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Mark Twain: Death

"I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835," Twain said in 1909. "It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'"25

On 9 April 1910, Halley's Comet made its closest approach to Earth. And the very next day, Mark Twain died of heart failure at the age of 74. He had outlived his wife, all of his siblings, and all but one of his children. "The people of Redding, Bethel, and Danbury listened when they were told that the doctors said Mark Twain was dying of angina pectoris," his obituary read. "But they say among themselves that he died of a broken heart."26For all the difficulties in his life, however, Twain steadfastly refused to take himself too seriously, or to wallow in self-pity. And he always held on to that American ideal, the one that says you should be yourself and nobody else. "I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else," he had told the crowd that gathered to celebrate his 70th birthday. "It sounds like an exaggeration, but that is really the common rule for attaining to old age. ... I will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: That we can't reach old age by another man's road."27 What a road it was, huh?

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