Twain's playful exuberance and remarkable storytelling gifts are on full display as he regales readers with his real-life adventures, some of them so outrageous they cannot be true - or can they?
As Richard Russo says in his fascinating introduction, Twain was an 'inspired, indeed, unparalleled, bullshitter' who himself cheerfully relates how as a cub reporter out West he had elevated a routine Indian attack on a wagon full of immigrants to a battle that 'to this day has no parallel in history' - once he knew he could get away with it.
There is drama as well as comedy in his account of life on the Mississippi, and great sadness too when his younger brother Henry is killed in a steamboat explosion - all the more poignant for the restraint with which he describes it. In The Innocents Abroad Twain the gleeful iconoclast is a passenger on a cruise ship to Europe and the Holy Land, poking fun at European snobbery and pretension and refusing to be overawed by all that History - but fully prepared to aim his satirical barbs at his fellow-tourists and indeed, squarely at himself.
He also proves to be a deeply compassionate writer, as fierce in his condemnation of injustice as he is skilful in mining the humour of human folly. He brought to literature a new, distinctly American voice - and he harboured as rich and fertile a blend of contradictions as the dynamic nation he came to embody and define.
Politics, religion, culture, travel, science and technology, family life: nothing escaped the eye and pen of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, nineteenth-century America's most famous writer and a legend in his own lifetime. Though chiefly known today for his classic novels of childhood, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and for his short stories, he produced even more nonfiction of an impressive quality.
Twain lived a life as exciting as his fiction, and in his Autobiography we find him running wild, like the heroes of his novels, in the countryside around his childhood home in Missouri and navigating the treacherous waters of the Mississippi River as a trained steamboat pilot, while his letters show him travelling thousands of miles over the United States on hectic lecture tours (he was a great showman, raconteur and performer of his own works), hobnobbing with princes and presidents and being lionized in the capitals of Europe.
His trademark wit, candour, sarcasm and irrepressible humour shine through on every page of this selection, but here too, beyond the entertainer, we discover in his speeches and essays the social and moral issues - slavery, imperialism - which concerned him, and meet the private man behind that towering public figure, whose long marriage never lost its romance, but who bore the sorrow of losing two of his three daughters while still in their twenties.
A sometimes moving, sometimes hilarious and always riveting read.
'PALE TERROR GOES BEFORE HIM, DEATH AND DEVASTATION FOLLOW!'
From the father of American literature, four sparkling comic tales of extraordinary animals and parables subverted.
One of 46 new books in the bestselling Little Black Classics series, to celebrate the first ever Penguin Classic in 1946. Each book gives readers a taste of the Classics' huge range and diversity, with works from around the world and across the centuries - including fables, decadence, heartbreak, tall tales, satire, ghosts, battles and elephants.
The exploits of Tom Sawyer, a consummate prankster with a quick wit, captivate children of all ages. Yet through the novel's humorous escapades, from the episodes of the whitewashed fence and the ordeal in the cave to the trial of Injun Joe, Mark Twain explores deeper themes within the adult world Tom will one day join. These include the baser human instincts of dishonesty and superstition, murder and revenge, starvation and slavery.
This edition features a new introduction and notes by leading Mark Twain scholar R. Kent Rasmussen.
The original Great American Novel, an incomparable adventure story and a classic of unruly humour, Twain's masterpiece sees Huckleberry Finn and Jim the slave escape their difficult lives by fleeing down the Mississippi on a raft. There, they find steamships, feuding families, an unlikely Duke and King and vital lessons about the world in which they live. With its unforgettable cast of characters, Hemingway called this 'the best book we've ever had'.
This edition features a new introduction and notes by leading Mark Twain scholar R. Kent Rasmussen.
Mark Twain's great American masterpiece, in a gorgeous new clothbound edition designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith. These delectable and collectible Penguin editions are bound in high-quality colourful, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design
Mark Twain's tale of a boy's picaresque journey down the Mississippi on a raft conveyed the voice and experience of the American frontier as no other work had done before. When Huck escapes from his drunken father and the 'sivilizing' Widow Douglas with the runaway slave Jim, he embarks on a series of adventures that draw him to feuding families and the trickery of the unscrupulous 'Duke' and 'Dauphin'. Beneath the exploits, however, are more serious undercurrents - of slavery, adult control and, above all, of Huck's struggle between his instinctive goodness and the corrupt values of society, which threaten his deep and enduring friendship with Jim.
Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on 30th November 1835, in Florida, Missouri. In 1853 he left home, earning a living as an itinerant type-setter, and four years later became an apprentice pilot on the Mississippi, a career cut short by the outbreak of the Civil War. For five years, as a prospector and a journalist, Clemens lived in Nevada and California. In February 1863 he first used the pseudonym 'Mark Twain' as the signature to a humorous travel letter. A trip to Europe and the Holy Land in 1867 became the basis of his first major book, The Innocents Abroad (1869). His numerous subsequent books include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), A Tramp Aborad (1880), The Prince and the Pauper (1882), and his masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin (1885). Twain died on 21st April 1910.
'The best book we've had' - Ernest Hemingway
'There comes a time in every boy's life when when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure'
Impish, daring young Tom Sawyer is a hero to his friends and a torment to his relations. For wherever there is mischief or adventure, Tom is at the heart of it. During one hot summer, Tom witnesses a murder, runs away to be a pirate, attends his own funeral, rescues an innocent man from the gallows, searches for treasure in a haunted house, foils a devilish plot and discovers a box of gold. But can he escape his nemesis, the villainous Injun Joe?
BACKSTORY: Find out some fascinating facts about the author and have a go at a game of marbles!
'It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them'
Huck Finn spits, swears, smokes a pipe and never goes to school. With his too-big clothes and battered straw hat, Huck is in need of 'civilising', and the Widow Douglas is determined to take him in hand. And wouldn't you know, Huck's no-good Pap is also after him and he locks Huck up in his cabin in the woods. But Huck won't stand too much of this, and after a daring escape, he takes off down the Mississppi on a raft with an runaway slave called Jim. But plenty of dangers wait for them along the river - will they survive and win their freedom?
BACKSTORY: Discover how to write secret messages in code, and learn about the extraordinary Mark Twain.
The Penguin English Library Edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
'I'm unfavorable to killin' a man as long as you can git around it; it ain't good sense, it ain't good morals. Ain't I right?'
The original Great American Novel, an incomparable adventure story and a classic of anarchic humour, Twain's masterpiece sees Huckleberry Finn and Jim the slave escape their difficult lives by fleeing down the Mississippi on a raft. There, they find steamships, feuding families, an unlikely Duke and King and vital lessons about the world in which they live. With its unforgettable cast of characters, Hemingway called this 'the best book we've ever had'.
The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.
On the banks of the Mississippi, Tom Sawyer and his friends seek out adventure at every turn. Then one fateful night they witness a murder. The boys swear never to reveal the secret and run away to be pirates and search for hidden treasure. But when Tom gets trapped in a cave with the murderer, can he escape unharmed?
Richard Peck is an American novelist known for his young adult books. He was awarded American's highly prestigious Newbery Medal in 2001 for his novel A Year Down Yonder.
Huckleberry Finn had a tough life with his drunk father until an adventure with Tom Sawyer changed everything. But when Huck's dad returns and kidnaps him, he must escpe down the Mississippi river with runaway slave, Jim. They encounter trouble at every turn, from floods and gunfights to armed bandits and the long arm of the law. Through it all the friends stick together - but can Huck and Tom free Jim from slavery once and for all?
With an inspirational introduction by Darren Shan, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the twenty wonderful classic stories being relaunched in Puffin Classics in March 2015.
One of the great derisive monuments to the imbecilities of the tourist experience, Mark Twain's (1835-1910) account of his tour with a group of fellow Americans around the sights of Europe is both hilarious and touching, Twain's exasperation and dismay at the phoney and exploitative being matched by his excitement and pleasure in the genuinely beautiful.
Great Journeys allows readers to travel both around the planet and back through the centuries – but also back into ideas and worlds frightening, ruthless and cruel in different ways from our own. Few reading experiences can begin to match that of engaging with writers who saw astounding things: Great civilisations, walls of ice, violent and implacable jungles, deserts and mountains, multitudes of birds and flowers new to science. Reading these books is to see the world afresh, to rediscover a time when many cultures were quite strange to each other, where legends and stories were treated as facts and in which so much was still to be discovered.
Mark Twain's real name was Sam Clemens, and he was born in 1835 in a small town on the Mississippi, one of seven children. He smoked cigars at the age of eight, and aged nine he stowed away on a steamboat. He left school at 11 and worked at a grocery store, a bookstore, a blacksmith's and a newspaper, where he was allowed to write his own stories (not all of them true). He then worked on a steamboat, where he got the name 'Mark Twain' (from the call given by the boat's pilot when their boat is in safe waters). Eventually he turned to journalism again, travelled round the world, and began writing books which became very popular. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are his most famous novels. He poured the money he earned from writing into new business ventures and crazy inventions, such as a clamp to stop babies throwing off their bed covers, a new boardgame, and a hand grenade full of extinguishing liquid to throw on a fire. With his shock of white hair and trademark white suit Mark Twain became the most famous American writer in the world. He died in 1910.