Life on the Mississippi – Mark Twain
Download Life on the Mississippi ebook. Life on the Mississippi (1883) is a memoir by Mark Twain of his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before the American Civil War, and also a travel book, recounting his trip along the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans many years after the War.
The book begins with a brief history of the river as reported by Europeans and Americans, beginning with the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1542. It continues with anecdotes of Twain’s training as a steamboat pilot, as the ‘cub’ (apprentice) of an experienced pilot, Horace E. Bixby. He describes, with great affection, the science of navigating the ever-changing Mississippi River in a section that was first published in 1876, entitled “Old Times on the Mississippi”. Although Twain was actually 21 when he began his training, he uses artistic license to make himself seem somewhat younger, referring to himself as a “fledgling” and a “boy” who “ran away from home” to seek his fortune on the river, and playing up his own callowness and naïveté.
In the second half, Twain narrates his trip many years later on a steamboat from St. Louis to New Orleans. He describes the competition from railroads, and the new, large cities, and adds his observations on greed, gullibility, tragedy, and bad architecture. He also tells some stories that are most likely tall tales.
“Life on the Mississippi” by Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) is, in effect, a National Treasure just as surely as are Independence Hall or the battlefield at Gettysburg. Twain’s amazing degree of perception of, and attunement with, the essence of Humanity is on ample display in “Life on the Mississippi” and readers even in this generation nearly 150 year hence will see and feel the almost eerie connection Twain achieved with the eternal Humanity in all of us.
Add to that the fact that Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” is an exquisitely-crafted, often-poignant, oftener humorous panorama of a gorgeous part of our country during a truly wondrous and kaleidoscopic era of our national journey. Well before the reader finishes “Life on the Mississippi” they will know why Mark Twain is often spoken of as the “Voice of America itself” and considered among the very greatest storytellers in all of History. Selecting the “Best” or the “Most Enjoyable” of Mark Twain’s many, many writings would be a task as hopeless as picking the prettiest photograph ever taken anywhere along the Mississippi River. But “Life on the Mississippi” would surely be among The Top Ten contenders.
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Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. Among his novels are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called “The Great American Novel”.
Twain was raised in Hannibal, Missouri, which later provided the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He served an apprenticeship with a printer and then worked as a typesetter, contributing articles to the newspaper of his older brother Orion Clemens. He later became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River before heading west to join Orion in Nevada. He referred humorously to his lack of success at mining, turning to journalism for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. His humorous story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, was published in 1865, based on a story that he heard at Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California where he had spent some time as a miner. The short story brought international attention and was even translated into French. His wit and satire, in prose and in speech, earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.
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