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Angel of the Day

TWAIN, MARK

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, frequently used biblical images in his work, and was particularly fascinated with the figure of Satan. He was born at Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835. In 1839 his family moved to Hannibal, where in 1847 he worked as a printer on the Journal and Gazette following his father’s death. He left Hannibal for St. Louis in 1853, and in 1856 he moved to Cincinnati. In 1862 he published “The Petrified Man”; in 1863 “The Empire City Massacre”; and “Those Blasted Children” in 1864.

He married Olivia Langdon in 1870; in the same year his son Langdon Clemens was prematurely born. The following year he published Mark Twain’s Autobiography and First Romance and moved to Hartford, Connecticut. Old Times on the Mississippi appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1875, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876. In the following years he published A True Story and the Recent Carnival of Crime (1877), A Tramp Abroad (1880), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889).

In 1891 he closed his home in Hartford and moved to Europe with his family, where in 1896 his favorite child, Susy, died. He returned to America in 1900. Extracts from Adam’s Diary was published in 1904, Eve’s Diary followed in 1906, and Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven appeared in 1909. Shortly afterward, Twain died (April 21, 1910) and was buried at Elmira, New York.

It has often been recognized that Twain was more influenced by the Bible than by any other book and that he drew upon it for ideas, subjects, and imagery. His choice of biblical subjects was dictated by his own background, since he had lived in a community where many people revered the Bible as the Word of God.

Among his favorite biblical characters, besides Adam, was Satan, with whom he had long been fascinated, although he had managed to keep him out of the diaries of Adam and Eve. Prior to writing “That Day in Eden,” Twain had done several pieces in which Satan figured prominently. Among them is the 1897 “Letters to Satan”; the 1904 “Sold to Satan,” in which he plays Faust, having determined to sell his soul; and “A Humane Word from Satan” which appeared in 1905.

Twain also showed an interest in Satan’s relatives. In 1898 he recorded in his notebook an idea for a story about “Little Satan, Jr.,” which became one of the versions of “The Mysterious Stranger.” In the published version, however, it is not Satan’s son but his nephew who bears the name Satan. “That Day in Eden,” which relates how Adam and Eve came to eat the apple and thus to bring moral sense and death into the world, is supposed to have been written by Satan on the day of the Fall. Most of the diary consists of a dialogue between Satan and Eve as the former tries to explain the words God had used.

In “Letters from the Earth,” written in 1909, Satan is banished from heaven and visits Earth to see how the human experiment is coming along. Satan writes a series of letters to his friends, the angels Michael and Gabriel, describing the foolishness of humanity and discussing in considerable detail the book man values most, the Bible. As Satan narrates the story of the Fall, he makes the point that God was insane to expect Adam and Eve to obey a command they could not understand. Besides Satan, other angels mentioned in Twain’s works include the old-headed angel named Sandy McWilliams, found in “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven.”

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