Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the son of a lawyer, was born in Florida, Missouri on 30th November, 1835. His father died when Samuel was 12 and soon after found work as an apprentice compositor. In 1853 he moved to St. Louis and over the next few years worked in the printing trade in Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia.
When he was 22 he became a steamboat river pilot and during the American Civil War, a soldier in the Confederate Army. After prospecting for silver in Nevada he became a journalist in Virginia City. He now adopted the pen name Mark Twain and moved to San Francisco where he came under the influence of Bret Harte, the editor of the Overland Monthly. Twain later claimed that Harte "trimmed and trained and schooled me from an awkward utterer of coarse grotesqueness to a writer of paragraphs and chapters." His first story that brought him national fame was The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras Country (1865).
In 1867 Twain travelled to Europe and this resulted in the book The Innocents Abroad (1869). He returned to the United States and married Olivia Langdon. After a period as the editor of the Buffalo Express, he moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where he lived for the next twenty years. A humorous account of his travels to Nevada, Roughing It, appeared in 1872.
Twain's boyhood memories of life beside the Mississippi, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, was published in 1876. This was followed by The Prince and The Pauper (1882). Twain's account of his steamboat experiences appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and these were expanded into the book Life on the Mississippi (1883).
Twain was now one of America's favourite writers and he had a series of best-sellers including A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894) and Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896).
After Twain's publishing company went bankrupt and the death of one daughter, and the incurable illness of another, Twain's writing became increasingly pessimistic and this began to alienate him from his readers. The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg (1900), King Leopold's Soliloquy (1905), What is a Man? (1906) and Eve's Diary (1906), written after the death of his wife, sold poorly compared to his earlier books.
Mark Twain died on 21st April, 1910.