It’s not very often that an author is better known under his writing name than his actual name, but that’s the case for Mark Twain. Many people don’t even know that his real name was Samuel Clemens or that he wrote under several other names as well, including Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass. Born in 1835 and a prolific author, many of his works have become educational literature. At one point, in fact, Huckleberry Finn was one of the most challenged books that had been published.
Twain may have toured around to talk about literature and his creativity might have helped him create memorable literature, but that didn’t always pay the bills. At one point, Twain even worked as a miner in Nevada to help support himself. Many of his experiences, in fact, can be found in the characters of the books that he wrote.
1. He Had a Connection to a Comet
Twain was one of seven children that were born in his family, but 3 of his siblings passed away while he was a child. Hailey’s Comet was visible in the sky when he was born and when he died, which is quite unique. He was very adventurous as a child and nearly became the 4th child that his family would lose several times. Before the age of 13, he almost drowned 9 confirmed times.
2. He Was Constipated
For whatever reason, Twain was almost always constipated. It caused him to suffer several physical afflictions over the years and there were often bouts of depression that would cause him deep despair at times. During the experiments with electricity that Nikola Tesla was performing, Twain was shocked in the first Salon that Tesla built.
Twain claimed that the shock had cured his constipation and there was a corresponding increase in his health. Whether it was a real affliction or just all in his head, Twain and Tesla became good friends after that electrifying incident.
3. He Was More of a Reported Than an Author
Twain supported himself through writing as much as possible, which meant that he worked as a reporter quite often. He didn’t work in the big cities, however, because he felt like he didn’t really fit in with that environment. Some of his most famous work was actually published in Keokuk, IA and Virginia City, NV newspapers – not large population centers for certain.
Writing was a passion, but it was something that he fell into more than anything. He was part of his local militia during the Civil War and worked as a riverboat operator before that. When the militia disbanded after the war was over, that was when Twain decided to move out west.
4. Twain Was a Crazy Cat Lady
To say that Twain loved cats would be an understatement. At one point in his young life, Twain was known to have owned 19 cats. He always had at least two of them around for companionship as an adult. Some say that it was to help him with his creativity, but it was more likely that he just loved cats.
Twain had other loves as well, including parapsychology. Many people know about the dreams that he had about his brother dying on a steamboat when the boiler exploded. Most people don’t know that Twain actually predicted the exact day that he would die.
5. His Family Died Out
The story of Mark Twain is actually a rather tragic one. He married Olivia Langdon and they had 34 years of a good marriage that saw four children born. One of his children, his son Langdon, died at just 19 months of age because of diphtheria. Two of his daughters died while they were in their 20s. Just one daughter survived to have a child of her own. Twain’s granddaughter, however, didn’t have any children. This means that there are no direct heirs of Clemens today.
6. Twain Characterized His Friends
Huckleberry Finn is one of the most beloved characters that Twain created and it was modeled after one of his childhood friends named Tom Blankenship. Twain always said that Tom had a good heart, even if he was an ignorant, dirty, hungry little boy. Twain respected his friend very much because he saw him as the only truly independent person that he had ever known. In that independence, Twain saw a happiness and tranquility that others can only strive to find.
7. He Wore White After Labor Day
If you look at the pictures of Mark Twain that exist, many of them show him wearing his trademark white suit. This came about thanks to a day when he appeared before Congress because he was to testify about copyright laws. On a very slow news day that day, the lead headline of the New York Times was “Mark Twain in White Amuses Congressmen” and Twain wore white from then on.
It wasn’t because he was trying to obtain a formal look. Twain actually called his white suit the “dontcareadamn” suit because he didn’t care how he looked when we was wearing it.
8. Twain Had a Filthy Mouth
Sometimes Twain’s work is considered racist because of the words that he used, but the truth is that Twain just had a filthy mouth. He swore a lot, which was a habit that his wife absolutely despised. In one famous incident that he loved to tell, Twain said that one day he started swearing long and hard because a shirt was missing a button. His wife, who he tried to not swear in front of because he knew she despised the words, heard everything that he said.
To reprimand him, Olivia used her primmest of voices and repeated every word that she’d heard back to him. Twain said he made sure he never swore again when there was even a small chance that his wife might be around.
Some have called Mark Twain the Father of American Literature. It’s a fitting title for a man who glamorized life on the Mississippi River and created a sense of literary Americana that is loved the world over.