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Mark Twain was born Samuel Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and died at Redding, Connecticut in 1910. In his person and in his pursuits, he was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at twelve when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing, but toward the end of his life, he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimentaland also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. He lives in American letters as a great artist, the writer whom William Dean Howells called the Lincoln of our literature.”
Shelley Fisher Fishkin, who holds a PhD in American Studies from Yale University, is the Joseph S. Atha Professor of Humanities, Professor of English, and Director of American Studies at Stanford University. Among her acclaimed and award-winning books are Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture, Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African American Voices, and From Fact to Fiction: Journalism and Imaginative Writing in America. She edited the twenty-nine volume Oxford Mark Twain and has served as President of the Mark Twain Circle of America.