Samuel Clemens (the real name of author Mark Twain), is one of the most well-loved writers of all time, certainly up there with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charles Dickens. But for most, the details of his most famous works (The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn) are more memorable than his biography. In truth, Mark Twain's life story was in many ways as dynamic as the adventures in his books: he traveled widely, underwent his share of tragedy, collaborated with Nikola Tesla, and was even said to be a dead-on-the-money psychic. Read on to find out more about the escapades of one of American literature's most brilliant storytellers and satirists.
He Wrote A Pornographic Elizabethan Story
Most don't realize that Twain occasionally penned smut, but pen it he did (though "smut," by his standards, was more of a witty exercise in satire than a lurid plunge into the unsavory). At the time, 1601 (named for the year of its setting) was the most famous piece of literary pornography around – which is probably why Twain published it anonymously in 1880.
Taken from the "journals" of one of Queen Elizabeth I's ladies in waiting, 1601 records the queen's racy conversations with some of the leading authors of her day; the subjects include sex, flatulence, and a host of other bawdy hilarities.
He Got His Brother The Job That Killed Him
In 1857, when he was in his early 20s, Twain got a job as an apprentice steamboat pilot. He worked on a vessel called The Pennsylvania, situated on the Mississippi River, and eventually got his younger brother, Henry, a job aboard the same ship. Not long afterwards, however, Henry (who was only 19) was tragically killed when a boiler explosion rocked the ship.
Twain's devastation was made all the more acute by the fact that he'd had a premonition of the tragedy. The day before The Pennsylvania had embarked upon its fateful voyage, he'd dreamt that he'd seen
"Henry as a corpse, laid out in a metal casket, dressed in one of his older brother’s suits, with a huge bouquet of white roses on his chest and a single red rose at the center."
And so, horribly, it came to pass. On the day of Henry's viewing, Twain found his brother:
"lying in the open coffin dressed in a suit of his older brother’s own clothing. He immediately remembered his dream. Just then, an elderly lady brought a bouquet of white roses with one red rose in the center. She placed it on Henry’s chest."
He Was Said To Have Been Psychic... And There's Convincing Evidence To Prove It
In addition to his prophetic dream about his brother's death and his famous prediction about his own death, Mark Twain was said to have experienced other psychic incidents. According to his mother, he predicted his nine-year-old sister's death when he was four; there were also occasions involving friends, including one that was recounted in a 1891 article on "Mental Telegraphy" in Harper's. In it, Twain recalls a time when a friend of his visited Washington, DC. Although he didn't coordinate with said individual beforehand, he was browsing in a shop when suddenly the man "came back into his mind, and he knew, with startling specificity, that if he left the shop, turned left, and walked  feet, his friend would be standing there." And he was right.