In his last years, Mark Twain had become a respected literary figure whose opinions were widely sought by the press. He had also suffered a series of painful physical, economic, and emotional losses. The Mysterious Stranger, published posthumously in 1916 and belonging to Twain's "dark" period, belies the popular image of the affable American humorist. In this anti-religious tale, Twain denies the existence of a benign Providence, a soul, an after-life, and even reality itself. As the Stranger in the story asserts, "nothing exists; all is a dream."