Anniversary: ‘Reports of His Death’—100 years ago

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21: it’s the centennial anniversary of the death of American author Mark Twain, who often joked about his own demise. (Learn all about Mark Twain and his works at his official site.) Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the author of such works as “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” adopted the pen name Mark Twain. Unlike many great artists and authors of the past who worked in obscurity, Twain was immensely popular in his day—and often enjoyed the income of a modern-day millionaire. We say “often enjoyed” because he also famously ran up huge debts, sometimes! Twain was friends with presidents, European royalty, fellow authors and many people in between. (The Mark Twain House features an extensive biography.) William Faulkner regarded Twain as “the father of American literature.” Due to the assortment of places Twain wrote—in newspapers, books, essays, speeches and more—his writings are still being collected.

Ever the humorist, Twain predicted his own death in 1909, by saying: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’” Sure enough, Twain died on April 21, 1910, one day after the Comet’s closest approach to Earth.

Twain was raised a Presbyterian, although he was known for criticizing organized religion. (Wikipedia has more.) Among his many quotes concerning religion is the following, from his biography: “So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: ‘Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor’s religion is.’ Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it.” (If you’d like to read more of his quotes on religion, check out this site.)

In honor of this year’s 100th anniversary—and the 125th anniversary of “Huckleberry Finn”—the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri, is calling on fans to donate. In light of the global recession, many tourist towns are feeling the strain. According to Museum Executive Director Cindy Lovell, “The building has been placed on Missouri Preservation’s most endangered buildings list, and it’s critical for us to get it preserved.” (Read the article here.) By the end of 2010, the museum hopes to raise $10 million.

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)

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