn with a warm humanity, and his style has the spontaneous ease which gives his writings an enduring charm.

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