Most of you were probably already aware of this, but just in case, here is a quote from today's Writer's Almanac:
It's the birthday of the man who wrote under the name Mark Twain <http://www.elabs7.com/c.html?rtr=on&s=fj6,7267,dv,6u7a,3rae,9bqu,lpqi> , Samuel Langhorne Clemens, born in Florida, Missouri (1835), who was a Western journalist and humorist when he persuaded a San Francisco newspaper to pay for him to take a steamboat pleasure cruise to Europe and the Middle East. The result was his book The Innocents Abroad (1868), which made him famous. Travel books were popular at the time, but Twain's was the first to be written in such a distinctly American voice. He wrote, "In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language."
Twain became so famous that he was accepted into the elite literary society in New England, and he began publishing his work in the prestigious Atlantic Monthly. But, in 1877, Twain was invited to give a speech at the poet John Greenleaf Whittier's 70th birthday dinner, and he made the terrible mistake of turning the speech into a roast, poking fun at Whittier and other New England writers like Emerson and Longfellow. The audience reacted with horrified silence, and Twain was so embarrassed that he left the country with his family the following year.
When he came out with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1884, it got terrible reviews. He spent the rest of his life struggling to pay his debts, writing and publishing all kinds of things, and going on endless lecture tours. It took decades before people began to recognize Huckleberry Finn as a masterpiece. Ernest Hemingway famously said, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."
Mark Twain wrote, "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, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened."