Happy Birthday, Mark Twain & Jonathan Swift

Today marks the birthdate of a couple of my favorite authors. Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835.  He was born around the time Halley’s Comet was visible on earth, and throughout his life, he predicted that since he arrived with the comet, he’d depart with it as well.  He passed away on April 21, 1910, the day after the comet returned.

He wrote numerous novels, short stories, and essays, though his most notable works included The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Pudd’nhead Wilson.  Huckleberry Finn was always my favorite with Tom Sawyer being a close second.  However, I must admit that until I researched Mr. Twain for this post, I had no idea that he also wrote two sequels to his Tom Sawyer novel, Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective.  Now I know what I need to add to my shopping list!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Twain!


Jonathan Swift was also born on November 30, 1667.  He was an Irish author, clergyman, and satirist.  By the time he was seventeen, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree at Trinity College in Dublin.  When he was twenty-three, he met his future wife who was only eight years old at the time!  (Am I the only one that finds that a little creepy?)

One of Mr. Swift’s most notable books is one of my favorites: Gulliver’s Travels.  The original title was Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, In Four Parts, By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships.  Now there’s a mouthful!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Swift!

24 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Mark Twain & Jonathan Swift

  1. Happy Birthday to both. Mark Twain entertained me greatly with Tom, Huck and Becky as I grew up. Lessons in life and I didn’t realize it. Best type for a kid. Thanks, Rachel. Have a great day.

  2. Here’s a piece of trivia for you: The name Gulliver is a play on the Irish word for “foreigners” (ghallaibh, which can be pronounced something like “khawlleff,” depending on what part of the island you’re from).

    Today is also my Uncle Norbert’s birthday. He’d have been 92.

    • Well, Happy Birthday, Uncle Norbert! 😀

      When I listened to the beautiful Irish accents, I never imagined their native language had all the hard-to-pronounce words you know about! How did you ever read “ghallaibh” and know that it sounded like “khawlleff?” 🙂

      • Learning Gaeilge was part of the cultural immersion I did while I was writing “Irish Firebrands.” To make an exceedingly long Irish story uncharacteristically short, Gaeilge has rules called “eclipsis” and “lenition,” which change spelling and pronunciation, so when you learn those rules, words that look difficult to read become easier to understand. (Frank gives Lana a quick-and-dirty lesson about this in Ch. 19.)

        Understanding spoken Gaeilge is more complicated, because despite the efforts of the Irish to standardize the language, there are still strong regional differences in pronunciation. Here are two examples: http://youtu.be/AZdRgQLLCgs and http://youtu.be/3AFRCWg_kOc (it’s the same song, but the second performer substitutes a few words in his last repetition of the chorus). If you put the words of the song into the speech synthesizer at Trinity College Dublin, you get two more pronunciations.

      • Re: your question about studying German for “Patriots,” I lived in Bavaria for a year when I was young, so I studied German in a couple of university courses over there. I’m reviewing it now, with a concentration on idiomatic expressions (which are very colorful). I’m also working my way through “All Quiet on the Western Front” in its original tongue, and while that’s hard work, it’s also a better read than the translations into English. (Wheen’s translation is especially bad.)

      • Wow, you are so amazing! Is there any Russian or Asian books in your future? I bet you’d have no trouble mastering the languages even with the non-alpha characters as we know them. Are you reading “All Quiet on the Western Front” just for research purposes?

  3. Have you been to the Mark Twain house in Hartford, CT? It’s wonderful. I had no idea he was so innovative. We were in the Hartford area for a wedding, and we had time to visit the house and museum (at that time there was a special exhibit on racism)–also Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house next door is interesting, but Twain’s house is cooler.
    Also, have you seen Twain’s essay on masturbation? 🙂

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