Because Twain lived so publicly while behaving so viscerally, he left clashing impressions. Fits of arrogance, real or protective, increased with success, which attracted bores, psychopaths, a gallery of petitioners, and con men… His conscience, which indicted him for sins and crimes that ordinary minds rationalize away, multiplied the pretexts for reproach; his self-doubt now gnawed on his never feeling totally accepted by New England genteelists and yet also guilt for wanting their approval. More simply, as his prestige mounted, the fear of falling grew keener; occasionally he worried that his happiness was just a dream, a fantasy of wish fulfillment. Nevertheless, reality kept reassuring him munificently, liberating his primal instincts.

Mark Twain was born today. Read the entry on his life from the American National Biography.
Image credit: Mark Twain at desk, via Wikimedia Commons.

Because Twain lived so publicly while behaving so viscerally, he left clashing impressions. Fits of arrogance, real or protective, increased with success, which attracted bores, psychopaths, a gallery of petitioners, and con men… His conscience, which indicted him for sins and crimes that ordinary minds rationalize away, multiplied the pretexts for reproach; his self-doubt now gnawed on his never feeling totally accepted by New England genteelists and yet also guilt for wanting their approval. More simply, as his prestige mounted, the fear of falling grew keener; occasionally he worried that his happiness was just a dream, a fantasy of wish fulfillment. Nevertheless, reality kept reassuring him munificently, liberating his primal instincts.

Mark Twain was born today. Read the entry on his life from the American National Biography.

Image credit: Mark Twain at desk, via Wikimedia Commons.