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Mark Twain

A Renaissance Man

Mark Twain was not always trying to push the buttons on the American psyche. He did write two conventionally successful books, The Prince and the Pauper (1882) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). Both proved to be popular, accessible books to the American reading public. It gave Twain a chance to incorporate historic elements into his writing. He also wrote travel pieces, such as A Tramp Abroad (1880), Life on the Mississippi (1883) and Following the Equator (1897). He could write exhaustively, sometimes using his left hand when his arthritic right hand became tired. He was a writer who approached his work as a stripped down enterprise, contrary to many other authors of his day. His writings were stripped of much of the ornamentation that is seen in the writings of his fellow contemporaries. He was specifically a writer for ordinary folks; he did not try to appeal to other writers and academics. But that is what made him a populist author, not an intellectual one. But Twain was not only involved in writing. He started a publishing firm that was behind one of the most successful autobiographies of the 19th century: Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs. He also had a weakness for new inventions. He was one of the first citizens in his town of Hartford to install a telephone in his home and prided himself, in his declaration, to be the first American writer to submit his work in typewritten form. He also dabbled in inventions himself, but was unable to create anything of lasting significance.

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