Why did Samuel Clemens change his name?


When someone say the name “Samuel Clemens,” most people automatically think of Mark Twain. Others don’t even know who Samuel Clemens is, but if someone says “Mark Twain,” they know who he is. Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He’s known for his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Every time I think of Samuel Clemens, I always ask myself the same question. Why would Samuel Clemens change his name to Mark Twain? Where did this name even come from? What does it even mean?

While searching for the answer, I found out that Samuel Clemens was born in a small village in Florida, Missouri. Before became well-known as a writer, he had a variety of odd jobs. One of them included piloting a steamboat down the Mississippi River. He was licensed as a steamboat pilot in 1859 and worked on the river until fighting there during the Civil War ended traffic traveling from the north to south. His experiences along the river helped him come up with his “new name”.



In 1863, when Clemens was 27, he wrote a humorous travel story and decided to sign his name as “Mark Twain”. This name came from something shouted by crewmen on a boat. To test the depth of the water, a crewmen shouts “mark twain”. When this is yelled, the crewmen is calling for two fathoms, or a depth of 12 feet, which indicated safe water. “Twain” is an old-fashioned way of saying “two” and a fathom is six feet.


So to answer the question, Samuel Clemens changed his name to Mark Twain because of his love of being a steamboat pilot. It became a pen name used for his works, used the same way as people in the show business have a stage name.


Who was Walt Whitman?

Walt Whitman - George Collins Cox.jpg


Walt Whitman was an American poet, journalist, and essayist. He was America’s world poet. He was apart of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. He wrote about democracy, nature, love, and friendship. He also chanted praises to the body and soul, and found beauty and reassurance even in death. Along with Emily Dickinson, Whitman is known as one of America’s most significant nineteenth century poets.

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Town of Huntington, Long Island. He was the second son of Walter and Louisa Van Velsor. By the time Whitman was four years old, his family packed up and moved to Brooklyn. At age eleven, Whitman concluded formal schooling and sought employment for income for his family. He was an office boy for two lawyers. He also worked as a printer in New York City, until a devastating fire in the printing district demolished the industry. In 1836, at the age of seventeen, he began his career as a teacher in one-room houses in Long Island. He continued to teach until 1841. He then turned to journalism as a full-time career. He founded a weekly newspaper Long-Islander, and later edited Brooklyn and New York papers. In 1848, Whitman left the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to become a editor for the New Orleans Crescent. While in New Orleans, he experienced the viciousness of slavery in the slave markets in the city. In the fall of 1848, he returned back to Brooklyn and founded a “free soil” newspaper called Brooklyn Freeman. In this newspaper, he developed unique styles of writing.



In 1855, Walt Whitman took out a copyright for the first edition of Leaves of Grass, which consisted of twelve untitled poems and a preface. He published the first volume. In 1856, he released the second volume. The second edition contained thirty-poems, a letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson praising the first edition, and Whitman’s response to Emerson’s letter. During his career, he continued to refine the book, publishing several more editions.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman promised to live a purged and clean life. He wrote freelance journalism and visited the wounded at New York-area hospitals. He also traveled to Washington, D.C. in December of 1862 to  care for his brother who had been wounded in the war. These experiences led to his poems in his 1865 publication, Drum-Taps, which includes “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Whitman’s elegy for President Lincoln.


(The poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”)

In 1873, Whitman suffered a serious stroke. He moved to his brother’s home in Camden, New Jersey. There he wrote his final volume of poems Good-Bye, My Fancy. After his death on March 26, 1892, he was buried in a tomb he designed and had built on in Harleigh Cemetery.


Why was Emily Dickinson so reclusive?

During the brief lecture on Emily Dickinson, we learned that she is one of the most highly-regarded poets ever to write. She wrote over 1700 poems, but only ten were published–all anonymously and some apparently without her consent. From the lecture, Dickinson was very social as a young girl, but as she got older, she became more reclusive. Whenever I think of Dickinson’s work, I always ask myself “Why was she so reclusive?” Was she sick and didn’t want people in her business? Maybe she just didn’t like the idea of going public.


I came up with so many things while trying to figure out why Emily Dickinson was so reclusive. Her health was one of them. In 1851, Emily showed signs of tuberculosis. For two years, she met with a TB specialists until her symptoms subsided. In 1863, during her most productive period of writing poems, another medical concern was an eye affliction. She repeated treatment for two years, and in 1865, she was apparently cured.  



(Publication-is the Auction by Emily Dickinson)


As we learned from the lecture, only ten of Dickinson’s poems were published, and they all were anonymous or without her consent. Maybe she didn’t like the idea of going public. In the first first stanza of the poem “Publication-is the Auction,” she talks about how she thinks of publication as being a foul thing. She felt that it was inherently “selling out”. She basically didn’t like the idea of publishing. 



After learning so much about Emily Dickinson, no one really knows why she was so reclusive. She was very social as a young girl and enjoyed school and had many friends. As she grew older she only remained open to visits from close friends and family. Whether she suffered from a medical condition that made her not want to be around people or whether she chose to separate herself from the public is unknown. 

About Jas!!

Hello!! My name Jasmin Nicole Parks. I’m from Birmingham, AL and this is my junior year here at Jacksonville. I have 4 siblings and a great boyfriend. This is my second year taking Mrs. Christopher. I was hoping we would have gotten the iPads this semester, but I still think this will be a great semester.

The historical aspects of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Harriet Jacobs was an African American writer that escaped slavery in 1835. In 1861, she published the slave narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. In this narrative, Jacobs writes about the struggle of freedom by female slaves and the sexual harassment and abuse they endured. Looking at Jacobs’ work from a historical perspective, you’ll find that the text was very important during the time it was written.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was written during the 1850s. Slavery was a highly explosive issue in the United States. During this time, African American literature was dominant. Slave narratives were publicized by abolitionists, who were sometimes editors, like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In 1861, Jacobs’ book was published the same year the Civil War began. Harriet Jacobs book was published so she could tell her story to people and to help the abolitionist movement. It was also used to promote anti-slavery because of the Civil War in the United States. By publishing the book the same year the Civil War began, there was a tremendous effect on the book’s resonance with the public. Everyone was so busy with war effort.



In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Jacobs did a great job at describing how life was as a slave. Life as a slave was very difficult. The housing was horrible. Slaves lived in wooden shacks with dirt floors. Their beds were made of straw or grass and one blanket for covering themselves. One single room could have more than a dozen people living there. Slaves began to work as young as six years old. They ran errands for the master and took water to the older slaves in the fields. Every month, the slaves would receive cornmeal salt herrings and eight pounds of pork or fish. Each year, slaves would receive two shirts, two pairs of pants, one jacket, one pair of socks, one pair of shoes, and a wool hat. Slaves didn’t receive dresses and pantaloons until they were about fifteen years old. They weren’t allowed to wear shoes until they were adults. They didn’t know of underwear.


The masters on the plantations didn’t want their slave to learn to read. For some reason, they didn’t want them to become Christians. If slaves did learn to read, they read the Bible, if they could get one. In the South, slaves were usually allowed to attend church.



I think Harriet Jacobs did what she expected to do with her book. She wanted to open people’s eyes about the abuse of women during slavery. People did hear her story and its still being recognized today.

“I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest”

“I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”

This quote is from Resistance to Civil Government by Henry David Thoreau. This essay was published 1849. During this time, many authors including Thoreau were Transcendentalists. Transcendentalism was a religious theory in the nineteenth-century that proclaimed that truth can’t be found just by observation, and that it rather “transcends” the senses over time. Resistance to Civil Government was written when Thoreau refused to pay taxes. It argues that individuals shouldn’t let permit the government to overrule their consequences. His refusal to pay taxes was intended as a protest against an unpopular tax and an indirect protest against the government condoning slavery. Later, Thoreau was threw in jail.



This quote was significant during that time because he thought that if he didn’t believe in something that was going on in the government, you shouldn’t be forced to pay taxes. He wanted to let people know that they have the duty to avoid allowing the government to make them the agents of injustice.


This quote is a very strong one. I think it means that he shouldn’t have to be forced to pay taxes to a government he doesn’t agree with. He thinks the government is corrupt and doesn’t think he should be forced to pay taxes. When I read Resistance to Civil Government, I totally understand where Thoreau was coming from when he wrote it. I agree with this quote. If I was reading this quote without knowing the meaning behind it, I would say that it means no one should be able to force me to do anything. I am my own person and I can make my own decisions. I will do what I want to do.


I think this quote is applicable today. Whether using it toward the government or just saying it to someone. It is used to open people’s eyes about something and getting them to understand where you’re coming from. Using this quote today can get points across today just like it did in the nineteenth-century.


Salem Witch Trials

During the Nathaniel Hawthorne section of class, I read the biography on him. In the biography, it stated that his name was “Hathorne” but he added the “w” so he could distance himself from his father. His father was a judge in the Salem witch trials. I’ve heard of the Salem witch trials before, but I really didn’t know what it was. If Hawthorne added a “w” to his last name to distance himself from his father, the Salem witch trials must have been something serious. 

In the 17th century, many people in Salem, Massachusetts that practiced Christianity and others of different beliefs thought strongly that the Devil could give certain individuals the special power to harm others in return of their loyalty. These people were known as witches. Most of these witches were peasants and did witchcraft, which was considered “dark magic,” associated with demons and evil spirits. Men and women in Salem believed that any misfortunes, such as the death of a child or crop failures were considered the work of the devil. 



In January of 1692, three little girls in Salem started having “fits”. They screamed, threw things, and did strange things that didn’t seem like them. The local doctors blamed the supernatural. On February 29, the three girls were interrogated by Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s father). The girls accused three women of afflicting them. The women were interrogated for several days by local magistrates. Two of the women pleaded innocence, but one admitted. She told them that she signed a book for the Devil and  many more witches were going to destroy the Puritans. All women were thrown in jail and later went before the Supreme Court. They were found guilty and hung, even the women that may have been innocent.  



Nearly 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft in Salem and 20 were executed. Nineteen were hung, one man was pressed with a stone, and several died in prison. The colony eventually admitted the trials were wrong and that they were a mistake and the families of those convicted were compensated. The Salem witch trials were horrible and the people could have went by fixing the problem in a better way.