Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835, left school at age 12. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher, which furnished him with a wide knowledge of humanity and the perfect grasp of local customs and speech manifested in his writing. It wasn't until The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), that he was recognized by the literary establishment as one of the greatest writers America would ever produce.
Toward the end of his life, plagued by personal tragedy and financial failure, Twain grew more and more cynical and pessimistic. Though his fame continued to widen--Yale and Oxford awarded him honorary degrees--he spent his last years in gloom and desperation, but he lives on in American letters as "the Lincoln of our literature."
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