Mark Twain: American Cigar Icon

The Essence of the Great American Novel

When asked what is the Great American Novel, it would be nearly impossible to neglect the masterpiece that is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  While it has in recent years been viewed with controversy, it remains widely regarded by readers and literary critics alike as a work of mischievous genius.  As the reader engages in the story it becomes increasingly difficult to be uninterested in the man behind the book.  Born in Missouri in 1835, Samuel Clemens (as was his real name) was the 6th child of financially unstable parents and born 2 months premature.  The first 10 years of his life were trying as he was rather sickly, though it seems his penchant for mischief developed early as well. He recalled once talking with his mother when she was an elderly woman in her 80’s, asking her, “I suppose that during that whole time you were uneasy about me?” 

“Yes, the whole time,” she answered.

 “Were you afraid I wouldn’t live?”

“No,” she said, “afraid that you would.”

The Early Years of Samuel Clemens

Samuel would see his share of tragedy very early, losing his sister, brother and father all by the time he was 12.  Despite this harsh reality he managed to maintain and develop a piercing awareness of human nature and a keen sense of humor, one that he managed to maintain throughout the many hardships of his life. The book, Huckleberry Finn, was a prime example of just that.  Using the viewpoint of the 14-year-old title character, Samuel captures moments, many of which were directly inspired by his own life experiences, that lucidly demonstrate some of humanities greatest follies, not the least of which was slavery, while still making the reader laugh at how thoroughly ridiculous human beings truly are.

Cigars: A Source of Inspiration and Contention

Cigars became a vital part Samuel’s daily life especially as his writing career progressed.  It was even said that once he gave up the habit of cigar smoking at the wishes of his doctor only to find himself gripped by a severe case of writer’s block.  He summarily returned to his beloved cigars and quickly snapped out of his writing funk.  He also is noted for his absolute disdain for “cigar snobs”, saying in an essay: “As concerns tobacco, there are many superstitions, and the chiefest is this–that there is a STANDARD governing the matter, whereas there is nothing of the kind. Each man’s own preference is the only standard for him, the only one which he can accept, the only one which can command him”.

On one occasion he had even pranked one of his snootier cigar smoking acquaintances by gifting him a sampling of fancy, expensive cigars disguised as the cheap sticks that Clemens typically enjoyed. As predicted the gentleman “struggled” to smoke the scaled cheap cigars, commenting with disdain at the inferior quality, none the wiser that he indeed proved Samuel’s point!

The Alter Ego: Mark Twain Emerges

Eventually, Samuel Clemens would take on the moniker, Mark Twain, as a homage to his time as a river boatman.  Mark Twain was apparently a term used to signify a certain water depth.  His literary accomplishments are perhaps only rivaled by his love of cigars and the quotes attributed to him regarding his love of the leaf.   Being so clever and concise, it bears repeating some of his choicest cigar related phrases!

-“I never smoke to excess – that is, I smoke in moderation, only one cigar at a time.”

-“Eating and sleeping are the only activities that should be allowed to interrupt a man’s enjoyment of his cigar.”

-“…I smoke with all my might, and allow no intervals.”

Joe Kenney

I am a Certified Consumer Tobacconist, have enjoyed cigars for over 10 years, and I run the Jonose Cigars cigar review channel on YouTube. My primary goal is to spread cigar lifetsyle to as many as possible while discovering as much as possible about the craft of cigars along the way.