Famous Journals: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Samuel Clemens, more so known by his writing name Mark Twain, is the author who introduced the world to his beloved characters, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and allowed us to share in their adventures. Clemens was known for keeping a journal and favoured pocket notebooks over anything else. He would like to start a new journal for each trip he would take, filling the pages with his ideas, inspiration, and thoughts for upcoming stories.

While Samuel Clemens wouldn’t traditionally write a journal entry, the pages would often be full of his brainstorming. From all these notes you can see how he had such a remarkable depth of human character and perception of individual experience. Twain’s writing provides a unique reflection of the American way of life in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

During his life it is estimated that Clemens produced approximately forty to fifty pocket notebooks and wrote countless letters, essays, travelogues, and lectures. He really did put an amazing number of words on paper. By the time of his passing in 1910, he had published more than thirty books and pamphlets. On top of this he had also written around three or four thousand newspaper and magazine articles. He had not published some of his writings and stored them, destroying them never crossed his mind. He had expected many of them to be published after his death. He had said in an essay “I will leave it behind and utter it from the grave. There is free speech there, and no harm to the family.”

Clemens also had a change of heart about “unpublished letters of Mark Twain.” He had signed a contract to have at least some of them published. They are spread all over, in fact, they can be found in hundreds of libraries and private collections around the world. There are at least 9,000 of his personal and business letters. This is only a small fraction of the 50,000+ letters he is believed to have written, with more being found.

As with many of his texts, he said his autobiography should not be made public for at least one hundred years after his passing. The first of three volumes of this long-awaited text were published in 2010. Samuel Clemens or Mark Twain was nothing short of spectacular and was then said to be “the greatest humourist the United States has produced," and William Faulkner called him "the father of American literature."

“The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.” - Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens