At once a romantic history of a mighty river, an autobiographical account of Twain's early steamboat days, and a storehouse of humorous anecdotes and sketches, here is the raw material from which Mark Twain wrote his finest novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River, was host to riverboat travelers from around the world, providing a vigorous and variable atmosphere for the young Samuel Clemens to absorb. Clemens became a riverboat pilot and even chose his pen name—Mark Twain—from a term boatmen would call out signifying water depth at two fathoms, meaning safe clearance for travel. It was from this background that Life on the Mississippi emerged. It is an epochal record of America’s growth, a stirring remembrance of her vanished past. And it earned for its author his first recognition as a serious writer.
With an Introduction by Justin Kaplan and an Afterword by John Seelye
About the Author
In his person and in his pursuits, Mark Twain (1835-1910) 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 sentimental—and also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. His nostalgia for the past helped produce some of his best books. He lives in American letters as a great artist, the writer whom William Dean Howells called "the Lincoln of our literature."
Justin Kaplan is the author of numerous books including Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; Mark Twain and His World; Walt Whitman: A Life; and with his wife, Anne Bernays, Back Then: Two Lives in 1950s New York. In 1985, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
John Seelye is a leading American Studies scholar and Graduate Research Professor Emeritus of American Literature at the University of Florida. His books include The True Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain in the Movies: A Meditation with Pictures, and Beautiful Machine: Rivers and the Republic Plan, 1755-1825.