An essay on Mark Twain
|I can tell you that Mark Twain was born Samuel Clemens in 1835 in Hannibal, Missouri. It was a town on the Mississippi River, and had a great influence on his early life, certainly on his writing, and even his pen name. Letting you know he died of a heart attack in 1910 isn't really breaking any new ground either. If fact, anyone with access to a phone and a web browser can find all of that from numerous websites. As a much younger man, I even did the same research with an encyclopedia. Of course, to many people, Twain is Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and one would be right to argue they are his most famous works. However, they do not define the life of the man, nor do they represent his entire body of work, which is extensive.
First, and one of the most amazing details of Twain's life was his close relationship with Nicola Tesla. Tesla may have been doomed to irrelevance to all but serious scientists had it not been for Elon Musk. I knew of him, but not much about him, until I did quite a bit of reading a few years ago. He was eccentric, a loner, with a photographic memory and was an incredible scientist. His ideas are still used to this day. But, as often the case with highly intelligent people, he had little time for friends, and no time for women whatsoever. Aside from a platonic love affair with a pigeon, he had no romance in his life. It's quite clear that Twain loved the science, and it certainly influenced his writing by adding in a science fiction element. For instance, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, written in 1889, made use of time travel.
I recently read Aged Pilot Man that was penned in 1863 when Twain was 28. It was published in 1872 as part of a travel collection Roughing It, and it is a shame to miss the collection, particularly the illustrations for the poem. When I read it, I believe that it was a testament to the troubles with overconfidence, especially in his profession as a steamboat pilot in the Mississippi River. It seems as if this pilot, with great conviction, believes he can navigate the Erie Canal through a horrible storm. Instead of tying up the ship, Dollinger the pilot, pushes through. At first, I was believing in this character, and he would somehow save the day. The ship, however, floundered, even when tossing much of the cargo overboard. Just when you might think all is lost, a farmer comes and saves the day, and the pilot knows in his heart he did not save a soul.
Mark Twain traveled to Australia in 1895, and would write about this book tour two years later in Following the Equator. Unfortunately, I've never had a chance to read it, but reviews tell me it's something I should undertake, as the humor is fantastic. Perhaps I will get to The Wayward Tourist, a book of excerpts from the first. He was so well known around the world, he was treated very well, and he would remain famous until his death in 1910. Even though he gained his fame with a pen, it is such an extraordinary life, it is well worth delving into not just through his own words, but those of others as well. As long as his work is not destroyed, I believe authors will continue to write about his life; his novels, essays and poems, and his views. That, to me, is a legacy. My word!