Mark Twain

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Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (b 1835 in Florida, Missouri, d 1910 at Redding, Connecticut), a leading American novelist and humorist of the late 19th century, who achieved permanent popularity and critical acclaim.

While his most famous book is Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), his authorial output was prodigious: 30 books, thousands of newspaper and magazine pieces, 50 personal notebooks, and some 600 other literary manuscripts—fragments, chapters, drafts, sketches—that he never published. The latter are being edited and published by the University of California.[1] He wrote some 50,000 letters, of which 11,000 have been preserved, and 2300 are now online.[2]

The writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, tends to divide into those writings where he had a background of personal experience, and those where he had none. The latter have been less successful. In those where he had personal experience, the fiction includes numerous short stories and the novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, while the non-fiction includes Roughing It and The Innocents Abroad which are wholly autobiographical, though interspersed with numerous anecodtes, and Life on the Mississippi, which is partly autobographical. Among the others is The Prince and the Pauper, about the English boy king Edward VI. Somewhere between the two is A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court, a fantasy novel satirising chivalric conventions.



  • Kaplan, Justin. Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography (1966), a major scholarly biography that paints a dark portrait of despair and pessimism
  • Kaplan, Fred. The Singular Mark Twain. New York: Doubleday, 2003. 726 pp.
  • Kirk, Connie Ann. Mark Twain: A Biography. Greenwood, 2004. 140 pp.
  • Long, E, Hudson. Mark Twain Handbook (1957) online edition from Questia
  • Paine, Albert Bigelow. Mark Twain: A Biography: The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (2 vol 1912) online edition
  • Powers, Ron. Mark Twain: A Life. Free Press, 2005. 736 pp., a major scholarly biography

Career studies

  • Coulombe, Joseph L. Mark Twain and the American West. U. of Missouri Press, 2003. 181 pp.
  • Ober, K. Patrick. Mark Twain and Medicine: "Any Mummery Will Cure." U. of Missouri Press, 2003. 362 pp.

Literary studies

  • Budd, Louis J. Mark Twain, Social Philosopher (1962; 2nd ed. 2001)
  • Griffith, Clark. Achilles and the Tortoise, Mark Twain's Fictions (2000)
  • Knoper, Randall. Acting Naturally: Mark Twain in the Culture of Performance (1995) complete text online free
  • Messent, Peter. The Short Works of Mark Twain, A Critical Study (2001)
  • Wieck, Carl F. Refiguring Huckleberry Finn (2001)
  • Ziff, Larzer. Mark Twain. Oxford U. Press, 2004. 126 pp.

Images of Mark Twain

  • Ishihara, Tsuyoshi. Mark Twain in Japan: The Cultural Reception of an American Icon. U. of Missouri Pr., 2005. 178 pp.


  • Ken Burns, PBS documentary "Mark Twain" (2001)

Primary sources

Critical editions


  1. See Ron Powers, "Keeping up with Mark Twain," Smithsonian 2003 34(6): 74-78, 80, 82. Issn: 0037-7333 Fulltext: Ebsco
  2. see Mark Twain's Letters, 1853–1880 (6 volume print edition 1888-2002), 2300 letters online edition

See also