Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River, was host to riverboat travelers from around the world, providing a vigorous and variable atmosphere for the young Samuel Clemens to absorb. Clemens became a riverboat pilot and even chose his pen name—Mark Twain—from a term boatmen would call out signifying water depth at two fathoms, meaning safe clearance for travel. It was from this background that Life on the Mississippi emerged.
At once a romantic history of a mighty river, an autobiographical account of Twain's early steamboat days, and a storehouse of humorous anecdotes and sketches, Life on the Mississippi is the raw material from which Mark Twain wrote his finest novel—Huckleberry Finn. It is an epochal record of America's growth, a stirring remembrance of her vanished past. And it earned for its author his first recognition as a serious writer.
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