Like his character Huck Finn, Mark Twain (born Samuel Langhorne Clemens) grew up in Missouri near the Mississippi River. As an adult, he was a steamboat pilot, a Confederate soldier, and a prospector. After failing to find gold, he launched a new career as a humorist with short newpaper pieces and witty public lectures. Twain then published humorous stories and novels that incorporated American colloquial speech and satirized human failings. His works instantly became popular and remain popular today.