Mark Twain (1835–1910)
Autograph autobiographical notes signed, [Hartford], [late January or early February 1873]
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910; MA 1405
This is the first known account of the origin of the nom de plume "Mark Twain." It was written for Charles Dudley Warner, Twain's Hartford neighbor, with whom he collaborated on writing The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873). This eleven-page manuscript accounts for Twain's life from birth until the publication of Roughing It in 1872 and includes this section on his apprenticeship as a riverboat pilot. He noted that the pen name Mark Twain had been used by "the most ancient pilot in the whole west (Capt. Isaiah Sellers). . . . Mark Twain is a leadsman's term & signifies a depth of two fathoms of water." When Twain learned of Sellers's death, he "'jumped' his nom de plume before the old man was cold."