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On 30 Nov 1835, the night that Halley's Comet is visible over the Mississippi River town of Hannibal, Missouri, Samuel Clemens is born. As a boy, Sam plays on Jackson Island with his friends, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and their black slave boy, Jim. Sam loves the river and the steamboats that travel on it so much that despite the wishes of his widowed mother, he runs away from his job as a printer's apprentice and hires on a riverboat. After several years of practice, Sam becomes a good river pilot. One night, Sam stops a pickpocket from robbing Charles Langdon, and the two young men become friends. Sam is particularly struck by the portrait of Charles' pretty sister Olivia and announces that he intends to marry her. To that end, Sam quits the river and accompanies his friend, Steve Gillis, West, where they plan to make their fortunes in the silver rush. The two men have no luck at their claim, however, so when a local newspaper reporter is shot, Sam takes over his position. One day, Bret Harte challenges all comers to a jumping frog contest at Angel's Camp. Steve is determined to win and convinces Sam to bet all their money on the contest. After Bret's frog loses because Steve had earlier filled it full of buckshot, Sam confesses that he bet all their money on Bret's frog, and the two men hurriedly call for a rematch. Later, Sam writes up the story, using "Mark Twain," the boatman's cry for safe water, as his pseudonym. When the Civil War starts, Sam enlists on the side of the South. In the meantime, his story is published in a newspaper, and the publisher, Oxford Chancellor, offers the writer a lecture engagement. In the audience are Charles and his sister Livy. After Sam's successful lecture, many famous and influential people come backstage to meet him, but he has eyes only for Livy. Charles and Livy invite Sam home, but their stern New England father Jervis does not like the rough young man, and orders him to leave. Sam pretends to be injured so that he can stay near Livy, and soon the two are engaged to be married. Rather than fight against his daughter's marriage, Jervis buys her a nearby home as a wedding present. Quickly, Sam writes several successful humorous books, but when his young son dies, Sam is so heartbroken that he stops writing. Livy convinces him to write the story of his beloved Mississippi as he would have wanted to tell it to their son, and Sam writes The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . After Sam insults the New England writers at a dinner in honor of John Greenleaf Whittier, he writes Huckleberry Finn to redeem himself in Livy's eyes. Sam now wants to write a serious book, but various moneymaking schemes exhaust his finances, and he must continue to write his successful humorous works. Finally, after the publishing company that Sam owns publishes the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, and Sam gives all the profits to Grant's widow, the Clemenses face bankruptcy. To raise money, Sam leaves his three daughters and ailing wife, and goes on a world-wide lecture tour. Sam finally pays off his debts and rejoins Livy in Florence, Italy. They then learn that he is to be awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University. Livy makes Sam promise to go to Oxford even if she cannot accompany him, and after she dies, he keeps his promise. Sam, now cared for by his eldest daughter, accrues more honors. On his seventy-fifth birthday, Halley's Comet returns, and Sam dies, as he was born, accompanied by the comet.