Essays and Sketches of Mark Twainby Stuart Miller
Twain was bemused, often confounded, by the human race. In "My/i>
The fifty-two selections in Essays and Sketches of Mark Twain recast the image of Twain the white-suited, wisecracking misanthrope. Here he is revealed as a man with a wide range of social and literary concerns. Though very much of his time, his observations are sometimes uncannily modern.
Twain was bemused, often confounded, by the human race. In "My Watch," he turns the act of resetting a watch into a fable about our propensity for never leaving well enough alone. In "Eve's Diary," he looks into the origins of human foible: no one has ever taken Eve's side quite so fully, nor has Adam, in any other context, made readers smile with such empathy.
"Is Shakespeare Dead?" constructs a spirited argument against the likelihood of Shakespeare'' authorship of the plays and offers at the same time a gloss on Twain'' own authorial authenticity. Amused by the British, Twain the world traveler is also exasperated by the French and admiring of the Germans, no matter how much he may rant about "The Awful German Language." Twain the educator is in top form in "How to Make History Dates Stick," where he concocts an ingenious-and interactive-way to make history come alive for his children.
Essays and Sketches of Mark Twain has eight sections that carry Twain forward thematically as well as chronologically, providing a portrait of the man that is cut of whole cloth.
About the Author
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, or Mark Twain, as he was better known was born on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri, the sixth child of John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens. His father ran a dry goods and grocery store, practiced law and involved himself in local politics after the family's move to Hannibal, Missouri, when Sam was four years old.
Hannibal seems to have been a good place for a boy to grow up. Sam was entranced by the Mississippi River and enjoyed both the barges and the people who traveled on them. When Sam was just eleven his father died and Sam went to work for his brother at the Hannibal Journal first as a printer's apprentice and later a compositor. While still in his teens Sam went on the road as an itinerant printer. In 1857 he conceived a plan to seek his fortune in South America but on the way he met a steamboat captain, Horace Bixby who took him on as a cub riverboat pilot and taught him until he acquired his own license.
This enjoyable style of life, which Twain always spoke of later with special warmth was ended by the Civil War. Twain went west with his brother Orion to prospect in Nevada but in 1862 joined the staff of the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, a paper to which he had already begun submitting his work. Later Twain went to California and submitted "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" to the New York Saturday Press.
By 1871 Twain had published Innocents Abroad and had married Olivia Langdon, the sister of a friend from a socially prominent New York City family. He and his wife moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where they made their family home for the next 20 years.
Books that he wrote in Hartford confirmed his popular reputation but despite their success Twain found himself in financial difficulty primarily because of his investments in the Paige typesetting business as well as his own publishing company. Eventually Twain was forced to declare bankruptcy.
Twain's last major books were successful commercially but they also reflect his increasing pessimism. His satire becomes at times more biting and mean-spirited than it is humorous. Despite the downturn in Twain's outlook in later life and despite the unevenness of much of his work, he remains one of the major writers of the American nineteenth century, and one who has been enormously influential on subsequent writers.
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