The Autobiography of Mark Twain

The Autobiography of Mark Twain

by Charles Neider

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060955427
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/26/2000
Series: Perennial Classics Series
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 815,830
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.26(d)
Lexile: 1150L (what's this?)

About the Author

Charles Neider was an essayist, novelist, nature writer, and noted scholar of Mark Twain. He died in 2001.

Read an Excerpt

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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The Autobiography of Mark Twain 12 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
lunamonty on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Twain arranged for his autobiography to appear after his death ¿ he wanted it to be ¿fresh and free and unembarrassed as a love letter.¿ The resulting account is unblinkingly candid, heartbreaking and funny. By the end, I loved Twain. Maybe you will too.
bflatt72 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Ok, I have decided to mete out the 5 stars sparingly. The rating wouldn't mean much if it was given to just any old book that I happened to like.This book though, is without a doubt, one of those few that actually deserves more than 5 stars and it is therefore one of my favorite books of all time. Why? Well, I think there are some books that you read and you think, upon closing the last page, "Hmmm, that was a pretty good book", but then if asked about it a few days later you might be hard pressed to remember much if anything about it. Other books you read, they affect you, they touch your life, your heart, your soul, and you are changed, a different person afterwards. I have not read too many of those books. When people are asked to name the books that have changed their lives, I'm always amused at those whose lists are long. My list is short and this one is on the short list. I absolutely fell in love with Mark Twain and his autobiography. It is even more interesting when you realize that Mark Twain never actually wrote an autobiography. What he did write were a grab bag assortment of small books and personal anecdotes, with the intention of someone else compiling it after his death into an autobiography. That is why each version will be slightly different. This is not the version that I read, but Amazon did not have a photo of it, so I chose this one. I was just so taken in by the humanity of Mark Twain, his was an American life to be sure, but it was more than that. He was a living human being,much more than just one of America's, the world's, most beloved authors. He was also a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend. He was all of those and more. He lived the ups and downs of life. He lived through more than his fair share of tragedy and yet in the end, he was never beaten by life's circumstances. He stayed true to who he was. He stayed forever and inimitably, Mark Twain. He laughed, he cried, he was happy, and he was sad. In the end he was supremely human, not a perfect human being, and his flaws are readily apparent.This was one of the few books that I have read where I actually had tears streaming down my face when I closed the last page. From his early boyhood, to the many tragedies in his life, all the way up to the end when he lost his daughter and his wife, this book was incredibly poignant. You couldn't help loving this man even more and being sad that we have no equivalent of Mark Twain today. He died himself the following year after his daughter Jean died and the world has been the worse off ever since.
albusisonholiday on LibraryThing 8 months ago
While the Autobiography is certainly not Clemens's best or most humorous effort, it is the one work that I consistently return to, year after year. His writing here at the end of his life can be tangential and fractured, yes, but there is a maturity and wisdom that shines through in this book.This is primarily a collection of anecdotes: some hilarious, some heartbreaking, some brilliant, and some dull. But the nonlinear style in which it has been organized allows the reader to skim or skip the not-so-inspired narration. (Although I would recommend that the Autobiography be read in its entirety upon first being taken up.)It is in this book, spanning from the late 19th century to his death, that Samuel Clemens the man is most fully and nakedly revealed.
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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.