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Word Count: 2,704
In one form or other Mr Samuel L Clemens has told the story of his life in his books and in sketching his career I shall have to recur to the leading facts rather than to offer fresh information He was remotely of Virginian origin and more remotely of good English stock the name was well known before his time in the South where a senator a congressman and other dignitaries had worn it but his branch of the family fled from the destitution of those vast landed possessions in Tennessee celebrated in The Gilded Age and went very poor to Missouri Mr Clemens was born on November 30 1835 at Florida in the latter State but his father removed shortly afterward to Hannibal a small town on the Mississippi where most of the humorists boyhood was spent Hannibal as a name is hopelessly confused and ineffective but if we can know nothing of Mr Clemens from Hannibal we can know much of Hannibal from Mr Clemens who in fact has studied a loafing out-at-elbows down-at-the-heels slaveholding Mississippi River town of thirty years ago with such strong reality in his boys romance of Tom Sawyer that we need inquire nothing further concerning the type The original perhaps no longer exists anywhere certainly not in Hannibal which has grown into a flourishing little city since Mr Clemens sketched it In his time the two embattled forces of civilization and barbarism were encamped at Hannibal as they are at all times and everywhere the morality of the place was the morality of a slaveholding community fierce arrogant one-sided -- this virtue for white and that for black folks and the religion was Calvinism in various phases with its predestinate aristocracy of saints and its rabble of hopeless sinners Doubtless young Clemens escaped neither of the opposing influences wholly His people like the rest were slaveholders but his father like so many other slaveholders abhorred slavery -- silently
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