One of the great names of American literature, Mark Twain was an international figure of great recognition during his lifetime. A wizard with words, he became a source of inspiration for many around the world through his humourist approach and exciting tales.
Mark Twain was a larger than life character in many ways, including his smoking. A legendary smoker who supposedly spent the majority of his life with a pen, pipe or cigar in his hand. Here, we look at his incredible life and some of the stories that make him an undeniable cigar-smoking icon.
Mark Twain: The Early Years
Mark Twain was born as Samuel Langhorne Clemens in a small village in Missouri in November 1835 (Mark Twain is his literary pen name). The sixth of seven children, his premature birth led to him being a sickly child that was cared for deeply by his mother, which supposedly gave birth to his slightly mischievous nature.
Mark Twain was raised in Hannibal, a city that would become the setting of some of his stories. Slavery was legal in the city when he was growing up, which also influenced some of his later work.
Mark Twain left school at a young age to become a printer’s apprentice. When one of his older brothers became the owner of the city journal, Mark Twain worked for him as a typesetter, creating articles and sketches – his first experience with publishing.
Mark Twain’s Most Famous Works
Mark Twain’s career was full of various writing gigs, some large and some small. Ultimately, it’s impossible to chronicle his entire works due to how many have been lost in obscure newspapers from across America. However, there are some of his creations that have truly stood the test of time.
The Innocents Abroad (1869)
Mark Twain did not experience success right away. In fact, he was supposedly embarrassed when he conceded that his strength was not in writing classic novels but humorous stories. He spent much of his early career writing for insignificant newspapers across America and giving lectures, which fed into what would become his breakthrough novel.
The Innocents Abroad was originally a collection of letters that Mark Twain wrote while travelling through Europe with a group of Americans a few years prior. More of a commentary than a fictional tale, Mark Twain unpicks many of the fables that underpin history, particularly how they are manipulated for profit.
The Innocents Abroad was one of the best-selling books by Mark Twain during his lifetime.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was one of Twain’s earliest and largest successes in the world of fiction. Set in a fictional town inspired by his home city of Hannibal, the story follows the various adventures of the titular character and his friend Huckleberry Finn.
The story uses the charm of young Tom Sawyer, a scheming child similar to Twain, as a medium for the author to conduct his usual blend of humour and social criticism. This was the first attempt by Mark Twain to write a complete fictional story by himself (he had previously collaborated on fictional works) and was initially a failure, before going on to be a great selling novel. Eventually, the story would come to be regarded as one of the greatest in American literature, alongside its sequel.
Life on the Mississippi (1883)
Another of Twain’s famous ‘non-fictional’ stories, Life on the Mississippi is an exaggerated memoir about his time as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River. Chronicling the changing makeup of America during his time, it is again famous for its observations on greed and Twain’s distaste for the towns forming along the riverside.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
Arguably his most famous work, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the sequel to the story following his friend, Tom Sawyer. Unlike its predecessor, this tale was much more scathing about American society, tackling issues of racism and slavery with such force that the book was (and remains) banned by some.
Despite its coarse language, the book has remained hugely popular, particularly as part of studies into American literature where it is seen as the quintessential work.
Mark Twain: A Smoking Legend
Beyond being a great author, Mark Twain was an avid smoker. In fact, some argue that there was nobody in the world then or since that enjoyed smoking as much as Mark Twain!
Hannibal, where he grew up, was a tobacco town with a large factory. Supposedly, Mark Twain started cutting and smoking tobacco before the age of ten. Mark Twain wrote in 1891 that he smoked “all the time”. His grandniece called him a “human furnace”.
Mark Twain Smoking Quotes
Mark Twain is frequently pictured using a pipe, but he also smoked cigars. Smoking played such a massive role in his life that it featured in almost all of his works. There are also many smoking quotes accredited to him; here are some of our favourites:
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know that because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
On humans and cigars: “Both are wrapped at the beginning, can later be ignited and end as ash.”
“If I cannot smoke cigars in heaven, I shall not go.”
Mark Twain was a literary genius who was inspired by his surroundings, including the tobacco industry he grew up alongside. His most popular style of cigar isn’t clear, except his preference for the cheap versions that were available to him when he was young.
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