American writer. He was a pilot on the Mississippi (1857–61) and from 1862 worked as a newspaper correspondent, adopting the pseudonym ‘Mark Twain’, familiar to him as the leadsman's call on the Mississippi. Under this name he published his first successful story, ‘Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog’, in 1865 in the New York Saturday Press. This comic version of an old folk tale became the title story of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and other Sketches (1867), which established him as a leading humorist, a reputation consolidated by The Innocents Abroad (1869), an account of a voyage through the Mediterranean. Roughing It (1872) is an account of his adventures as miner and journalist in Nevada. England provided the background for his democratic historical fantasy The Prince and the Pauper (1882), in which Edward VI as a boy changes places with Tom Canty, a beggar, and for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). Meanwhile appeared his most famous works, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which paint an unforgettable picture of Mississippi frontier life.
In his later years, which were beset by financial anxieties, he wrote some memorable if sombre works, including The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg (1900), a fable about the venality of a smug small town, and The Mysterious Stranger (published posthumously in 1916, in a much‐edited version), an extraordinary tale set in 16th‐cent. Austria.