The Autobiography of Mark Twain

The Autobiography of Mark Twain

3.3 737
by Mark Twain, Charles (EDT) Neider

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"Mark Twain's autobiography is a classic of American letters, to be ranked with the autobiographies of Benjamin Franklin and Henry Adams.... It has the marks of greatness in it—style, scope, imagination, laughter, tragedy."—From the Introduction by Charles Neider

Mark Twain was a figure larger than fife: massive in talent, eruptive in temperament,

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"Mark Twain's autobiography is a classic of American letters, to be ranked with the autobiographies of Benjamin Franklin and Henry Adams.... It has the marks of greatness in it—style, scope, imagination, laughter, tragedy."—From the Introduction by Charles Neider

Mark Twain was a figure larger than fife: massive in talent, eruptive in temperament, unpredictable in his actions. He crafted stories of heroism, adventure, tragedy, and comedy that reflected the changing America of the time, and he tells his own story—which includes sixteen pages of photos—with the same flair he brought to his fiction. Writing this autobiography on his deathbed, Twain vowed to he "free and frank and unembarrassed" in the recounting of his life and his experiences.

Twain was more than a match for the expanding America of riverboats, gold rushes, and the vast westward movement, which provided the material for his novels and which served to inspire this beloved and uniquely American autobiography.

Author Biography:

Mark Twain, who was born Samuel Clemens in Missouri in 1835, wrote some of the most enduring works of American fiction, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He died in 1910.

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Perfection Learning Corporation
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5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.50(d)

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I was born the 30th of November, 1835, in the almost invisible village of Florida, Monroe County, Missouri. My parents removed to Missouri in the early 'thirties; I do not remember just when, for I was not born then and cared nothing for such things. It was a long journey in those days and must have been a rough and tiresome one. The village contained a hundred people and I increased the population by I per cent. It is more than many of the best men in history could have done for a town. It may not be modest in me to refer to this but it is true. There is no record of a person doing as much-not even Shakespeare. But I did it for Florida and it shows that I could have done it for any place-even London, I suppose.

Recently some one in Missouri has sent me a picture of the house I was born in. Heretofore I have always stated that it was a palace but I shall be more guarded now.

The village had two streets, each a couple of hundred yards long; the rest of the avenues mere lanes, with railfences and comfields on either side. Both the streets and the lanes were paved with the same material-tough black mud in wet times, deep dust in dry.

Most of the houses were of logs--all of them, indeed, except three or four; these latter were frame ones. There were none of brick and none of stone. There was a log church, with a puncheon floor and slab benches. A puncheon floor is made of logs whose upper surfaces have been chipped flat with the adz. The cracks between the logs were not filled; there was no carpet; consequently, if you dropped anything smaller than a peach it was likely to go through. The church was perched upon short sections of logs, which elevated it two orthree feet from the ground. Hogs slept under there, and whenever the dogs got after them during services the minister had to wait till the disturbance was over. In winter there was always a refreshing breeze up through the puncheon floor; in summer there were fleas enough for all.

A slab bench is made of the outside cut of a saw-log, with the bark side down: it is supported on four sticks driven into auger holes at the ends; it has no back and no cushions. The church was twilighted with yellow tallow candles in tin sconces hung against the walls. Week days, the church was a schoolhouse.

There were two stores in the village. My uncle, John A. Quarles, was proprietor of one of them. It was a very small establishment, with a few rolls of "bit" calicoes on half a dozen shelves; a few barrels of salt mackerel, coffee and New Orleans sugar behind the counter; stacks of brooms, shovels, axes, hoes, rakes and such things here and there; a lot of cheap hats, bonnets and tinware strung on strings and suspended from the walls; and at the other end of the room was another counter with bags of shot on it, a cheese or two and a keg of powder; in front of it a row of nail kegs and a few pigs of lead, and behind it a barrel or two of New Orleans molasses and native corn whisky on tap. If a boy bought five or ten cents' worth of anything he was entitled to half a handful of sugar from the barrel; if a woman bought a few yards of calico she was entitled to a spool of thread in addition to the usual gratis "trimmin's"; if a man bought a trifle he was at liberty to draw and swallow as big a drink of whisky as he wanted.

Everything was cheap: apples, peaches, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes and corn, ten cents a bushel; chickens, ten cents apiece; butter, six cents a pound; eggs, three cents a dozen; coffee and sugar, five cents a pound; whisky, ten cents a gallon. I do not know how prices are out there in interior Missouri now but I know what they are here in Hartford, Connecticut.' To wit: apples, three dollars a bushel; peaches, five dollars; Irish potatoes (choice Bermudas), five dollars; chickens, a dollar to a dollar and a half apiece, according to weight; butter, forty-five to sixty cents a pound; eggs, fifty to sixty cents a dozen; coffee, forty-five cents a pound; native whisky, four or five dollars a gallon, I believe, but I can only be certain concerning the sort which 1 use myself, which is Scotch and costs ten dollars a gallon when you take two gallons--more when you take less.

Thirty to forty years ago, out yonder in Missouri, the ordinary cigar cost thirty cents a hundred, but most people did not try to afford them, since smoking a pipe cost nothing in that tobaccogrowing country. Connecticut is also given up to tobacco raising, to-day, yet we pay ten dollars a hundred for Connecticut cigars and fifteen to twenty-five dollars a hundred for the imported article.

At first my father owned slaves but by and by he sold them and hired others by the year from the farmers. For a girl of fifteen he paid twelve dollars a year and gave her two tinsey-woolsey frocks and a pair of "stogy" shoes-cost, a modification of nothing; for a negro woman of twenty-five, as general house servant, he paid twenty-five dollars a year and gave her shoes and the aforementioned linsey-woolsey frocks; for a strong negro woman of forty, as cook, washer, etc., he paid forty dollars a year and the customary two suits of clothes; and for an able-bodied man he paid from seventy-five to a hundred dollars a year and gave him two suits of jeans and two pairs of "stogy" shoes--an outfit that cost about three dollars.

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Autobiography of Mark Twain 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 736 reviews.
BradonVashon More than 1 year ago
I really looked forward to my copy of the Twain autobiography. I didn't really think I was getting a text book. I looked forward to reading about Samuel Clemmons' life in his unique style of story telling. I didn't realized I would have to flip through 80 pages--nearly of 1/9th of the book-- of self-important pedegogy of their interpretation of Clemmons' thoughts on how to write an autobiography and a historical chronology of his several attempt to write an autobiography and how they do or do not constitute part of Clemmons' final wishes of what should be included. I don't need a bunch of professors at the Mark Twain project telling me their methods and approach to justifying how they put the book together. If they are compelled to waste pages on that, put it in the end of the book. Just give me the flippin' autobigraphy already and get out of the great man's way!
keanewebb More than 1 year ago
Wouldn't Mark Twain be amazed that his autobiography, 100 years later, would be published in an ebook format? Mark Twain coming back in the 21st century... now there is another book of fiction I would read. His non-chronological, conversational autobiography is an easy read except for keeping up with his jumping around. In true Mark Twain spirit, his biting satire and lyrical descriptions are true entertainment.
Matt_Levin More than 1 year ago
Autobiography of Mark Twain, v.1: this's a book collector's book-- I should like to see what I think Twain himself would've liked to see, a common-reader's book. Twain's own actual words in a far less daunting format: this's 735 pgs & several pounds heavy. And, of those pages, only those from 201-468 are Twain's own. the following 240 pgs. are Explanatory notes, references, plus a 23-pg index. the preceeding 200 are of inerests--but it's too much information... ...I wasn't looking for the recipe, just wanted to sample the cake. I might then go for the annotated edition, might not. Surely would've been satisfied with parts 1 & 2, just Twain, in one volume. Us folk, down here in the road, lookin' fer th'man himself, first, then maybe later the hangers-on. Th'Twain part's mighty sweet, once the wrappin's're off.
KBinLDO More than 1 year ago
And that's just what the editors have done. I'm so glad that my impressions of this book are shared by other readers. I was raised by a Mark Twain addict, so I grabbed this book off the shelf in the library, thanking my lucky stars that I had snagged it, scurried home, cracked the book open & (almost) instantly fell asleep. Quite frankly, Editors, I really don't give a durn what this person included or that person took out, or how Twain's thoughts were transcribed. I just want to read Twain's work. And why all the pages spent on General Grant, in Twain's autobiography? It's interesting, but it's the equivalent of historical filler. Seemed to me that Twain reached from beyond the grave & got some really good stuff put in there every now & then, but the Editors quickly come back & throw some boring stuff at you out of their concern you'll get too excited. For example, I thought the book was finally taking off once Twain started talking about his childhood, but no, the Editors had to come back & put in more boring stuff just so this could be a "serious, scholarly" book. I made it all the way to Italy & the house of horrors before giving up. Now that another reviewer has clued me in on where the really good stuff is, I'm going to give it another shot. How ironic that the editors labored so hard to make Twain "highbrow" & dry literature for the intelligentsia, when had they lived in Twain's time, they'd wouldn't be caught dead pawing through his "lowbrow, for the masses" books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I expected to open the book to a short introduction followed by Mark Twain's words and I'm obviously not the only one. However, wrapped around the actual autobiography is an amazingly dry academic study of the journey Mark Twain's work has taken over the last 100 years. While this does hold some interest, it stands in stark contrast to Mark Twain's famously personal and frank way of writing. I managed to get through a good twenty pages of it before jumping ahead to the actual autobiography. I may return to it someday if I'm having trouble falling asleep, but for now I'm really enjoying the actual autobiography. I feel it's worth noting that the two sections stand in such stark contrast that I'm unable to give a detailed review. In every category where one part is worth five stars, the other is undeniably only worthy of one.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
I got this book for free. One hundred years in the making, "The Autobiography of Mark Twain" (volume 1 of 3) is published as requested by Mr. Twain, a full century after his death. Samuel Clemens a.k.a Mark Twain insisted that his autobiography would be released under such circumstances to extend the copyright for his descendants as well as not to embarrass / insult any living person and/or their children. True to his word, Mr. Twain manages to insult a few people. The actual autobiography of this book is about 1/3 of it. So don't let the size of the book daunt you. The books is divided into five sections: - Introduction (p. 1-58): this section tells the reader how this book ended up in your hands after decades of detective work by the scholars who are working on what has become known as the Mark Twain Project. - Preliminary Manuscripts and Dictations, 1870 - 1905 (p. 59 - 200): A collection of Mark Twain's false starts. - Autobiography of Mark Twain: The meat of the book, Mr. Twain's final publication. - Explanatory Notes (p. 469 - 650) - Appendixes, References, Index (p . 651 - 738) As you can see most of this huge book is not even the autobiography itself. "The Autobiography of Mark Twain" is a delightful, well edited, obviously well written and interesting book. In the world of social media, where the grammar and spelling errors on Facebook are not only jaw dropping , but also acceptable, and if you have anything to say it better be tweetable - this autobiography stands out as an eloquent narrative which cannot and should not be dumbed down to 140 characters or less. Mr. Twain spent years writing his autobiography in many forms - essays, transcripts, transcribing and notes producing an immense, and amazing body of work. He didn't simply go about witnessing his life in chronological order, but wrote in spurts about what interest him at the time. Yes, this autobiography is not in a chronological order. Clemens led an interesting life, which in turn makes an interesting autobiography. His sense of humor and sensibilities shine through the pages. The observations Clemens made about the people he met, famous and not-so-famous are acute and entertaining - as promised he manages to insult a few of folks (to my delight I might add). For more book reviews please visit ManOfLaBook dot com
Reckoner More than 1 year ago
Can we all step back here for a moment and understand what this book REALLY is, rather than slamming for what it isn't and, frankly, never was supposed to be? Is this a by-the-books, chronological autobiography? No. Not at all. Is this an experiment by one of the greatest writers of all time that will either engage you or bore you? Yes. This definitely is not for everyone. Twain here has presented us with, basically, ramblings and musings that he wrote as he thought of them. Everyone here seems to have a bad case of "The Village Syndrome" (Shyamalan's The Village marketed as horror film, turned out to be an intriguing suspenseful thriller). Get this book if you're a fan of Mark Twain and don't necessarily want to read about his life but more about how his brain worked. What made him "tick," so to speak. And the information about how they compiled it is thorough and quite interesting as well. Stop giving this book bad reviews when you know the problem isn't the book. It's you.
LANGFORD More than 1 year ago
The "writers" of this book should thank what ever god they worship that Twain is no longer with us . Twain lived in the era in which when a man was insulted he could demand "satisfaction"... a duel. Most of the air bags who cobbled this travesty together would have been quickly deflated by Twains 60 cal musket ball , the rest would have smiply turned tail and beat a hasty retreat. As far as the reviewers you probably would have gotten off pretty well... Sam loved a good yarn! And by golly did you all spin one! In respect for Twain reread his works and bypass this trash.
juliusa More than 1 year ago
Sometimes interesting, hardly ever biting, rarely emotional...I don't see the point of this book, and Twain has proven his ultimate marketing skill here making us wait 100 years..maybe that is the point, I don't know. Otherwise stay away, a real sleeper actually, and it's relevance to anything is questionable. Read his books, yes, but this one you can pass by.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why are people constantly using this medium as a way to attack other people and not as a way of reviewing the books that we have come to love or hate? I personally love Mark Twain, but to save time on the shipping I went to the store. It proved to be a gem.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From a little known conservative family in a little known conservative village to the centre stage of the world, crying out for a new social order by capturing for chronicling the old order and its dramatis personae in all their crude, cruel and idiosyncratic perversities as in a telescopic expose, at the same time captivating the world through the biting sarcasm, satire, wit, wizardry, and what have you of such chronicling, and in the process getting perched on world's pedestal as an all-time celebrity ¿ in some sense this has been the trajectory of some of the literary celebrities of the world. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) (1835-1930) belonged to this rare species of Homo sapiens. Born and raised in the almost invisible village of Florida, Monroe County, Missouri where slavery and secession related violence was particularly brutal before the Civil War, he used his pen (for both fiction and non-fiction) so well to reveal the 'ugly American' as no one else before and after him could do, with much of his writings reflecting his anti-racist sentiments (instances: his novels Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur¿s Court, and Pudd¿Nhead Wilson, and his essay The United States of Lyncherdom), accusing the Church of spreading a pro-slavery mentality, depicting slavery as a destructive social institution in which as Twain said, ¿we used our own brother human beings to buy and sell them, lash them, thrash them, break their hearts¿ and ¿we ought to be ashamed of ourselves¿. Sarcasm, satire, and fictionalism notwithstanding, Twain¿s writings have certainly helped America and other racist countries look back with a sense of guilt and empathy at the hideous evils of racism and slavery which they perpetrated and which still persist like millstones round their necks. His autobiography, an exercise in plain speaking, should certainly serve to understand him and his social ambience better and through both help readers understand and appreciate his writings still better.
History-sponge More than 1 year ago
Having little time for uninterrupted reading, I bought this book as an audio book on CD and listened to it on my way back and forth to work. What a pleasure! Twain dictated a colorful assortment of his life experiences as autobiography. It moves back and forth from scenes that happened in his childhood to things he experienced the day before he dictated them. He criss-crosses through his life without any apparent order. At times he interrupts himself and tells the listener that he had already covered that subject in one of his other books and won't go on. I do have to admit that reading this book on paper might be a bit of a challenge. The audio version is ideal for the book's format and the narrator, Grover Gardner is ideal for the job.
EAbbeyFan More than 1 year ago
The cover tells everyone that this book was created by the Mark Twain Project.  Inside the the front cover the pages tells everyone that University of California Press at Berkley is the  publisher.  It states the funding sources as well and there are multiple editors listed. Therefore, those who are intelligent enough to understand Twain will understand as well that this is a in depth analysis of a  very rare, intelligent, brilliant, eccentric author and how complicated of a writer he was.   The very title and sub-title indicate that this is not for those desiring or requiring a simple, saucy read. Excellent details and in depth insights to how the whole Mark Twain "worked".   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't expect a chronological depiction of his life but rather his stream of conciousness recollections. A wonderful insight into what made Samuel Clemmens the iconic American storyteller tick.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The editors bloviate in such a moribund way that I can see Mark Twain rolling his eyes and wanting to poke them with his sharp pen. I'll await the next volumes and invest in them as well... he is there in a way that only his friends knew him as he talks about the things that made an impression on him as he came up and through the experiences of his life. I applaud his efforts and thank him for sharing it in such a sweet fashion that leaves me feeling he is sitting across the room in comfortable chair regaling me with the tales he couldn't write then. He was a dear man to care that some of what he may have to say would or could offend or hurt someone somewhere.... likely his own reputation as well, I'd guess. It's the ramblings of my grandpa, I hear as I read it.... lighten up folks.....
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