The Teacher Who Corrupted Hadleyburg’s Class with Mark Twain Facts
It was many years ago. Mr. Hadleyburg’s was the most boring and sleep-inducing classroom in all the high schools far and wide.
Hadleyburg had kept that reputation unsmirched during three generations of literature students, and was prouder of it than of any other of his accomplishments. He was so proud of it, and so anxious to ensure its perpetuation, that he began to teach the principles of literary analysis to freshmen on the first day of school. He made similar teachings the staple of his curriculum thenceforward throughout all the years. Throughout the early years of high school, all temptations were kept out of the way of the young students, so that their study of the classics could have every chance to bore them and solidify, and become a part of their very brain.
The new teachers were appalled by this honorable boredom, and affected to sneer at Hadleyburg’s class and start teaching something of interest. Mr. Bubbleburst began teaching interesting facts about Mark Twain. Mrs. Stealidea didn’t want to call her lesson “Interesting Facts about Mark Twain,” so she called it Mark Twain facts. Either way, the lesson’s the same.
Use these Mark Twain facts to show students that not all writers lock themselves in a closet and discuss poetry.
Mark Twain’s name wasn’t really Mark Twain. It was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. So how did Mark Twain get his name? Twain worked as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi. Mark Twain was a riverboat term that meant two fathoms deep. Because Twain was so adept at English vernacular and dialect, it’s only fitting that his name matches the vernacular of his profession.
- Mark Twain wasn’t his only pseudonym. He used Sergeant Fathom, Rambler, W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab, and Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.
- As a riverboat pilot, Twain earned between $150 and $250 per month. It doesn’t sound like much, but in the late 1800s it was enough to provide a decent living. He obviously made much more money as a writer and public speaker.
- Twain made a ton of money writing, but he lost a ton of money investing. He eventually had to declare bankruptcy, teaching an important lesson: it’s not what you make; it’s what you keep that matters.
- Although he opposed slavery, he formed a volunteer Confederate militia when the Civil War began. The unit disbanded after two weeks.
- After his short stint in the Civil War, Twain moved to Nevada and worked as a miner.
- Before becoming a riverboat pilot, Twain worked as an apprentice printer.
- Legend has it that Twain was born when Halley’s comet appeared and died when it appeared next, extraordinary considering it only appears once every 75 to 76 years.
Understanding these important facts about Mark Twain will help make sense of his writing.
- Twain had no problem ridiculing and attacking those he didn’t like. One of his most famous literary targets was James Fenimore Cooper, whom Twain blasted in his essay, “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.”
- Mark Twain published 28 books during his life. His most famous were The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
- Ernest Hemingway claimed that “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the fifth most challenged book in American Literature, according to the American Library Association.
- Twain’s father died of pneumonia when Mark was 12. At 13 he began working for his brother Orion as an apprentice printer. It was here that he discovered a love for writing.
- Twain’s fame grew with the publication of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in 1865.
Use these interesting and important facts about Mark Twain as an introduction to his literary works. I’ve also created easily researchable questions for Mark Twain websites for an interactive lesson.
This post is part of the series: Teaching Mark Twain
I’m sure Mark Twain finds it ironic that teachers are using his stories and boring the heck out of people. End the irony and liven up your Mark Twain lessons.