Saturday, April 21, 2007


In 1910, on this April day, the same year that Hayley's Comet had returned, the world lost the amazing and incredible author Samuel Clemens: better known as Mark Twain. What an incredible author was this genius of a man and whose humor and wit, in my humble opinion have never been matched to this very day. Hal Hollbrook plays him on stage with such perfection that it simply makes you feel that Mr. Twain is indeed very much alive again. Samuel Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835 (the same year as Hayley's Comet's first visit) to Tennessee country merchant, John Marshall Clemens (August 11, 1798–March 24, 1847 and Jane Lampton Clemens (June 18, 1803–October 27, 1890.
He was the sixth of seven children. Only two of his siblings survived childhood, his brother Orion (July 17, 1825– December 11, 1897 and sister Pamela (September 19, 1827August 31, 1904). His sister Margaret (May 31 1830

August 17, 1839 died when he was four years old, and his brother Benjamin (June 8, 1832–May 12, 1842) died three years later. Another brother, Pleasant (1828–1829), only lived three months before Samuel was born. In addition to his older siblings, Samuel had one younger brother, Henry (July 13, 1838–June 21, 1858). When Samuel was four, his family moved to Hannibal a port town on the Mississippi River that would serve as the inspiration for the fictional town of St. Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At that time, Missouri was a slave state in the union, and young Samuel became familiar with the institution of slavery, a theme he later explored in his writing.
Samuel Clemens was color blind, a condition that fueled his witty banter in the social circles of the day. In March 1847, when Samuel was 11, his father died of pneumonia. The following year, he became a printer's apprentice. In 1851, he began working as a typesetter and contributor of articles and humorous sketches for the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper owned by his brother, Orion. When he was 18, he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. At 22, Clemens returned to Missouri. On a voyage to New Orleans down the Mississippi, the steamboat pilot, "Bixby", inspired Clemens to pursue a career as a steamboat pilot, the third highest paying profession in America at the time, earning $250 per month ($155,000 today!
Because the steamboats at the time were constructed of very dry flammable wood, no lamps were allowed, making night travel a precarious endeavor. A steamboat pilot needed a vast knowledge of the ever-changing river to be able to stop at any of the hundreds of ports and wood-lots along the river banks. Clemens meticulously studied 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of the Mississippi for more than two years before he received his steamboat pilot license in 1859. While training for his pilot's license, Samuel convinced his younger brother Henry to work with him on the Mississippi. Henry was killed on June 21, 1858 when the steamboat he was working on exploded. Samuel was guilt-stricken over his brother's death and held himself responsible for the rest of his life. However, he continued to work on the river and served as a river pilot until the Civil War broke out in 1861 and traffic along the Mississippi was curtailed.When the war began, Clemens and his friends formed a Confederate militia (depicted in an 1885 short story, "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed") and joined a battle where a man was killed. Clemens found he could not bear to kill a man and deserted. His friends joined the Confederate

Army; Clemens joined his brother, Orion, who had been appointed secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada, and headed west.Clemens and his brother traveled for more than two weeks on a stagecoach across the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. They visited the Mormon community in Salt Lake City These experiences became the basis of the book Roughing It and provided material for The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Clemens' journey ended in the silver-mining town of Virginia City, Nevada where he became a miner. After failing as a miner,Clemens then traveled to San Francisco,California where he continued as a journalist and began lecturing. An assignment in Hawaii became the basis for his first lectures. In 1867, a local newspaper funded a steamboat trip to the Mediterranean region. During his tour of Europe and the Middle East,he wrote a popular collection of travel letters which were compiled as The Innocents Abroad in 1869. He also met Charles Langdon and saw a picture of Langdon's sister Olivia. Clemens claimed to have fallen in love at first sight. They met in 1868, were engaged a year later, and married in February 1870 in Elmira, New York. Olivia gave birth to a son, Langdon, who died of diphtheria after 19 months.In 1871, Clemens moved his family to Hartford, Connecticut. There Olivia gave birth to three daughters: Susy, Clara, and Jean. Clemens also became good friends with fellow author William Dean Howells. It is also the 30th anniversary of the Broadway musical "Annie" written by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin. Sequels were tried on this amazing story, but they all failed. The songs are perhaps some of the best known in American theatre. It is also Queen Elizaberth's 81st birethday! Well another day of work!

1 comment:

Tony Westbrook said...

Wow! Annie, Sammie, and Lizzie! What a day!