WTF Fun Fact 13576 – Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet

There’s a strange fact about Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet that most people don’t know.

In 1835, as Halley’s Comet graced the Earth’s skies, an event occurred that would link it forever with a literary legend. On November 30th of that year, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was born. This bright comet, which visits Earth roughly every 76 years, unknowingly set a cosmic appointment with Twain.

Halley’s Comet: A Brief Overview

Edmond Halley, an 18th-century astronomer, earned the honor of having this comet bear his name after he predicted its return in 1758. Ancient civilizations, from the Chinese to the Babylonians, had recorded their appearances for millennia. Its consistent visits have made it one of the most recognized celestial bodies in human history.

Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet: A Remarkable Prediction

As Twain aged and learned of the comet’s appearance during his birth year, he made a statement that would echo in the annals of literary history. In 1909, he declared, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.” Whether he said it in jest or with genuine foresight, the world would soon find out.

Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910. On the previous day, Halley’s Comet had made its closest approach to Earth. The comet, consistent with its 76-year schedule, had kept its appointment. So had Twain, aligning his exit from this world with the celestial body’s visit.

Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet

The periodic appearance and retreat of Halley’s Comet mirrors the fleeting nature of human life. In the comet’s brief brilliance, we can perhaps see a metaphor for our own transient existence. Twain, a master of insight and wit, often explored mortality and the impermanence of life in his works. The comet served as a grand, celestial parallel to these themes.

Beyond the Stars: Twain’s Enduring Legacy

Twain’s stories and societal critiques have left an indelible mark on American literature. Titles like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” continue to challenge and entertain readers, highlighting issues such as racial inequality. While the comet’s timing added a layer of mystique to his narrative, Twain’s true impact lies in his enduring words.

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Source: “Halley’s Comet – The fascinating connection between Mark Twain and Davy Crockett” — Brian A. Crandall