Mark Twain (1835-1910) was a printer, riverboat captain, secretary to the Nevada Territorial Governor (his brother), a silver miner, newspaper reporter, lecturer, travel reporter, short-story and novel writer, anti-Imperialist, gifted after-dinner speaker, stand-up comedian, publisher (of the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant) , inveterate wanderer, billiards player, cigar smoker, father of four children (who lost three of them in his lifetime), a wealthy man, a bankrupt, and a revered sage who today is adored by any American with half a brain (and some Canadians as well I'm told.)
Mr. Twain also told the truth about human nature (or a facsimile of it) so well in his voluminous works that in one lifetime he went from a nobody in a little hamlet in the state of Missouri called Hannibal to be awarded an honorary degree from Oxford University and his works are the standard for popular American letters.
"Mark Twain was an autodidact, of course. His schoolbooks were steamboats and mining camps and newspaper offices and so on. His eventual greatness might be taken as an insult to formal education in America It begs the question "What good is school?"
"This is the best reply, I think. "School is for people who are not nearly as gifted as was Mark Twain, who need lessons in counterfeiting gifts they do not have." ...Twain was as shrewd and puritanical in managing his literary talent as John D. Rockefeller was in managing money, it seems to me. He squandered almost none of it. His collected works works are, among other things, a monument to nineteenth-century ambition, single-mindedness and efficiency--like Standard Oil.
They are a good deal funnier than Standard Oil."
---Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922--2007) from the introduction to "The Unabridged Mark Twain" (1976)
You Tube essay by http://www.youtube.com/user/alexanspaugh