Life on the Mississippi

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Random House Publishing Group, Oct 31, 2000 - Literary Collections - 416 pages
'I am a person who would quit authorizing in a minute to go to piloting,' Mark Twain once remarked. 'I would rather sink a steamboat than eat, any time.' And in 1882, Twain did just that: he returned to the river of his youth as a mature writer determined to expand seven articles which he had serialized in The Atlantic Monthly in 1875 into the definitive travelogue on the great Mississippi. Although Life on the Mississippi was not commercially successful when first published in May 1883, it is the work that Twain later claimed was the favorite among his books. Twain's rich portrait of the Mississippi also marks a distinctive transition in the life of the nation, from the boom years preceding the Civil War to the sober times that followed. Yet it is infused with the irreverent humor that was his trademark. 'Mark Twain was the first writer who ever used the American vernacular at the level of art,' said Bernard de Voto. 'He had a greater effect than any other writer on the evolution of American prose.'
 

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Contents

CHAPTER XXXIITHE DISPOSAL OF A BONANZA
CHAPTER XXXIIIREFRESHMENTS AND ETHICS
CHAPTER XXXIVTOUGH YARNS
CHAPTER XXVVICKSBURG DURING THE TROUBLE
CHAPTER XXXVITHE PROFESSORS YARN
CHAPTER XXXVIITHE END OF THE GOLD DUST
CHAPTER XXXVIIITHE HOUSE BEAUTIFUL
CHAPTER XXXIXMANUFACTURES AND MISCREANTS

CHAPTER VIA CUBPILOTS EXPERIENCE
CHAPTER VIIA DARING DEED
CHAPTER VIIIPERPLEXING LESSONS
CHAPTER IXCONTINUED PERPLEXITIES
CHAPTER XCOMPLETING MY EDUCATION
CHAPTER XITHE RIVER RISES
CHAPTER XIISOUNDING
CHAPTER XIIIA PILOTS NEEDS
CHAPTER XIVRANK AND DIGNITY OF PILOTING
CHAPTER XVTHE PILOTS MONOPOLY
CHAPTER XVIRACING DAYS
CHAPTER XVIICUTOFFS AND STEPHEN
CHAPTER XVIIII TAKE A FEW EXTRA LESSONS
CHAPTER XIXBROWN AND I EXCHANGE COMPLIMENTS
CHAPTER XXA CATASTROPHE
CHAPTER XXIA SECTION IN MY BIOGRAPHY
CHAPTER XXIII RETURN TO MY MUTTONS
CHAPTER XXIIITRAVELLING INCOGNITO
CHAPTER XXIVMY INCOGNITO IS EXPLODED
CHAPTER XXVFROM CAIRO TO HICKMAN
CHAPTER XXVIUNDERFIRE
CHAPTER XXVIISOME IMPORTEDARTICLES
CHAPTER XXVIIIUNCLE MUMFORD UNLOADS
CHAPTER XXIXA FEW SPECIMEN BRICKS
CHAPTER XXXSKETCHES BY THE WAY
CHAPTER XXXIA THUMBPRINT AND WHAT CAME OF IT
CHAPTER XLCASTLES AND CULTURE
CHAPTER XLITHE METROPOLIS OF THE SOUTH
CHAPTER XLIIHYGIENE AND SENTIMENT
CHAPTER XLIIITHE ART OF INHUMATION
CHAPTER XLIVCITY SIGHTS
CHAPTER XLVSOUTHERN SPORTS
CHAPTER XLVIENCHANTMENTS AND ENCHANTERS
CHAPTER XLVIIUNCLE REMUS AND MR CABLE
CHAPTER XLVIIISUGAR AND POSTAGE
CHAPTER XLIXEPISODES IN PILOT LIFE
CHAPTER LTHE ORIGINAL JACOBS
CHAPTER LIREMINISCENCES
CHAPTER LIIA BURNING BRAND
CHAPTER LIIIMY BOYHOODS HOME
CHAPTER LIVPAST AND PRESENT
CHAPTER LVA VENDETTA AND OTHER THINGS
CHAPTER LVIA QUESTION OF LAW
CHAPTER LVIIAN ARCHANGEL
CHAPTER LVIIION THE UPPER RIVER
CHAPTER LIXLEGENDS AND SCENERY
CHAPTER LXSPECULATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
APPENDIX
NOTES
READING GROUP GUIDE
Copyright

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About the author (2000)

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri; his family moved to the port town of Hannibal four years later. His father, an unsuccessful farmer, died when Twain was eleven. Soon afterward the boy began working as an apprentice printer, and by age sixteen he was writing newspaper sketches. He left Hannibal at eighteen to work as an itinerant printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. From 1857 to 1861 he worked on Mississippi steamboats, advancing from cub pilot to licensed pilot.

After river shipping was interrupted by the Civil War, Twain headed west with his brother Orion, who had been appointed secretary to the Nevada Territory. Settling in Carson City, he tried his luck at prospecting and wrote humorous pieces for a range of newspapers. Around this time he first began using the pseudonym Mark Twain, derived from a riverboat term. Relocating to San Francisco, he became a regular newspaper correspondent and a contributor to the literary magazine the Golden Era. He made a five-month journey to Hawaii in 1866 and the following year traveled to Europe to report on the first organized tourist cruise. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (1867) consolidated his growing reputation as humorist and lecturer.

After his marriage to Livy Langdon, Twain settled first in Buffalo, New York, and then for two decades in Hartfort, Connecticut. His European sketches were expanded into The Innocents Abroad (1869), followed by Roughing It (1872), an account of his Western adventures; both were enormously successful. Twain's literary triumphs were offset by often ill-advised business dealings (he sank thousands of dollars, for instance, in a failed attempt to develop a new kind of typesetting machine, and thousands more into his own ultimately unsuccessful publishing house) and unrestrained spending that left him in frequent financial difficulty, a pattern that was to persist throughout his life.

Following The Gilded Age (1873), written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, Twain began a literary exploration of his childhood memories of the Mississippi, resulting in a trio of masterpieces--The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), on which he had been working for nearly a decade. Another vein, of historical romance, found expression in The Prince and the Pauper (1882), the satirical A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), while he continued to draw on his travel experiences in A Tramp Abroad (1880) and Following the Equator (1897). His close associates in these years included William Dean Howells, Bret Harte, and George Washington Cable, as well as the dying Ulysses S. Grant, whom Twain encouraged to complete his memoirs, published by Twain's publishing company in 1885.

For most of the 1890s Twain lived in Europe, as his life took a darker turn with the death of his daughter Susy in 1896 and the worsening illness of his daughter Jean. The tone of Twain's writing also turned progressively more bitter. The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), a detective story hinging on the consequences of slavery, was followed by powerful anti-imperialist and anticolonial statements such as 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness' (1901), 'The War Prayer' (1905), and 'King Leopold's Soliloquy' (1905), and by the pessimistic sketches collected in the privately published What Is Man? (1906). The unfinished novel The Mysterious Stranger was perhaps the most uncompromisingly dark of all Twain's later works. In his last years, his financial troubles finally resolved, Twain settled near Redding, Connecticut, and died in his mansion, Stormfield, on April 21, 1910.

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