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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 161

roustabouts for the landing-stages; shipping agents, shore hotels, musicians, gamblers, and harpies of another sex. All these Mark Twain had an opportunity to observe at an age when most future authors are still at their books. He absorbed them as thoroughly as the lore of his craft. “In that brief, sharp schooling,” he later wrote, “I got personally and familiarly acquainted with all the different types of human nature that are to be found in fiction, biography, or history.”
  The Civil War, however, ended this vivid chapter, and the pilot for whom there was now no longer a vocation, after a brief period of comically bloodless service in the Confederate army, became a wanderer again, starting off by stage-coach across the plains with his brother, lately appointed secretary of the Territory of Nevada. Then followed nine years of travel and adventure by far the most varied which had ever gone into the making of an American novelist. There was too much of the sanguinary in his Clemens blood for Mark Twain to resist the temptations to huge and easy wealth which the Far West offered; he tried for gold and silver, bought in mining stock, took up timber claims. And there seemed to be little either in himself or in the lax society of the West capable of directing him to the literary career for which his powers were being assembled. A writer, however, he did become, picking up local items for the Virginia City Enterprise and reporting the sessions of the legislature at Carson City. Here in 1863 he first used the name “Mark Twain,” a leadsman’s term which he recalled from the Mississippi and which had, indeed, already been used by another writing pilot. The same year Mark Twain met Artemus



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