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MARK TWAIN, considered one of the greatest writers in American literature, was born Samuel Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and died in Redding, Connecticut in 1910. As a young child, he moved with his family to Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River, a setting that inspired his two best-known novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In his person and in his pursuits, he was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at 12 when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing but toward the end of his life he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimental—and also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. His nostalgia for the past helped produce some of his best books. He lives in American letters as a great artist, described by writer William Dean Howells as “the Lincoln of our literature.” Twain and his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens, had four children—a son, Langdon, who died as an infant, and three daughters, Susy, Clara, and Jean.
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