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Mark Twain Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

The character of Huckleberry Finn was modeled after Twain's boyhood friend Tom Blankenship. "He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had," Twain wrote of Blankenship in his autobiography. "His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy's."28

If anyone tells you that they are Mark Twain's great-great-great-grandson or something, they are punking you. Mark Twain has no living descendants. Clara Clemens, the only child who outlived him, had only one daughter, and she died without having children.29

Each May, California's Calavaras County holds the Calavaras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. The 2009 champion, a frog named For the Sign, jumped 21 feet. Honest!30

Twain first donned his famous white suit in 1906, when he appeared before Congress to testify about copyright law. On what may have been a slow news day, the New York Times carried a headline the next day proclaiming "Mark Twain in White Amuses Congressmen." He wore a white suit from then on, arguing that "light-colored clothing is more pleasing to the eye and enlivens the spirit." He called it his "dontcaread-- suit," because he didn't care a d--n what he looked like when he wore it.31

Every year since 1998, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Winners include Steve Martin, Bill Cosby and SNL creator Lorne Michaels.32

Twain was also an inventor. His most profitable creation was a scrapbook with self-pasting pages.33

Twain's wife Livy Clemens disliked his habit of swearing, and he tried to keep it from her. One day when he was dressing alone, he realized that his shirt was missing a button and went off on a blue streak. To his horror, he realized that his wife was listening behind the door. In her prim voice, she repeated his words to him as a reprimand.

"Livy," he said, "did it sound like that?"

"Of course it did," she said, "only worse. I wanted you to hear just how it sounded."

"Livy," he said, "it would pain me to think that when I swear it sounds like that. You got the words right, Livy, but you don't know the tune."34

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