There might be no writer more important to the development of American literature than Samuel L. Clemens, known better by the pseudonym Mark Twain. Even Ernest Hemingway has admitted in writing that “all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”
Twain was a humorist, a chronicler of human hypocrisy and was the first mainstream writer to capture the vernacular of the American South, among other regions. Even his pen name, which he started using in 1863, was a play on terminology used by those traversing the famed Mississippi River; “mark twain” meant that the river water reached the second mark on a depth-measuring line indicating that the river in that area was deep enough for a steamboat to pass.
One of Twain’s more strongly held beliefs was that the people of the United States had a unique drive and propensity for innovation, which made this nation a special one. In a piece titled “The Bolters in Convention” published by the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Twain opines that “we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we glorious Americans will occasionally astonish the God that created us when we get a fair start.” In an 1890 speech titled “On Foreign Critics”, Twain notes that “we are called the nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty.”
In Mark Twain’s 1889 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, a fictional account of an American engineer traveling back in time to the days of King Arthur’s Camelot who attempts to bring modern innovation into the past, we can see evidence of Twain’s stirring defense of strong patent laws.
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(This article first appeared in IPWatchDog)
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