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Mark Twain
contents: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Roughing It 1860-1864
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Becoming a Writer

“What to do next? It was a momentous question. I had gone out into the world to shift for myself, at the age of thirteen (for my father had endorsed for friends; and although he left us a sumptuous legacy of pride in his fine Virginian stock and its national distinction, I found that I could not live on that alone without occasional bread to wash it down with...)

Now in pleasanter days, I had amused myself with writing letters to the chief paper of the Territory, the Virginia Daily Territorial Enterprise, and had always been surprised when they appeared in print. My good opinion of its editors had steadily declined; for it seemed to me that they might have found something better to fill up with than my literature. I had found a letter in the post office as I came home from the hill side, and finally I opened it. Eureka! (I never did know what Eureka meant, but it seems to be as proper a word to heave in as any other when no other that sounds pretty offers.) It was a deliberate offer to me of Twenty-Five Dollars a week to come up to Virginia and be city editor of the Enterprise...

Necessity is the mother of “taking chances.” I do not doubt that if, at that time, I had been offered a salary to translate the entire Talmud from the original Hebrew, I would have accepted—albeit with diffidence and some misgiving—and thrown as much variety into it as I could for the money...

I went up to Virginia and entered upon my new vocation. I was a rusty looking city editor, I am free to confess—coatless, slouch hat, blue woolen shirt, pantaloons stuffed into boot-tops, whiskered half down to the waist, and the universal navy revolver slung to my belt. But I secured a more Christian costume and discarded the revolver.”—Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1872

Letter, published in the Territorial Enterprise, February 3, 1863
Letter, published in the Territorial
Enterprise, February 3, 1863

Courtesy of The Mark Twain Project,
Bancroft Library, Berkeley

Territorial Enterprise Office, c. 1895
Territorial Enterprise Office, c. 1895
Courtesy of The Nevada Historical Society
Advertisement for the Daily Territorial Enterprise, 1862
Advertisement for the Daily Territorial Enterprise, 1862
Courtesy of The Nevada Historical Society
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Ron Powers, “Mark Twain”

Twain was a reporter at Carson City...writing probably to help pay his hotel bill at the Logan Hotel, he wrote this letter to the Territorial Enterprise:

“The Logan Hotel. Such is my destination. Thither I go to recuperate. I take with me a broken spirit, blighted hopes and a busted constitution. And some gin. I shall return again, after many days, restored to vigorous health, restored to original purity; free from sin, and prepared to accept any lucrative office the people can be induced to force upon me.”—Mark Twain, Territorial Enterprise, 1863. (quoted in Henry Nash Smith, Mark Twain of the Enterprise, 1957.)