Life on the Mississippi

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Autobiographical narrative by Clemens, published under his pseudonym Mark Twain (1883). The book opens with a brief history of the Mississippi River since its discovery, and Chapters 4 to 22 deal with Clemens's life as a boy on the river. These chapters, originally published in the Atlantic Monthly, give a vivid account of his participation in the steamboat age, the science of steamboat piloting, and the life of the river as seen by the pilot. Chapter 3 also contains a lively passage written for Huckleberry Finn but never used in the novel. The second part of the book, written some seven years after the first, is an account of Clemens's return to the river as a traveler, 21 years after he had been a pilot. During his trip from St. Louis to New Orleans, he finds that the glamour of the river has been destroyed by railroad competition. Interspersed with his descriptions of the river, his accounts of meeting Cable and Joel Chandler Harris, and Horace Bixby, who first taught him piloting, are anecdotes of the past, and a vigorous attack on Scott's romanticism and its effect on Southern thought. The second part of the book lacks the unity of the first, has none of its verve and gusto, and is more descriptive and reminiscent.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Mark Twain (1835—1910) American novelist and humorist

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