9 Little Known Facts About Mark Twain
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.
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.
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."
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