Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by the pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist, who born in Missouri, but spent significant periods of his life in California, New York State, and Europe. Twain is most noted for his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but many of his other novels, stories, and essays are beloved in American literature as well. Many Twain works involve science fiction and/or fantasy, including A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which was one of the first well-known time travel novels, and The Mysterious Stranger, which briefly discusses alternate history. Mark Twain's witticisms are extensively quoted in the popular culture of English-speaking countries.
Twain had much tragedy in his personal life. His wife and three of his four children predeceased him, and his finances were troubled during his last years.
Samuel Clemens in Southern Victory
Clemens was a Missouri native. Although Missouri was a slave state and considered by many to be part of the South, it declined to join the Confederate States and remained loyal to the United States. When the War of Secession began, Clemens and his friends formed a Confederate militia, but he saw no military action and the militia disbanded after two weeks. (During the Second Mexican War, which Clemens scathingly criticized, this experience would cast doubt on Clemens' loyalty). His friends joined the Confederate Army; Clemens headed west.
Clemens eventually migrated to San Francisco, where he became editor-in-chief of his own newspaper. He married Alexandra Perkins, and had two children, Orion and Ophelia, who later became a journalist herself. Clemens opposed the Second Mexican War from start to finish. He was critical of President James G. Blaine and also of San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro, the namesake of Clemens' dog.
One of his major journalistic achievements was to effectively deploy the paper's reporters in different parts of San Francisco during the British raid on the US mint in the city, obtaining for the paper a comprehensive report of all aspects of that fateful day in San Francisco's history. While intending to remain an observer and not get involved in the fighting, he very narrowly avoided being killed by a nervous British soldier in the street outside his editorial offices. In addition, Clemens' house was burned down by collateral damage.
Being a full-time newspaper editor, Clemens had little time, energy or inclination to write anything but editorials, and hardly anything which he wrote was read in later times, except by historians researching his period. He dismissed the suggestion that tales based on his early life in Mississippi River communities would be popular reading. Clemens died shortly before the Great War began.