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Born in Florida, Missouri, Clemens moved with
his family to Hannibal, Missouri, a port on the Mississippi River,
when he was four years old. In 1851 he began setting type for and
contributing sketches to his brother Orion's Hannibal Journal. Later,
Clemens was a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River until the
American Civil War (1861-1865). In 1862 he became a reporter on
the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada, and in 1863
he began signing his articles with the pseudonym Mark Twain, a Mississippi
River phrase meaning "two fathoms deep." In 1865 Twain
published "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"
and within months the author and the story had become national sensations.
Much of Twain's best work was written in the
1870s and 1880s. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) celebrates
boyhood in a town on the Mississippi River; The Prince and the Pauper
(1882), a children's book, focuses on switched identities in Tudor
England; and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)
satirizes oppression in feudal England (see Feudalism). One of Twain's
most significant works of the 1890s and 1900s is Pudd'nhead Wilson
(1894), a novel set in the South before the Civil War that criticizes
racism by focusing on mistaken racial identities. More...