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David A. Schwinghammer

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· Soldier's Gap

Short Stories
· Mengele's Double, Chapter 9

· Seminary Boy, a memoir

· Fisher of Men, Chapter Nine

· Soldier's Gap, Chapter Three

· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer, Chapter Nine

· Fisher of Men, Chapter 8

· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer, Chapter Eight

· Mengele's Double, Chapter Eight

· Bereavement Blues

· Fisher of Men, Chapter 7

· The Lusitania, book review

· The Wilderness of Ruin, book review

· A Beautiful Mind, book review

· Another Planet, book review

· The Three Stooges, book review

· The God Particle

· Empire of Sin, book review

· Science at the Edge, book review

· Obama, a Modern Caesar?

· Americans Need to Pull Together

· Fashion

· Widow's Peak

· Myth

· Alumni Game

· Stradivarius

· Snow-a-holic

· Girls Who Wear Glasses

· The Do Drop Inn

· Ode to Neve Campbell

· Jacks or Better 101

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Mark Twain's early years (book review)
By David A. Schwinghammer
Last edited: Monday, August 16, 2010
Posted: Monday, August 16, 2010

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Recent articles by
David A. Schwinghammer

• The God Particle
• The Lusitania, book review
• The Wilderness of Ruin, book review
• SOLDIER'S GAP (book review)
• A Beautiful Mind, book review
• Another Planet, book review
           >> View all 150
LIGHTING OUT FOR THE TERRITORY shows how miners,newspapermen, and other writers infuenced Twain's later career.

Prior to LIGHTING OUT FOR THE TERRITORY, Samuel Clemons was an itinerant printer and a river boat pilot. He loved piloting the Mississippi so much he may have never left the profession if it hadn't been for the Civil War.

About the most instructive thing about this book is that it shows how much Mark Twain owed to his trip out west to strike it rich. There were lots of storytellers out there for one thing, and he listened. "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," his first big success, was owed to another miner, old Ben Coon, who told the story first. Twain rewrote and embellished other stories he heard in the mining camps in ROUGHING IT. He also owed his lecture style to Artemis Ward, whom he listened to carefully and imitated. And there was a stretch where he was either fired or quit his job on a San Francisco newspaper and contemplated suicide. Brett Harte offered him money to contribute to his literary magazine which may have saved his life.

Then there was Twain's trip to Hawaii, which furnished material for the first lecture he gave. He sent back "twenty-five or thirty" letters to the San Francisco Enterprise and also gained a lust for travel and a reputation as a travel writer that continued for most of his life. He also gained his first real "scoop" in Hawaii. Captain Josiah A. Mitchell, twelve crew members, and a pair of passengers survived the wreck of the clipper ship "Hornet" and spent forty-three days in a lifeboat, coming ashore on the Big Island, two hundred miles south of Honolulu. His reworked story was published in HARPER'S WEEKLY, with the byline Mark Swain.

We also get to see Twain's famous bad luck when it came to business investments. He owned "feet" in mining stock that he was living off of in San Francisco, but after he left for San Francisco, his partners sold their shares for something like three million dollars; his shares were worthless. Perhaps if Twain had been writing today his career never would have gotten off the ground. While at work on THE ENTERPRISE, a Virginia City newspaper, he fictionalized the massacre of a man and his family he entitled "The Dutch Nick's Massacre." Apparently this was Twain's idea of satire, as the murderer was Philip Hopkins, a mine owner driven mad by bad investments and crooked bankers. But just about everybody believed it. He apologized in print, saying "I take it all back."

Mark Twain died in 1910, leaving a three volume autobiography that was not to be published for a hundred years. This is the year, folks. One should remember, though, that he wrote the thing after he'd lost his wife and two daughters, which may be why the famously cynical Twain didn't want anybody to read it quite yet.

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Books by
David A. Schwinghammer

Soldier's Gap

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