1. Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He took his pen name in 1863. The reason for this particular choice may have been that the phrase “mark twain” was often used in navigation to measure water depth, and the theory is that he heard it during the four years he piloted steamboats on the Mississippi River.
2. Before becoming known primarily as a novelist, Twain was a newspaper reporter and a travel writer. He may have been the most widely traveled author of his era, having crossed over 300,000 miles at a time when international travel was a rarity.
3. His overseas trips inspired such bestselling books as Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Roughing It.
4. While Twain’s primary purpose for traveling and writing books about his adventures was to make money, these experiences inspired him to make a living from writing novels.
5. Authors Eugene O’Neill and William Faulkner called Twain “the first truly American writer” and “the true father of American literature.”
6. Among Twain’s best known and popular novels are The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
7. Starting in 1885, the year Huckleberry Finn was released, it was banned from many libraries, schools, and bookstores because of its use of “coarse language,” as spoken by its uneducated protagonist. Some writers of that time, like Louisa May Alcott, criticized Twain’s language, while later authors defended Huckleberry Finn. Ernest Hemingway said, “All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”
8. To this day, the book remains controversial for its frequent use of the “n-word.” However, many school districts are now replacing the offensive language with alternative wording.
9. Although Twain has a reputation of a humorist (and many of his stories do have elements of humor), he also experienced dark moods sparked by the deaths of several family members, including his oldest child, Langdon, and brother, Henry.
10. Though an acclaimed writer, Twain did not have such luck in his business endeavors. His investments failed, resulting in a hefty debt.