Clemens said he took name of N.C. native (he didn’t)

” ‘Mark Twain’ was the nom de plume of one Captain Isaiah Sellers, [an Iredell County native] who used to write river news over it for the New Orleans Picayune: he died in 1863 and as he could no longer need that signature, I laid violent hands upon it without asking permission of the proprietor’s remains. That is the history of the nom de plume I bear.”

— From a letter by Samuel L. Clemens to a California newspaper in 1877, supposedly revealing the origin of his pen name 

In reality, according to this article in the Los Angeles Review of Books (Sept. 26), the Sellers claim was just another of Clemens’  prankish deceptions: “No record of the name ‘Mark Twain’ exists in Times Picayune archives, nor those of any newspaper in the region. Isaiah Sellers always signed his river reports ‘I. Sellers.’ And the captain died one year after Clemens adopted that pen name, not before.”

 

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