Mark Twain, the esteemed 19th century American writer and humorist, died in 1910 from cardiac complications. It is also said he had been suffering from increasingly poor heart health for years prior to his death. Twain, whose given name was Samuel Clemens, was born in 1835 in Florida, Missouri. He began his career as a lawyer and journalist before he rose to prominence as an acclaimed writer.
Throughout Twain’s life, he wrote numerous letters, essays, and books on a wide array of topics. Some of his most notable works include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain, who was a long-time smoker, began to show signs of ill health starting around spring of 1909.
Twain’s health took a turn for the worse in the last year of his life. In a letter written to his daughter, Twain wrote of the effects of his poor health on his daily life. He wrote: “I’m slowly going, but they can’t cure me, although they hop around and smile, and brag and promise.” His health and mobility deteriorated so much that by the summer of 1909, he was confined to bed rest and relied heavily on the help of his daughter, Clara, and his nurse, Violet Walker.
Twain’s condition continued to worsen throughout the rest of 1909 and 1910. On December 21, 1910, Twain’s nurse found him unresponsive and immediately contacted his doctor. Twain was stated to have been suffering from advanced angina, or chest pain, when he passed away that day.
Twain’s death was an undeniable loss both to the literary world and his loved ones. The unique blend of wit, satire, and insight Twain brought to every piece of writing is something rarely seen and even more rarely replicated by other authors. He will forever remain an important and beloved figure of the literature world.
An important element of Twain’s life, which has a direct effect on his death, is his lifestyle habits. Though it is speculated that he probably had an underlying heart condition prior to his death, his unhealthy habits may have taken a toll on his health. Twain was a long time smoker, something he began during his time as a printer’s apprentice in the 1840s. He was also known to drink alcohol, though he reportedly sought medical help for his drinking before his death.
Twain was also known to eat meals high in fat and calories, rarely exercising or consuming any form of physical activity. In addition to his smoking and drinking habits, Twain’s poor diet and lack of physical activity undoubtedly added to his heart complications that eventually led to his death.
By the time Twain’s health was failing, he weighed more than 250 pounds – over 75 pounds more than what would have been considered “normal” for a man his age. Clearly, his lack of healthy habits and practices led to the significant deterioration of his health near the end of his life.
Response from Loved Ones
Twain’s death left a void in not only the literary world, but in the hearts of his friends and family as well. His daughter Clara, in particular, was greatly impacted by his loss. Clara recalled a portrait of Twain that hung in the family’s living room, a reminder of the beloved writer’s visage. She wrote: “it was like the ghost of him was there, so alive, that I used to be tempted to speak to him”.
Twain’s death also brought forth an abundance of sympathetic letters, cards, and personal letters from other friends, family members, and famous acquaintances of Twain’s. Many of these individuals, such as William Dean Howells, wrote of Twain’s greatness as an “unsurpassed author, the truest and best of friends.” His story, life and death moved many, making his death an even more memorable event and a lasting mark on literary history.
What Could’ve Been Done?
If Twain had taken better care of his health throughout his life, it is likely that his death may have been avoided, or at least delayed. His poor lifestyle choices and lack of medical attention lead to heart complications that ultimately took his life. An early diagnosis of his conditions could have saved Twain from his premature end.
Though the technology of today allows us to treat cardiac complications more effectively, in the early 20th century the options were more limited. However, Twain could have received a diagnosis of his heart conditions much earlier if he had implemented healthier habits into his lifestyle and kept regular check-ups with his doctor.
Twain may also have benefited from the improvements in medical technology that followed in the next century. Advancements in pacemakers, transplants, and robotic surgery has allowed doctors to save numerous lives today. If Twain had access to these treatments, he may have been able to avoid his premature death.
Impact on the Literary World
The death of Mark Twain had an undeniable effect on the literary world. At the time of his death, Twain was one of the most beloved authors of his generation. His novels, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, were beloved by readers of all ages. Twain’s style of writing, from his colorful descriptions to his touching moments of emotion, has left an unrivaled imprint in the literature world.
The death of Twain left a lasting impact especially on the world of American literature. In addition to the original copies of his work that remain, the impact of his writing was embodied in the liking of many authors who emulated his unique, humorous writing style. In 2011, a statue of Twain was erected in his hometown of Hannibal in Missouri, as a lasting tribute to his life and work.
Twain’s influence is felt to this day, both in the writing world and in popular culture. His works were adapted into numerous films, plays, and television series; not to mention, tens of millions of his books have been printed and distributed for over a century. Twain is sure to remain an integral and beloved figure of the literary world for many years to come.
Though Twain’s life was cut short, his legacy will remain an essential part of American literature. Twain was essential in bringing the real-life experiences and emotions of his day to life. Through his works, he taught about human relationships, morality, and resilience, lessons that remain true to this day. He also brought a sense of fun and adventure to his works, something that readers of all ages can enjoy to this day. His blend of wit and wisdom is something that can never be replicated.
Twain was responsible for much more than just his writings. He also popularized the works of his other authors and was an advocate for the rights of women, children, and African-Americans. Through his work and contributions, Twain helped shape the views of an entire nation.
Though Twain’s death was an undeniable loss for his friends and family and for the world of literature, his legacy will live on for centuries more. His works, teachings, and contributions will remain an integral part of the American literary canon, continuing to bring joy, humor, and insight to readers of all ages.
Mark Twain, one of the most well-known literary figures of the 19th century, died of cardiac complications in 1910. His poor lifestyle habits, including his long-time smoking habit and unhealthy diet led to a decline in his health. Twain’s death was an undeniable loss to the literary world, but his legacy will remain. His works, teachings and insights continue to live on, providing readers with a blend of wit, wisdom and adventure for many years to come.