Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, provided us with endless entertainment through numerous novels, nonfiction books, short stories, and essays—all despite having ended formal schooling after the fifth grade. Here are 10 curious facts about his life.
Baby Clemens arrived prematurely in a two-room shack in Florida, Missouri, on November 30th, 1835. He was a frail infant and sickly child, prompting his mother to admit, “When I first saw him, I could see no promise in him.”
The Clemens family had 19 cats at one time during Twain’s childhood. Over the years he gave his cats inventive names such as Bambino, Famine, Pestilence, Satan, Sin, Sour Mash, and Stray Kit.
Sam Clemens tried out several pseudonyms, including Rambler, W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab, and Josh, before settling on Mark Twain (the phrase used by Mississippi River steamboat crews when measuring water depth).
In 1874, the author spotted one of the first typewriters, a Remington, in a Boston store window. Although it could only type capital letters and he had to operate the carriage return with a foot pedal, he bought it for $125. Twain also claimed to be the first person in New England to have had a telephone for private use.
This literary giant stood 5 feet 8 ½ inches tall and was so well known that he once received a letter addressed “Mark Twain, God Knows Where.”
In 1905, he spent the first of two summers in Dublin, New Hampshire (home of The Old Farmer’s Almanac). There he wrote (but never finished) a book called Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes. To keep him company, he rented three kittens from a local farm. While lecturing at the Dublin Lake Club, he noticed that an audience member was knitting a pair of socks while he spoke, Infuriated, Twain declared that he had never played second fiddle to a sock and left the room. The following year, he returned to the Lake Club and spoke for over 2 hours on various topics. He received a standing ovation.
Twain made headlines in 1907 by walking from his London hotel to a public bath across the street attired in his blue bathrobe and slippers. Back in America, he often wore scarlet socks and all-white suits, which he called his “don’tcareadam suits.”
Twain loved to write in bed, and reporters chatted with him there more than once. He said, “I have never taken any exercise, except for eating and resting, and I never intend to take any.”
He once observed: “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so that I can not remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it.”
He was born and died when a comet passed, once noting: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year , and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t.” He got his wish. He died on April 21, 1910, just two days after Halley’s Comet had reached its point closest to the Sun.