Fun Mark Twain facts, including his inventions, unusual lecture topics, and numerous pen names
1. Mark Twain wrote a pornographic story set during Elizabethan times. Titled ‘1601’, this bawdy tale – known as a ‘squib’ – was written in 1876 and purports to be the excerpt from a diary written by Queen Elizabeth I’s cup-bearer. Elizabeth has conversations with numerous notable persons of the age, including William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh. When somebody breaks wind, Elizabeth tries to find out who did it. (Spoiler alert: Raleigh did it.) As John Bird notes, ‘one of Twain’s points’ was ‘that the figures we now hold in such high regard habitually used extremely coarse language’.
It is surprising to reflect that either of the books which are now considered canonical and quintessential Twain – Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn – was Twain’s bestselling book during his lifetime:
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