9 Little Known Facts About Mark Twain

Posted by Hayley on November 30, 2015

Mark Twain was born 180 years ago today! To celebrate the beloved American author's birthday, we've dug up a few surprising, unusual, and definitely true facts about his life. (Twain once wrote, "Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it"—and you, dear Goodreads member, are definitely worthy of the truth).


1. At the peak of his fame, a letter addressed to "Mark Twain, God Knows Where" was actually delivered.
This was not an isolated occurrence. Other successfully delivered letters were addressed to "Mark Twain, Somewhere," "Mark Twain, c/o President Roosevelt. The White House," and "Mark Twain, Somewhere, (Try Satan)."

2. Twain claimed he nearly drowned nine times as a child.
Perhaps someone should've taught young Twain to swim. As a boy, he enjoyed playing in the water—although he evidently had no idea what to do when submerged in it. Kind family members and friends were repeatedly called upon to rescue him.


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3. In another world, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer might've been written by Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.
Most people know Mark Twain is the pen name of Samuel Clemens, but did you know about the author's other pseudonyms? He also tried out the pen names W. Epaminondas Adrastus Perkins, Sergeant Fathom, John Snooks, and Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.

4. He named his cats Famine, Pestilence, Satan, Sin, and Sour Mash.
Twain was a cat person, despite giving such hilariously awful names to his pets. He wrote, "When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction."

5. He once tried his hand at island life.
On assignment for the The Sacramento Union, Twain lived in Hawaii for four months. From surfing ("None but natives ever master the art of surf-bathing") to swimming with naked locals (who all left as soon as he entered the water), he did it all—and then happily returned home.

6. Nikola Tesla and Twain became friends because of a very effective electrical charge.
Few friendships have been forged under more unusual circumstances. Desperate to find a cure for his constipation, Twain visited one of Nikola Tesla's salons, where the scientist conducted some of his more outlandish experiments. One electrical charge and a few x-rays later, Twain was cured. The two men remained friends for the rest of their lives.


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7. He is one of the only authors who has had new bestselling books published in three different centuries.
While Twain's books were obviously bestsellers in the 19th century, his posthumously published work also struck a chord with readers in the 20th and 21st century. Most recently, the first volume of his autobiography was published in 2010—100 years after Twain's death, as he had wished. (The third and final volume hit shelves this past October.)

8. He predicted his own death.
"I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835," he wrote in 1909. "It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it." A year later, with Halley's Comet visible in the sky, Twain died of a heart attack.

9. Two of his biggest fans were Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.
No one knows how to dish out glowing praise like an author. Hemingway wrote, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn…It's the best book we've had." And Faulkner said this of Twain: "The first truly American writer, and all of of us since are his heirs."


Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)

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message 1: by A. (new)

A.  J. Mark Twain was quite man. He is, in my opinion, the best American author of the 20th Century.


message 2: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Nice, I didn't know one of my favorite authors shares his birthday date with me.


message 3: by Elisa Santos (new)

Elisa Santos He was quite the badass!


message 4: by Erma (new)

Erma Talamante Twain was an inspiration, to be sure. My take-away?

Be true to yourself, regardless of popular opinion... They'll come around eventually.


message 5: by Anna (new)

Anna Cindy wrote: "Nice, I didn't know one of my favorite authors shares his birthday date with me."

Happy Birthday Cindy!!


message 6: by Larry (last edited Nov 30, 2015 03:09PM) (new)

Larry Loftis Very few know that Twain visited Heidelberg, Germany and wrote a stirring account of the common practice of Mensur ("academic fencing" it was called, with sabers!). No ducking or dodging was allowed, and the object was to disfigure an opponents face. Many German WWII officer faces were adorned with nasty scars (check out Otto Skorzeny!) from this brutal practice. I quote Twain's moving account of a bout he witnessed in my upcoming book, INTO THE LION'S MOUTH: The True Story of Dusko Popov: WWII Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond.


message 7: by Erma (new)

Erma Talamante Cindy wrote: "Nice, I didn't know one of my favorite authors shares his birthday date with me."

Now isn't that an awesome birthday gift! Have a happy birthday!


message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul Spencer Twain gave lectures. When he returned from the gold fields of California and Nevada, he would say: After visiting the old Fields of California and Nevada, I can stand before you tonight and tell you what a gold mine is. A gold mine is a hole in the ground with a liar standing in front of it.


message 9: by Sourabh (new)

Sourabh Inkweaver wrote: "Mark Twain was quite man. He is, in my opinion, the best American author of the 20th Century."

Cindy wrote: "Nice, I didn't know one of my favorite authors shares his birthday date with me."


message 10: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Anna wrote: "Cindy wrote: "Nice, I didn't know one of my favorite authors shares his birthday date with me."

Happy Birthday Cindy!!"


Thank you, Anna! :)


message 11: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Erma wrote: "Cindy wrote: "Nice, I didn't know one of my favorite authors shares his birthday date with me."

Now isn't that an awesome birthday gift! Have a happy birthday!"


Thank you, Erma!


message 12: by Chris (new)

Chris My favorite: "Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest." (Samuel Clemens – Mark Twain) --from "To the Young People's Society," Greenpoint Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn (February 16, 1901) — in Brooklyn, NY.


message 13: by Bridget (new)

Bridget Cindy wrote: "Nice, I didn't know one of my favorite authors shares his birthday date with me." Jonathan Swift was born November 30th too!


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