Mark Twain is remembered as much for his witticisms as he is the characters and stories he gave us. Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, is known by most in America as America’s first novelist, though British literary critics claim his “novels” were not true novels, rather, novellas, due to their length. They often say that if he’d only written a few thousand more words in each of them, then he would have been America’s first novelist. To Twain, it was all about the story, not the number of words in the story. With his next meme, he puts it in his own words.
Though Twain made a considerable amount of money from his writing, he struggled financially most of his life. His problem was with investment and business. He often put large sums of money into investments, like a type setting machine he’d invented, and a publishing company he started, only to lose it all. Though he was a great writer and humorist, he wasn’t so great in business.
Though Twain was an animate supporter of civil rights and African Americans, he detested Native American Indians, writing this about them at one point:
His heart is a cesspool of falsehood, of treachery, and of low and devilish instincts. With him, gratitude is an unknown emotion; and when one does him a kindness, it is safest to keep the face toward him, lest the reward be an arrow in the back. To accept of a favor from him is to assume a debt which you can never repay to his satisfaction, though you bankrupt yourself trying. The scum of the earth!
Twain also loved to travel. In his youth he traveled as far west as the U.S. had been settled, by wagon, and took up residence in Virginia City, Nevada where he became a miner on the famous Comstock lode. As with his investments later in life, he was not successful as a miner, but he worked as a journalist for the local paper while he was in Virginia City to make ends meet.
Twain also traveled to Europe, twice, and he described his second trip in the 1880 book A Tramp Abroad.
Many writers are recluses, but Twain, due to his witticism and boisterous personality, worked as much as a public speaker, especially in his senior years, as he did a writer. He’d gone for years without writing a full length novel until whipping out Pudd’nhead Wilson in only 5 weeks in November and December of 1883, trying to stave off bankruptcy. Though critics claim the plot jumps, and it may due to the hurried work, it is arguably one of Twain’s most entertaining and humorous pieces. However, it did not solve his financial problems and he filed for bankruptcy in 1884.
As he aged, Twain became more radical in his political beliefs. He was in full support of the U.S. involvement in the Philippines at the end of the Spanish American war, because he wanted the islands freed from imperialist Spain, who had occupied them for more than 400 years. However, his views changed once he saw that after Spain fled the Pacific Islands, driven out by the U.S., that the U.S. merely took up occupation and stayed until they were driven out during the Philippine-American war. After this, Twain became a staunch anti-Imperialist.
Toward the end, Twain became what some would call jaded, or bitter, but still, he voiced his opinions and views in such wordy ways that one would be hard set to disagree.
Through it all, even his failed investment and business ventures, and support for causes that he would only later understand were the naive hopes of a younger man, Twain did not regret a thing. He knew that he tried, he dared and he took a chance. He left this world, more than 100 years ago now, without regrets, and to this day, his words inspire many.