Mark Twain, the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, a port on the Mississippi River. As a teenager, he began writing short sketches for his brother's newspaper. When he was older, Clemens became a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, a job that ended with the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. He continued to work as a newspaper reporter, and in 1863 began signing his articles with the name Mark Twain, a Mississippi River phrase meaning "two fathoms deep." In 1865, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" was published, and became a sensation nationwide. THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER was published in 1876, but it was its sequel, HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1884), that is acknowledged as Twain's greatest work. A masterpiece of American literature, the novel is notable among other things for its uniquely American subject and its brilliant use of dialect. Twain's works in general are full of the author's satiric humor, his disdain for pretension and hypocrisy, and his brilliant characterizations.
"The ungentle laws and customs touched upon in this tale are historical, and the episodes which are used to illustrate them are also historical. It is not pretended that these laws and customs existed in England in the sixth century; no, it is only pretended that inasmuch as they existed in the English and other civilizations of far later times, it is safe to consider that it is no libel upon the sixth century to suppose them to have been in practice in that day also. One is quite justified in inferring that whatever one of these laws or customs was lacking in that remote time, its place was competently filled by a worse one."
From the Publisher
In Twain's 1889 satire/fantasy, Hank Morgan, a Hartford factory worker, after a blow to the head, finds himself transported to sixth-century England, where his knowledge of the scientific advances of the 19th century convince Arthur and his knights that he has magical powers. His attempts to introduce advanced technology lead to disaster. Twain's book infuriated his British readers because of the anti-monarchy opinions of its hero; it was true that Twain did have a somewhat vengeful motive for the novel after an article was published by the eminent English poet and critic Matthew Arnold that savaged the memoirs of President Grant, which Twain had published. The novel was also suggested, Twain said, by a dream he had "of being a knight errant in armor in the middle ages."
It was in Warwick Castle that I came across the curious stranger whom I am going to talk about. He attracted me by three things: his candid simplicity, his marvelous familiarity with ancient armor, and the restfulness of his company--for he did all the talking.