Happy Birthday, Mark Twain!

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Shannon Sabo

November is Mark Twain's birthday month. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, he was a writer, publisher, and public speaker, and is known as the "father of American literature." Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which ultimately became the setting for two of his most notable books, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Adventures of Tom Sawyer. His wit and satire, both written and spoken, were widely praised by critics, peers, and an international audience. He counted artists, industrialists, presidents, and royalty among his friends.

Fun Facts about Mark Twain
  • He was born two weeks after a visit from Halley's Comet. He famously predicted that he would "go out with it, too." He died one day after the return of the comet.
  • As an infant, Twain was born two months prematurely and not expected to live.
  • He received a limited formal education.
  • He briefly served in a Confederate militia.
  • Twain dreamed about the death of his brother, Henry, a month before he was killed when a Pennsylvania steamboat on which both brothers were working exploded. This dream led to Twain's interest in the paranormal, and he became an early member of the Society for Psychical Research.
  • Mark Twain's first well-known written piece was titled "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and was published in 1865 by the New York Weekly.

The phrase "Mark Twain" appears in more than 5,950 law review articles in HeinOnline. In addition to being a humorist, Twain often directed his biting wit toward the "many imperfections of our legal system," as noted in Alvin Waggoner's article titled Mark Twain: Legal Reformer, which was published in the Kansas City Law Review in 1935:


Of these thousands of articles, nearly 30 have the phrase "Mark Twain" in the title, which is determined by using the Advanced Search link and entering "Mark Twain" in the article title field:



An article published in the American Bar Association Journal in 1966, titled "Mark Twain and the Copyright Dilemma" by Edward G. Hudon, discusses Twain's efforts in strengthening international copyright laws. He wrote this about a well-known British literary pirate, John Camden Hotten:

But my grievance is this: My books are bad enough just as they are written; then what must they be after Mr. John Camden Hotten has composed half-a-dozen chapters and added the same to them? I feel that all true hearts will bleed for an author whose volumes have fallen under such a dispensation as this. If a friend of yours, or if even you yourself, were to write a book and set it adrift among the people, with the gravest apprehensions that it was not up to what it ought to be intellectually, how would you like to have John Camden Hotten sit down and stimulate his powers, and drool two or three original chapters on the end of that book? Would not the world seem cold and hollow to you? Would you not feel that you wanted to die and be at rest?

Mark Twain is also mentioned in the U.S. Statutes at Large. Public Law 99-164 from November 26, 1985 designated November 30, 1985 as "National Mark Twain Day":


Mark Twain's best and funniest observations about the legal world were compiled by Kenneth Bresler in Mark Twain vs. Lawyers, Lawmakers, and Lawbreakers: Humorous Observations. This book was published in 2014 by William S. Hein & Co., Inc. and is currently on sale. To order, contact marketing@wshein.com.

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