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A Connecticut Yankee
in King Arthur's Court
by Mark Twain

Synopsis:
When A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court was published in 1889, Mark Twain was undergoing a series of personal and professional crises. In his Introduction, M. Thomas Inge shows how what began as a literary burlesque of British chivalry and culture developed to tragedy and into a novel that remains a major literary and cultural text for generations of new readers. This edition reproduces a number of the original drawings by Dan Beard, of whom Twain said "He not only illustrates the text but he illustrates my thoughts."
ForumId UserId Subject PostDate TimesRead Anonymous Body 14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 4:06:16 AM 111 0 "Our February reading

Where does one begin a discussion of a book as vast and complex as Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's
Court
? I'm hoping you won't mind if I start with a few, nay,
more than a few, words about my own experience with the book.
It's kind of a cute story in itself and has the additional merits
of being not only true but relevant to the direction in
which I plan to lead this inaugural discussion.

Comic Book Kid
Elsewhere on these pages I've alluded to the role comic books
played in interesting me in real books when I was a child. I read
a lot of Classic Illustrated comics back then, but they were only
a fraction of the comics I read. Moreover, they weren't the only
comics that influenced my later reading. For example, an
especially memorable issue of Donald Duck helped whet my
interest in studying history: Like Connecticut Yankee, it
was a time-travel story--one in which Donald and his nephews went
back to early California, when it was still a Spanish colony. Was
it really a time-travel story, however? Or was the whole story
merely Donald's dream? One might ask a similar question of
Connecticut Yankee.

Another comic I vividly remember had an interesting science
fiction or fantasy theme. It may have been an issue of Bugs
Bunny
, but that matters less than the premise of its lead
story: a typewriter that could write by itself. One merely had to
push a few special buttons, such as ""western,"" ""adventure,"" or
""romance,"" and the typewriter would crank out a whole book by
itself. (A great idea for a time three decades before PCs caught
on.) Bugs (if I remember the comic's characters correctly) and
his friends push all the typewriter's special buttons to
see what happens. The typewriter spews out pages all night long,
then breaks down, but not before it finishes a book. Bugs and his
friends don't know anything about literature, so they take the
manuscript to a librarian to read. The next day she tells Bugs
and the others that the book is probably the greatest book ever
written.

Bugs and the others are thrilled by the prospect of getting rich
off the wonderful book until they notice its pages are blank.
Their typewriter, they discover, had been mistakenly loaded with
a ribbon with disappearing ink. Since the typewriter is ruined
beyond repair, they have nothing left of its prodigious miracle.

I think I read comic book story only once, but it left an
indelible impression in my mind that one might write a great book
by throwing in every genre of writing one could think of. Now,
isn't that kind of concoction a pretty fair description of
Connecticut Yankee? I'll explain what I mean in a moment.
First, I'll finish narrating my own trip into the past.

First Exposure to Connecticut Yankee
I didn't read Connecticut Yankee when I was a child, but I
did read a Classics Illustrated version of it. I'm sure I
regarded it as an odd sort of story to have been written by the
same person who wrote Tom Sawyer, but I did enjoy it. (It
wasn't until many, many years later that I realized that
Connecticut Yankee's Hank Morgan is Tom Sawyer,
growed up.) However, I must have been a pretty odd sort of boy
myself, for what I most remembered about its story was the scene
in which Hank and King Arthur eat dinner with Marco the charcoal
burner and his friends (chapter 32 in the novel). I was
fascinated by their discussion of what kinds of food they could
afford. (I'm attaching a picture of that scene from the CI comic
book to this note.)

I finally read the novel itself decades later, when I was
fortunate to get hold of a facsimile of the first edition, with
all 220 of Daniel Beard's glorious illustrations. In still later
years, as many of you already know, I became intensely interested
in Mark Twain (as I still am) and wrote a hefty reference book
about him. I also published a collection of Mark Twain
quotations, in which extracts from Connecticut Yankee
figure prominently. Over the past decade I've read the book at
least eight times, and I find many new things in it each time I
read it. Needless to say, it is one of my favorite Mark Twain
works.
______________________

I couldn't load my whole not in one post, so more follows in the next note ...

14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 4:16:48 AM 108 0 "(Feb. discussion, cont.)

All of what precedes this is merely by way of introduction to my
real discussion of Connecticut Yankee, which I'll begin
now. However, I should immediately explain that this note is only
the first of what I expect will be many installments through
February. Right now, my primary goal is merely to whet your
interest in the book by calling attention to its diverse riches.
At the same time, I want people to remember how much fun
the book is.

Connecticut Yankee: An all-everything book?
Above I alluded to Connecticut Yankee as a concoction that
might have been written by Bugs Bunny's magic typewriter. Before
getting into its story and characters, consider how complex its
structure is. I've long regarded Mark Twain as a writer who
disrespected genres, and many of his books are indeed impossible
to pigeonhole. Take, for example, Roughing It, his book
about crossing the plains and prospecting and writing for
newspapers in the Far West. What kind of book is it? It's
generally regarded as a travel book and as a memoir, but large
parts of it are pure fiction.

Science fiction or fantasy?
Connecticut Yankee is clearly a novel, but what kind of
novel? Since it deals with time travel, it may be science
fiction. On the other hand, the way the story begins and ends
suggests it may merely have been a dream of its narrator, Hank
Morgan--in which case it might be regarded as fantasy. However,
that caveat really applies only to the ways in which Hank gets to
the past and returns to the present (his late-19th-century
present, that is), and not to the core of the story itself. For
what happens to Hank while he is in 6th-century England is
certainly more the stuff of science fiction than fantasy. Indeed,
Hank embodies modern 19th century science and reason, with which
he takes on the sham magic and superstitions of the 6th century.
Moreover, a great deal of what happens in the story is the stuff
of sociologically and politically inclined science fiction, as it
raises such ""what-if"" questions as what would happen if modern
republican ideas were to be thrust upon a primitive society
conditioned to accept monarchy and aristocracy as the natural
order of things.

I'll try to get more into how Mark Twain came to write
Connecticut Yankee in a later note. For now, I'll merely
mention that his idea for the book originated in an earlier idea
he had for a novel about Hawaii, which he visited in 1866. He
never wrote his Hawaii novel, but he did publish a sketch called
""The Great Revolution in Pitcairn"" in 1879 that grew out of that
earlier idea. It's worth reading because it reveals something of
the Mark Twain's transition from the Hawaii novel idea to what
became Connecticut Yankee a decade later. (I'm attaching a
DOS file of ""Pitcairn"" to this note; you can read it online by
clicking on its icon with your mouse's left button, or you can
download it by clicking on the icon with the right button and
following onscreen directions.)

What has struck me most forcibly about Connecticut Yankee
during my current reading of the book is the sheer number of
themes and genres it incorporates. It's as if Mark Twain did
write it on Bugs's magic typewriter and pushed all its special
keys. Here's a sampling of what the book encompasses:

 Time travel and the collision of the 6th and 19th
centuries; moreover, the book is filled with references to other
historical eras, such as the French Revolution

 Politics: One of its dominant themes is the contrast
between republican democracy and authoritarianism and monarchy;
indeed, one of its central narrative threads is Hank's scheme to
transform 6th century England into a republic (perhaps with
himself as first president)

 Religion: Another dominant theme reflects one of Mark
Twain's life-long interests: the hold on people's minds by
organized religion; throughout his life he spoke out strongly
against established churches (i.e., those officially sanctioned
by government). In Connecticut Yankee, Hank isn't opposed
to religion per se, but he never ceases to denounce the
established church, which, of course, proves to be his strongest
enemy
_____________________

(continued in next note)


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 4:20:31 AM 109 0 "(Feb. discussion cont.)

 Sociology: Hank's narrative is a running commentary on
relationships among 6th-century England's highly stratified class
system. Notice his frequent comments about the ""artificiality"" of
aristocracy, and the essential sameness of human beings,
regardless of class (and especially when they are not clothed!).
The book is also a powerful indictment of America's former system
of slavery (anyone who wants to call Mark Twain a ""racist"" should
read Connecticut Yankee, as well as Huckleberry
Finn
, before forming any final opinions).

 Economics: Despite the fact I have a degree in economics
and have read Connecticut Yankee many times, I didn't
appreciate just how strongly economic themes run through the book
until now. Hank is constantly analyzing England's economic system
and making plans to improve it.

 Business: The language of business and commerce
permeates the book; note how frequently terms such as ""business,""
""stock,"" ""balancing accounts,"" and so on appear in the narrative.
Hank is a true Yankee entrepreneur, looking for every possible
scheme to make money or increase government revenue. (One of my
favorite passages comes in chapter 22, when Hank plays up the
difficulty of his repair of the Holy Fountain in order to attract
more admiration. He justifies his behavior with this remark:

Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind
of advertising.


 Science and engineering: In the preface to the novel,
Mark Twain establishes Hank's credentials:

So I am a Yankee of the Yankees--and practical; yes, and
nearly barren of sentiment, I suppose--or poetry, in other
words. My father was a blacksmith, my uncle was a horse
doctor, and I was both, along at first. Then I went over to
the great arms factory and learned my real trade; learned
all there was to it; learned to make everything: guns,
revolvers, cannon, boilers, engines, all sorts of labor-
saving machinery. Why, I could make anything a body wanted--
anything in the world, it didn't make any difference what;
and if there wasn't any quick new-fangled way to make a
thing, I could invent one--and do it as easy as rolling off
a log. I became head superintendent; had a couple of
thousand men under me.


Think about the uses to which Hank puts his skills: Every modern
development that arises in 6th century England is planned,
designed, and, presumably, built by him. There's not another
person in the world who can contribute anything to this work,
except those whom Hank has trained. Of course, what he achieves
during the ten or so years that the main narrative covers is
clearly impossible--but that's part of the fun.

 Medieval romance and chivalry: Mark Twain took his
inspiration for the Camelot settings from Sir Thomas Malory's
15th-century Le Morte d'Arthur. While Hank poo-poohs
chivalry and tries to destroy it, Mark Twain clearly has fun with
it and makes great uses of Arthurian legends and themes
throughout the book. Indeed, one of the most delightful episodes
of the book is the quest on which Hank goes to save Sandy's
friends from ogres.

 Cowboys and Indians: Well, there aren't in the story, of
course, but their spirit is certainly there. Note how Hank
occasionally alludes to the knights as ""cowboys"" (especially in
chapter 15). However, Hank isn't always consistent in his
terminology. In other places he alludes to the knights as ""white
Indians"" or ""Comanches."" Finally, if Hank's combat in the
tournament in chapter 39 isn't a cowboy rodeo, then what is it?
Details of terminology aside, it seems clear that Hank views 6th-
century knight errantry much as he would view cowboys and
Indians.

 Navigation: As a former Mississippi River steamboat
pilot, Mark Twain frequently salted his writings with the
language of the river. Take, for example, this wonderful passage
from chapter 22's description of a shirt Hank manufactured using
the power supplied by a hermit:

There was more money in the business than one knew what
to do with. As it extended, I brought out a line of goods
suitable for kings, and a nobby thing for duchesses and that
sort, with ruffles down the forehatch and the running-gear
clewed up with a featherstitch to leeward and then hauled
aft with a back-stay and triced up with a half-turn in the
standing rigging forward of the weather-gaskets. Yes, it was
a daisy.


___________________________

Have I overlooked anything for now? Undoubtedly. Journalism, for
one thing. However, this is more than enough to get started. If
this long note doesn't bore people to death, I'll come back with
more notes later. Let's have some fun with this!



14 67 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 1:06:58 PM 113 0 "Kent,

I'm all primed. Thanks!

Robt


14 4 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 6:02:55 PM 114 0 "__________________________________
SPOILERS ABOUND!!
__________________________________
The dinner scene wasn't the most memorable to me - probably like more than half the people who read it, Slow Torture had me in stitches as I read it, and for a long while after, too. Odd, this almost made the chapter seem out of place; the rest of the book was so much more subtle, or at least not so rapid-fire, fall-down funny. It's hard to see how a comic book could convey this, so I can see why it wasn't a particular stand out chapter.

As this was the first time I've read it, and, BTW, I don't believe I've ever seen the Bing Crosby movie - although I've been aware of it for just about forever, there were two things that were most surprising to me: First, the anti-Catholic and anti-class sentiment that starts to sound like the stuff of soapboxes by the end of the book, and second, the violence of the book. Before the Battle of Sand Belt was over, I was feeling pretty wretched about the whole bloody book. For the first couple hundred pages, I quickly put these types of scenes out of my mind and continue on, but after that the comedic relief is more and more rare, and I hadn't prepared my mind for it at all.

I'm surprised that you said, ""the way the story begins and ends suggests it may merely have been a dream of its narrator, Hank Morgan,"" because it was the present day bookends that convinced me Twain was guarding against anybody mistaking it as a ""dream"". The stranger who reads the book in the book describes the beginning pages as parchment, yellowed and old, and old style writing, too. And Clarence's final sentences can even account, in a way, for Hank waking up thirteen centuries later in America.

To me, the fantasy aspect of the novel is simply in the extraordinary knowledge and talent of this Yankee. If he tells me he worked in an arms factory, then I'm convinced that Hank knows all there is to know about metal working and even more; but ""even more"" wouldn't normally extend to encompass mining, electricity, telegraph and telephone, printing press, paper making, explosives, weaving, soap-making, education, and on and on. There's no reason in particular for this not to have annoyed me, but as Twain kept piling it on I found it more and more entertaining; I think he had to stay within reasonable expectations, or go to the extreme, far past any one man's
logical limit. He chose the latter, and it worked.

Finally, two things that puzzled me in CY: I couldn't understand the reason for Sandy's hallucination of the ogres and maidens. It was a cute story, and a device for getting Hank out of Camelot and into armor, but if he was saying something about superstitions and fears of the 6th century, I missed it. (I was reading that in a very noisy restaurant, so I should probably go back and re-read it.) And, he was so abrupt, in ""Three Years Later"", in telling the reader that Hank became a husband and father. First I backed up, wondered if I'd mindlessly read over something very important, then, not seeing it, I forged ahead and eventually got the whole story. But this section upset the flow of the story, to me.

Tonya


14 25 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 6:48:06 PM 115 0 "Great notes, Kent and Tonya. I want to get some beginning reactions down and look forward to having more time this week-end. As I said on the other conference, I read this book in 2 days while getting through the flu and it was actually an interesting way to do it. I may have missed some of the finer points, but the fantasy aspect of it agreed with my state of mind. I'm amazed (as I frequently am about our classics reading) that I'm just getting around to reading this. I would truly term it an American Classic...probably as distinctly representative of the U.S. as any writing I can recall.

So much of what he explored in politics and religion was from the point of view of an American citizen in a relatively new country looking at the institutions that he didn't want integrated into his world...a monarchy and rigid class system, a church woven into the governmental system, economic controls, etc. And, Hank is the absolute ideal of the free man in the U.S., someone who has not been constrained by any roadblocks in his society from learning and understanding anything he wants to explore. I agree with you, Tonya, that his breadth of knowledge was a little fantastic, but it seemed to me to be part of that ideal.

I probably enjoyed Twain's political comments as much as anything. Usually I thought that he wove them expertly through the story leaving me with a smile while still bringing home his message. A few times, I thought he was in danger of being on a soapbox. He and I have similar thoughts about the dangers of one strong established church so I appreciated his comments on religion as much as anything. That didn't surprise me since I liked Letters From the Earth enormously when we read it on Classics Corner.

More later...this is a great discussion book. I hope to find an illustrated edition at the library this week-end.

Barb


14 133 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 7:41:12 PM 118 0 "Wow!Thanks for getting the discussion off with such a bang, Kent. I read the story you attached and liked it a lot. I wondered if it was just the Catholic Church Twain hated, or if he included Protestants as well under the evils of organized religions. This story makes it clear that he did. I wonder how his hostility towards organized religion was received in his own day.

I first read CY many years ago, when I was about junior high age. That was in my first classics phase, when I had the ambition to read as many of the classic novels as I could lay my hands on. Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop cured me of that goal before too long, but I do remember enjoying CY very much. The notion of time travel is what appealed to me most. History was my favorite subject in school, and I have never lost that desire to really step back in time-- just as an observer, of course, and one who retained the option of going back to the present. But I have always wondered what it would really be like to live in another time or culture. To a certain extent, reading satisfies that curiosity.

Now that I am older, I can see that Twain has a very imaginative view of the sixth century. In fact, he seems to be talking more about the later Middle Ages than Arthur's time. It doesn't matter, of course, because basically this book is a fantasy. What struck me most on this second reading was how much Twain seemed to be taken by the nineteenth century idea of inevitable historical progress. Oh, there were times when I could see that he was pimping 19th century ideas as well as 6th century ones, but Hank, at least, is convinced that everything in the past is bad and everything in the present is far superior, if not perfect. After awhile I attributed his protagonist's attitude to Twain as well. Was I mistaken in this, Kent, at least for this period of Twain's life?

Tonya, I thought you brought up some very interesting questions. I was fascinated by the fact that Sandy continued to see high born ladies in those pigs, even after Hank tried to disabuse her of this notion. Twain gives this as an example of ""training."" He refers to the importance of this again and again in the book. I think he is trying to show us how people see what they expect to see. Our culture and the way we are raised predispose us to see things in a certain way and to act according to certain habits. It is extremely difficult to overcome this conditioning, and Twain wanted to show this. He uses Arthur's wicked sister to give other examples of the effect of ""training.""

Speaking of Sandy, I was very amused by this character and their relationship. ""Hello Central"" was an absolutely fabulous touch. I didn't realize that Twain could be so sentimental. In parts, he reminded me a bit of my old buddy, Charles Dickens. At the end, when Hank dreamed about his wife and child coming to greet him, he almost had me in tears. The incident of the woman who was condemned by the Church and who lost her whole family to small pox also struck me as positively Dickensian. Oh, I know he was obviously pulling at my heart strings, but I am a soft touch and I don't mind unless sentimentality overwhelms the book. Twain's wit made sure that didn't happen.


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 8:49:28 PM 117 0 "Hank's banquet in chapters 32-33
_________________

(You may wish to skip this message if you haven't reached this
point in the book yet.)
_________________

All have you have raised some interesting points about
Connecticut Yankee that I'll try to respond to later.
Right now, I'm moved to respond to Tonya's comments about the
banquet chapters (32-33). I'm inclined to make a case for
regarding them as a key turning-point in the book. This
point wasn't on my mind when I mentioned that episode in my first
posting here. Indeed, my only reason for even mentioning it was
because it had made such an impression on me when I read the
Classic Illustrated comic version of the book as a boy.

Tonya is probably right in regarding the banquet scene as less
memorable than many other episodes in the novel, but I would
argue more goes on in that scene than may first meet the eye.

In my first note I off-handedly remarked that Hank Morgan was Tom
Sawyer ""growed up."" Like Tom, Hank is an unrepentant show-off who
constantly strives for ""gaudy"" effects (""gaudy,"" by the way, is a
word that Mark Twain often used). Consider, for example, the
trouble to which he went to show off when he fixed the Holy
Fountain in chapter 23. And look at how much he enjoyed the
knights' arrival in chapter 38:
_________________

SPOILER: skip this quote if you haven't reached chapter 38
_________________

On your knees, every rascal of you, and salute the king! Who
fails shall sup in hell to-night!

I always use that high style when I'm climaxing an effect. Well,
it was noble to see Launcelot and the boys swarm up onto that
scaffold and heave sheriffs and such overboard. And it was fine
to see that astonished multitude go down on their knees and beg
their lives of the king they had just been deriding and
insulting ....

I was immensely satisfied. Take the whole situation all around,
it was one of the gaudiest effects I ever instigated.

_________________

Now, compare Hank's egoism to that of Tom Sawyer. In The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
, Tom, Huck Finn, and Joe Harper
return to their village after several days of playing pirates on
an island and create a sensation, because everyone had thought
them dead. Tom times the moment of their return so that they
reappear at their own funeral! Afterward, he basks in his new-
found glory:

What a hero Tom was become, now! He did not go skipping and
prancing, but moved with a dignified swagger as became a pirate
who felt that the public eye was on him. And indeed it was; he
tried not to seem to see the looks or hear the remarks as he
passed along, but they were food and drink to him. Smaller boys
than himself flocked at his heels, as proud to be seen with him
and tolerated by him as if he had been the drummer at the head of
a procession or the elephant leading a menagerie into town.
(chapter 18)

Doesn't that accurately describe Hank Morgan?

Indeed, Hank's egoism is so great that he not only shows off for
the powerful and the great and for the multitudes, but for anyone
whose path he crosses. When he visits a village with Marco in
chapter 31, he meets several local swells, including Dowley the
blacksmith. Put off by Dowley's petty boasting, he determines to
show him up badly and offers to host a banquet at Marco's. He
orders food and supplies costing the equivalent a year's wages of
an artisan. To complete ""Dowley's Humiliation"" (the title of
chapter 32), Hank has his bill for everything delivered to him
at the banquet, in Dowley's presence, and lets the
delivery keep change worth more than an artisan's wages for a
week. Dowley and the others are dumbfounded.

Throughout the banquet, Hank does everything he can to bait
Dowley so he can overwhelm him with his own superior wealth and
intellect.
_________________

Another SPOILER follows for those who haven't read past
chapter 32

_________________

Hank's arrogant behavior backfires, however, and the results are
disastrous. When Hank tries to explain what modern economists
call real wages (the concept of measuring income not in terms of
money figures, but in goods the wages can buy), Dowley and his
friends fail completely to understand his point. All Dowley can
grasp is that workers in his region get higher cash wages than
workers in Hank's region. Hank is perplexed:

But if you will believe me, he merely looked surprised, that
is all! he didn't grasp the situation at all, didn't know he had
walked into a trap, didn't discover that he was IN a trap. I
could have shot him, from sheer vexation.


I find Hank and Dowley's debate delightful. Dowley's denseness
makes me think of the wonderful scene in the film This Is
Spinal Tap
when the musician explains to Rob Reiner why their
amplifier, which goes up to ""11"" is more powerful than one that
only goes up to ""10."" (Reiner: ""Isn't it a matter of calibration,
not power?"" Musician: ""But--but--this goes up to 11."")

No matter how many different ways Hank tries to explain real
wages to Dowley, the latter always comes back to the same point:
""But--but--ye cannot fail to grant that two mills a day is better
than one.""

Hank becomes livid:

Well, I was smarting under a sense of defeat. Undeserved
defeat, but what of that? That didn't soften the smart any. And
to think of the circumstances! the first statesman of the age,
the capablest man, the best-informed man in the entire world, the
loftiest uncrowned head that had moved through the clouds of any
political firmament for centuries, sitting here apparently
defeated in argument by an ignorant country blacksmith! And I
could see that those others were sorry for me --- which made me
blush till I could smell my whiskers scorching. ...


Well, when I make up my mind to hit a man, I don't plan out a
love-tap; no, that isn't my way; as long as I'm going to hit him
at all, I'm going to hit him a lifter. And I don't jump at him
all of a sudden, and risk making a blundering half-way business
of it; no, I get away off yonder to one side, and work up on him
gradually, so that he never suspects that I'm going to hit him at
all; and by and by, all in a flash, he's flat on his back, and he
can't tell for the life of him how it all happened.


Hank's lavish spending has already made everyone suspicious of
him. What he then says to Dowley scares the villagers nearly to
death. A moment later, the king wakes up and makes such idiotic
remarks about agriculture that the villagers turn on him and
Hank. In the melee that ensues, Hank and the king fall into the
hands of the earl Grip, who sells them into slavery. From there
the novel takes a sea change in direction. All because of what
happens at that banquet.

The banquet demonstrates at least two things: the full extent of
Hank's arrogance and pride, and the magnitude of the gulf
separating him, as a 19th-century man, from the civilization of
the 6th century. I think that scene, perhaps as much as any other
moment in the book, reveals that Hank's plans to modernize
England are doomed to failure. The same point is made in
different ways throughout the novel, but nowhere, that I can
think of, more dramatically than at the banquet.
____________________

A caution: If it isn't already obvious to everyone,
Connecticut Yankee is filled with contradictions. It's
often difficult to know how to reconcile Hank's lofty ideals with
his erratic behavior--from his treatment of Morgan Le Fay's band
and Dinadan the Humorist to the apocalyptic Battle of the Sand
Belt. If one takes such moments too literally, they can be
tremendously upsetting. For my own part, I'm inclined to savor
bits and pieces and themes in CY, while not trying to make
sense out of the book as a whole.


14 154 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 9:09:50 PM 110 0 "Kent was kind enough to advise me on the publication dates of a set of Twain books I had for sale on eBay, and invited me to join this group. I find it very thoughtful and interesting.


14 109 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 9:49:57 PM 117 0 "Nancy,
Welcome to Classics Corner and Constant Reader. We're delighted to have new faces. How did you come by your interest in Twain?

Ruth


14 67 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/04/1999 10:04:26 PM 107 0 "Nancy,

Welcome. I'm just beginning A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT. Hope you stick around for the discussion.

Robt


14 133 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/05/1999 4:49:03 PM 98 0 "Nancy,
Thanks for dropping by. We pick a classic a month to discuss here. This month we are lucky enough to have Kent, who has written several books on Twain, leading the discussion.

In case you haven't already run across it, you can find the Classics Corner reading list by clicking the LOGOFF button above this screen, and then clicking the reading list under the Classics Corner heading. We love to have new people join our discussions. If your tastes run more to modern literature, the main Constant Reader group also has a great list of books for monthly discussion.

Ann


14 154 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/05/1999 5:00:12 PM 97 0 "Ruth,

I would say that my interest in Twain is based on having a southern ""eddication,"" at least in my secondary school years. Twain was
not taught in my school, nor was the German
language, as some might find either offensive! By college I thought Twain was too old hat to read (please don't cringe). I hope to make up for this literacy gap. Here I am confessing to something terrible on the internet.

Nancy






14 133 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/05/1999 5:09:30 PM 98 0 "I know what you mean about those contradictions, Kent. In the chapter about the visit to Morgan Le Fay's castle, Hank is filled with compassion for her prisoners, yet he tells the Queen to hang a whole band of musicians whose music displeases him. Twain apparently just couldn't resist a good joke.

I also enjoyed that banquet scene with the poor villagers, especially the villagers' inability to grasp modern economics. It impressed me once again with Twain's understanding of human nature.

Question: If Morgan le Fay was Arthur's sister and Modred was her and Arthur's son, then Arthur was guilty of incest. Or did I get these relationships mixed up?

Ann



14 154 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/05/1999 5:12:17 PM 100 0 "Ann,

Thanks for the tips. I am new to this sort of venue, and being the stubborn person I am, refuse to read the directions. So I shall bumble along and post things in the wrong places for a while. If it gets too awful, please have my password revoked!

Nancy



14 25 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/05/1999 8:39:51 PM 97 0 "Nancy,
I'd like to add my welcome to the others. We love having new voices in our discussions and I'm particularly glad to get new input on the classics. About once a year here, I confess to my astonishing lack of familiarity with classic fiction. I've been addicted to reading since I was a kid and think of myself as someone who reads primarily the good stuff (with a wee bit of junk thrown in), but I can't believe how much I missed. Classics Corner is a wonderful way to fill in the gaps with people who don't seem to mind my ignorance one bit (or at least they don't make it painfully obvious).

As to reading the directions, we're all pretty bad about that. I just stumble through and ask for help from the other people on the board when I get stuck. One tip that helps a lot is to always reply to the last note in the thread even if you're referring to an earlier one. That way when people reading a thread, they can just scroll down through instead of being required to click on each message. We all forget occasionally though.

Barb


14 25 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/05/1999 9:39:55 PM 98 0 "I love your note about the similarity of Hank's ego and Tom Sawyer's, Kent. I haven't read Sawyer since I was in college and had a vague memory of that quality. The quote brought it home. It's sort of Hank's fatal flaw throughout. As plagued with pitfalls as his ambitions were, you almost felt like he could succeed until you saw him continually going too far.

I can't resist joining up with those who liked Twain a bit more for his comments on his relationship with Sandy after they were married (though I'm afraid it will be typecast as a female reaction). I usually find myself drawing back from him a bit when he talks about women, the other species approach. But, the following quote hit deep in my heart:

Within the twelvemonth I became her worshiper; and ours was the dearest and perfectest comradeship that ever was. People talk about beautiful friendships between two persons of the same sex. What is the best of that sort, as compared with the friendship of man and wife, where the best impulses and highest ideals of both are the same? There is no place for comparison between the two friendships; the one is earthly, the other divine.

You know, he wanted the vote for women in this new civilization he envisioned too.

When we first talked about reading this book, I saw a Norton Critical Edition of it at a used book store. I almost bought it, but didn't because it had relatively small type. Now, I wish I had because I would love to have had the footnotes. In some ways, this was a very topical book and there were many references to things that I didn't understand. It certainly didn't hinder my enjoyment of it, but some extra knowledge might have enhanced it. One word that I hadn't heard before was ""chromos"" which seems to be some sort of picture on the wall, maybe advertisements? I thought that his references to them were dripping in irony, but I couldn't quite get it because I wasn't sure what they were.

Barb


14 133 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/05/1999 10:09:20 PM 95 0 "Nancy,
You'll fit right in here. Very few of us have much academic background in the classics. We're trying to catch up on reading some of the things we missed when we were younger.

Ann


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/06/1999 4:02:22 AM 100 0 "You can count me among those with no academic background in the classics. In fact, I haven't taken a course in literature since I was in the eleventh grade. It was the year after I took my last Latin course. Nixon was vice president then.

Incidentally, I've been enjoying the notes all of you have been posting and will eventually try to reply to every question that you raise.

Meanwhile, I can report that King Arthur and Morgan Le Fay did have an incestuous relationship. But, not to worry--it wasn't Mark Twain's idea, and they weren't real people anyway.


14 4 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/06/1999 10:20:35 AM 102 0 "Kent,
We are in perfect agreement about the pivotal nature of the banquet scene (I was actually thinking of the idea to disguise themselves as commoners being the turning point, but you're more accurate). I still think Slow Torture is the memorable chapter.

Now, what I've been mulling over the last day or so are various treatments of ""fish out of water"" that I've seen or read. It seems to me that if a writer decides to do it, he or she makes two basic decisions: 1) will the traveller's own time/place be compared favorably or unfavorably, and 2) will the traveller effect change on the new time/place, or will it effect change on him?

Some of the many examples that have bounced around in my head are The Time Machine and A Scientific Romance, The Sparrow, Time After Time, Pleasantville and the upcoming Blast from the Past. Of course Star Trek (and probably many other TV shows) like to play with this idea, too. (Kent - have you seen any of the episodes of Star Trek NTG when the crew meets Mark Twain? I loved those!) Anyway, the commonly accepted theory that anything you do ""back then"" will have bearing on the present didn't have any play whatsoever in Twain's story, unless his point is interpreted to be causing permanent change is not really possible. So something or some book came in between that caused writers to concentrate on that aspect of displacement. I don't have a point, in case y'all are waiting for one. It was just interesting to me to read a book dealing with displacement that never even addressed the idea.


14 107 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/06/1999 2:46:02 PM 104 0 "Hi everybody,
I am doing my usual slow thing, namely I have just about read 20% of the book, though I read it when I was about 14 or so while living in Europe. I may mention in passing I read a lot of Jules Verne as well. What struck me at that time and today as well is the inherent individualism and self sufficiency of the hero. Now compare this with Jules Verne's sci-fi heroes and there it is! The Yankee individualism and independence is unique. Jules Verne's heroes can't compare. And this strikes me as being so characteristic of Americans, their ability to rise above the social expectations and restrictions to do their thing. Oh yes, there is a certain lack of respect or skepticism about authority (Thank God) which made this country what it is. So this book goes at the essence of the American Character and I love that. Ernie


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/06/1999 6:53:40 PM 100 0 "I'll try to catch up on weightier issues later but want
immediately to respond to a few of the simpler questions people
have raised. For example, Tonya asked about Mark Twain in a
Star Trek: The Next Generation time-travel episode. Yes, I
saw part of the two-part STNG episode in which members of
the Enterprise crew meet him in San Francisco during the
1890s. (Was he in more than one episode?) ) I saw just enough to
have a few belly laughs. I would have enjoyed it more, had it not
been for the irritatingly whiny voice of the actor who played
Mark Twain. Why my belly laughs?

1. Mark Twain never set foot in California after 1868.

2. Mark Twain didn't wear white suits in public until 1906, when
he was 70--about the age he appears to be in the STNG
episode.

3. The episode includes a brief appearance of Jack London, as a
bellhop in Mark Twain's San Francisco hotel. The idea of London
working as a bellhop is even funnier than the nonsense about Mark
Twain.
_______________________

BTW, keep an eye on CR's MOVIE conference. I'm going to post a
long note there about stage, movie, and TV adaptations of
Connecticut Yankee. There've been a ton, ranging from a
1923 stage play called A Danish Yankee in King Tut's Court
to Bugs Bunny's Connecticut Rabbit in King Arthur's Court.
______________________


Barbara M. asked about ""chromos."" Great question! That subject
has interested me since I got seriously into Mark Twain.
""Chromos"" is the word Mark Twain used for a type of cheap color
print that was popular in the 19th century. He mentions chromos
so often in his writings that the word serves a synonym for bad
taste. In chapter 7 of Connecticut Yankee, for example,
Hank complains about missing the ""small conveniences"" and
comforts of the 19th century and includes chromos among the times
he most misses:

I had been used to chromos for years, and I saw now that
without my suspecting it a passion for art had got worked into
the fabric of my being, and was become a part of me. It made me
homesick to look around over this proud and gaudy but heartless
barrenness and remember that in our house in East Hartford, all
unpretending as it was, you couldn't go into a room but you would
find an insurance-chromo, or at least a three-color God-Bless-
Our-Home over the door; and in the parlor we had nine. But here,
even in my grand room of state, there wasn't anything in the
nature of a picture except a thing the size of a bedquilt ...


Hank also alludes to chromos in his description of the artwork at
the Holy Fountain: the ""walls were hung with pious pictures of a
workmanship that would have made a chromo feel good ...""

For a truly delicious example of Mark Twain's use of chromos,
read chapters 31 & 32 of Life on the Mississippi. The
conclusion of the Ritter story will knock you over.
____________________

Barbara also asked about Sandy's belief that the swine at the
ogre's castle (chapter 20) are princesses. An interesting thought
occurred to me as I was listening to this episode last week. (I
just listened to Matt Dooley's unabridged reading of the book for
the fourth time. It's always a lot of fun.) How do we know that
Sandy is not seeing princesses and ogres? After all, Hank
advances the plausible explanation that an enchantment prevents
him from seeing things as they really are. Moreover, we have only
Hank's account. Maybe Sandy really does see a castle.

That, however, is merely an idea, and I don't buy it, either. I
think the episode is best explained by seeing it as an example as
Arthurian myth. I'm sure Mark Twain wrote the episode to
highlight the huge gulf in thinking between the modern Hank and
the superstitious people among whom he is forced to live. I'm
going to do some reading in Sir thomas Malory's Morte
d'Arthur
and see if I can come back and say more on this
subject.

By the way, for those of you with fully illustrated editions of
the book, be sure to note the picture of the ""Troublesomemost old
sow of the lot"" that precedes chapter 20; Dan Beard modeled the
sow on Queen Victoria.


14 109 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/06/1999 7:43:05 PM 89 0 """Chromo"" is short for ""chromolithograph"", which is simply an early technique for making a color lithograph. The early attempts at these were not as well done as color lithographs produced later.

Ruth, sticking her two cents in


14 109 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/06/1999 7:55:20 PM 88 0 "Nancy, this is the place where confessions about gaps in our ""book-larnin"" can be freely confessed. We love discovering things together. I confess not liking Twain as a kid, when my only exposure to him was Tom Sawyer. Huck hooked me in. But this is my first go-round for Connecticut Yankee.

Glad to have you aboard. Do stick around for our other discussions.

Ruth


14 133 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/06/1999 11:32:08 PM 91 0 "Ernie,
I was interested in your observations about the uniquely American character of Hank in CY. His sense of optimism, faith in progress, and sometimes obnoxious confidence in American superiority struck me as very 19th century when I read it, but on second thought I guess there is still plenty of that around.

I do think you are right that there are many positive traits to the American character that we native born Americans don't always appreciate.

I bet this book went over like a bomb in the England of Twain's day.

Ann


14 133 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/06/1999 11:33:36 PM 94 0 "Kent and Ruth,
Thanks for the information about chromos.
And Kent thanks for the information about Arthur's transgressions. My, wouldn't Ken Starr have a field day with him!

Ann


14 25 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/07/1999 7:42:19 AM 88 0 "Well, now, once again on the webboard, I've found out about a word about which I had no prior knowledge whatsoever. Thanks, Ruth and Kent.

Kent, I think it might've been Tonya who commented on that swine/nobility contrast, but I was wondering about it too. I thought that it might have to do with the difference in the way Sandy and Hank viewed nobility.
To Hank, the uniquely American man in a new country making its own rules, nobility were swine. To Sandy, raised in Arthur's system, they were precious things to be cared for and pampered.

Kent, I also think your point is well-taken about the dinner being the turning point in the book. It is really pivotal, isn't it?

Barb


14 133 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/08/1999 7:52:55 AM 80 0 "Kent,
How was CY received by the contemporary reviewers? Did Twain's condemnation of organized religion provoke many people? In CY, the Catholic Church was the target. Maybe it was considered fair game?

Ann


14 118 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/08/1999 8:20:16 AM 80 0 "One of my favorite Twain quotes refers to the way Twain himself perceived CONNECTICUT YANKEE:

Well, my book is written -- let it go. But if it were only to write over again there wouldn't be so many things left out. They burn in me; and they keep multiplying; but now they can't ever be said. And besides, they would require a library -- and a pen warmed up in hell.
- Letter to W. D. Howells, 9/22/1889 (referring to CONNECTICUT YANKEE)


14 58 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/08/1999 8:56:24 AM 81 0 "Barb: Great quote, indeed. Kent, isn't there some collection of Twain's works titled A Pen Warmed Up In Hell? Gotta be one of my favorite titles of all time.

>>Dale in Ala.


14 133 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/08/1999 7:25:17 PM 73 0 "Thanks for the quote, Barb. It's a good one.

Ann


14 118 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/08/1999 7:40:59 PM 72 0 "From reading through his correspondence, it is evident Twain continued to exhibit a source of pride in CONNECTICUT YANKEE. By 1891 he was writing his publishers from Berlin of his wishes to publish an inexpensive edition in paper covers that would be available for the laboring class. He wrote:

(Privately, there's a chapter or two in the book which will make it a good Democratic campaign document next year.) It could be sold in batches to Democratic Clubs. It is a book that is working its way along in Germany, and I hear its praises in surprising places -- from thinkers born to title and nobility.
- Letter to Fred Hall, December, 1891


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/08/1999 11:20:47 PM 78 0 "Yes, Dale, there is a book titled A Pen Warmed Up in Hell:
Mark Twain in Protest
(1972). It's a collection of his
angrier writings assembled by Frederick Anderson, who was general
editor of the Mark Twain Papers in Berkeley. The book includes
""The Great Revolution in Pitcairn""--Mark Twain's rehearsal for
Connecticut Yankee which I attached to one of my earliest
notes in this thread. It also contains his ""War Prayer,"" which I
regard as one the most powerful pieces he ever wrote. (I couldn't
get it out of my head while American planes and missiles were
slaughtering Iraqi civilians during the Gulf War. I'm going to
post its entire text in a separate thread here.]

And if you like good book titles, there is also Mark Twain on
the Damned Human Race
(1962), edited by Janet Smith. Perhaps
the best title, however, is Mark Twain's Book for Bad Boys and
Girls
(1995), whose editor's name I disremember.
__________________

I still plan to post more thoughts about Connecticut
Yankee
, but meanwhile I shall merely add some more choice
quotes from Mark Twain about the novel:
_________________________

The story isn't a satire peculiarly, it is more especially a contrast. It merely exhibits under high lights, the daily life of the [imaginary Arthurian] time & that of to-day; & necessarily the bringing them into this immediate juxtaposition emphasizes the salients of both. (Letter to Mary Fairbanks, Nov. 16, 1886)

The book was not written for America, it was written for England. So many Englishmen have done their sincerest best to teach us something for our betterment, that it seems to me high time that some of us should substantially recognize the good intent by trying to pry up the English nation to a little higher level of manhood in turn. (Letter to Andrew Chatto--his English publisher--July 16, 1889)
_________________________

You'll find these and many other great quotes in The Quotable Mark Twain (1998)--another book whose editor's name I can't remember.


14 4 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/09/1999 12:05:13 AM 76 0 "Kent,
I've read Pitcairn and War Prayer, and it probably won't surprise you that I must say Twain is not much who I thought he was. Of course, how could he be - but he's WAY not who I thought he was. I am anxiously awaiting your comments in the Movies conference about the film adaptations.

(Back to Star Trek TNG for a moment, though: Once I read your message, I was reminded of reading your comments before. And as before, I thought what a lucky thing it is that I'm not a Twain scholar. I just enjoyed the heck out of those shows! There was the two parter you saw, but I think he appeared in more than that, maybe on the holodeck. I really don't remember the actor's voice, so it must not have been disagreeable to me.)


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/09/1999 12:53:06 AM 78 0 "Mark Twain is so complicated that he rarely is who we think he is. That's one of the reasons he's so endlessly fascinating. (If you don't mind a bit more shameless self-promotion on my part, I think you'll find a lot of surprises in Mark Twain A to Z. Also my preface to The Quotable Mark Twain, which sums up why I find him so interesting.)

I'll get around to posting on screen adaptations on Mark Twain stories in a few days; I still have a lot of other matters to catch up on. I'll also have much more to say about Connecticut Yankee here.

Meanwhile, I can't resist commenting on perhaps the biggest screen travesty of them all: The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), in which Frederic March plays Mark Twain. I happen to catch a few minutes of that film on TV the other day (I think it's currently playing on Turner Movie Classics); the mere thought of that crazy film makes me howl with laughter.

That biopic has much in common with screen adaptations of Mark Twain's fiction: It contains many elements of the original story (in its case, Mark Twain's own life), mixed in with episodes invented by screenwriters. What makes these films so crazy is that their scripts rearrange events, often reversing cause and effect. In this regard, The Adventures of Mark Twain may be the biggest offender of them all.

I suppose that casual viewers of the film might not suspect anything is wrong. Anyone who knows at least the bare outline of Mark Twain's life, however, is bound to gag in horror. One or two examples should serve to make my point.

Example 1:
In real life, Mark Twain met the brother of his future wife, Olivia Langdon, during his voyage to the Mediterannean in 1867. Shortly after that voyage, he met Livy (as she was called) and courted her until they married in 1870. According to a famous, but probably apocryphal story he wrote years later, he fell in love with Livy during that 1867 voyage, when her brother showed him a cameo portrait of her aboard their ship. Got that, so far?

Here's what The Adventures of Mark Twain does with that material:

Mark Twain meets Livy's brother while he (Mark Twain) is piloting a steamboat on the Mississippi (something he really did in the late 1850s). After the brother shows him the cameo of Livy, he steals it. Vowing to become rich so Livy will marry him, he goes west to prospect (he really did go west in the early 1860s). From there the nonsense multiplies.

Example 2:
In real life Mark Twain started his own publishing company to publish Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs. The memoirs came out shortly after Grant died in 1885 and were a HUGE success. So huge, in fact, that Mark Twain got the crazy idea that every business venture he undertook would succeed. Eventually, his miscalculations forced his publishing house to declare bankruptcy in 1894. Got all that?

Here's what The Adventures of Mark Twain does with that material:

At a time is impossible to date because it mixes up elements from different periods in Mark Twain's life so thoroughly one doesn't know whether it's supposed to be the 1880s or 1890s, Mark Twain's financial adviser warns him that if he undertakes to publish Grant's memoirs, he'll go bankrupt. Mark Twain says that the country owes so much to Grant that he's willing to make the sacrifice. He publishes the memoirs and goes bankrupt. From there the nonsense continues to proliferate.
__________________

I don't mind a little dramatic license in films; after all, film is a condensed medium that demands compromises in order to fit long and complicated stories into a 1- or 2-hour movie. But, LORD! What justification can be advanced for mixing up cause and effect and substituting nonsense for sense, when sense is simply waiting to be used?

The same criticism can be applied to almost every film adaptation made of a Mark Twain story I've seen, and I've seen a lot. I never cease to be amazed at how much trouble film makers go to get something wrong, when it would have been just as easy to get it right.

More anon.


14 4 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/09/1999 8:44:18 AM 68 0 "Kent,
I can certainly agree with that, if you want to call your movie The Adventures of Mark Twain, you should feel some responsibility to get the events portrayed in the correct order. It would seem to me, too, that you don't just arbitrarily depict a man as a thief!

Tonya


14 118 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/09/1999 10:34:09 AM 72 0 "Additional insight into the way Twain himself viewed CONNECTICUT YANKEE can be found in an interview which was published in the New York Times on Dec. 10, 1889:

-----

Having delivered himself on the contamination of American ideas by the spread of foreign literature, Mr. Clemens turned to his new book, which satirizes the shams, laws, and customs of today under the pretense of dealing with the England of the sixth century.

""I want,"" he said, ""to get at the Englishman, but in order to do that I must deal with the English publisher. And the English publishers are cowards, and so are the English newspapers. I have had to modify and modify my book to suit the English publishers' taste until I really cannot cut it any more. I talked to Mr. Osgood about it, and he said that there was only one publisher in London that would take my book as I wanted to leave it, and that house was not quite reputable. I've got to have a respectable house. And Mr. Osgood said that my London publisher, Mr. Chatto, was one of the bravest of them. Yes; Mr. Chatto will do the best he can, but he will cut my book. All I could do was to appeal to him to cut it as little as possible. I am anxious to know my fate. I see that he has cut my preface. Yes, more than half of my preface is gone, and all because of a little playful remark of mine about the divine right of Kings.""

Mr. Clemens was very much cut up over the massacre of his preface. This is the part which was considered too shocking for Englishmen:

""The question as to whether there is such a thing as divine right of Kings is not settled in this book. It was found too difficult. That the executive head of a nation should be a person of lofty character and extraordinary ability was manifest and indisputable; that none but the deity could select that head unerringly was also manifest and indisputable; that the deity ought to make that selection, then was likewise manifest and indisputable; consequently, that He does make it, as claimed, was an unavoidable deduction. I mean, until the author of this book encountered the Pompadour and Lady Castlemain and some other executive heads of that kind, these were found so difficult to work into the scheme that it was judged better to take the other tack in this book, (which must be issued this Fall,) and then go into training and settle the question in another book. It is, of course, a question which ought to be settled, and I am not going to have anything particular to do next Winter, anyway.""

Mr. Clemens is delighted at the way the artist has entered into the spirit of the book in executing the illustrations, and pointed specially to a fine portrait of Jay Gould in the capacity of ""the slave driver,"" but he fears that some of the illustrations in the English edition will be sacrificed on the altar of English hypocrisy.

""How long were you at work on this book, Mr. Clemens?""

I projected it four years ago, he replied, ""and it has been in manuscript for three years. I put it in pigeonholes and took it out now and then to see how it was getting on, and replaced it again. I began to think several months ago that it was about ripe, and that the times were about ripe for it. And sure enough it was, for there is Brazil who gets rid of her Emperor in twenty-four hours, and there is talk of a republic in Portugal and in Australia. And curiously enough, the proclamation of the Brazilian republicans is very similar - I mean in the idea, not the words - to that which my hero issues abolishing the monarchy.""


14 25 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/09/1999 5:39:50 PM 64 0 "I love all of this background information, Kent and Barbara. I've been wondering all along, as I read this book and now read other things about Twain, about his politics. Can you tell us anything about them? Or, was he secretive about it? Obviously, it is hard to relate 19th century politics to 20th century ones. However, he reminds me of the kinds of conservatives who go so far right around the circle that they start agreeing with leftists on some issues. I'm thinking of Barry Goldwater when I say this. Twain's most consistent view seems to be that the individual is everything and can do anything with enough hard work. And, he certainly comes out against any form of government controls in CY. Then, there's also that ""War Prayer"" that Kent has posted which doesn't match up with stereotypical far-right views.

And, do we know where his strong anti-British feelings came from? Were these just typical of the time in the U.S? Or, did he have any personal experiences that led to them? I've read in the Afterword to my edition of CY that he loved Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur and did not originally mean to poke fun at those characters.

Barb



14 63 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/09/1999 8:54:21 PM 62 0 "BARBARA *2

I don't think it's a great stretch to see Mark Twain as being ""anti-war"". He did go to great lengths to avoid service in the Civil War, didn't he?

EDD


14 118 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/10/1999 8:29:29 AM 61 0 "I wouldn't characterize Twain's actions in the Civil War as ""going to great lengths"" to avoid service. Although he did serve a couple of weeks as a Confederate volunteer with a handful of local friends around Hannibal -- and wrote one account of his experiences in ""The Private History of a Campaign that Failed"" -- the experience seems more comparable to something that I would characterize as Tom Sawyer's Gang Plays War. One lesser known account of Twain's Civil War service was written by Abasalom Grimes (who ""served"" alongside Twain in the so-called adventure) -- it is online at:

http://www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/Delta/7002/archive1.htm

Barb S.



14 118 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/10/1999 9:24:24 AM 59 0 "Barb -- As to Twain's politics -- volumes have been written by him and about him. One of the best summations I've seen stated ""His politics, however, elude conventional definitions.""

He did cut his teeth on politics while working as a newspaper reporter covering the legislative sessions for the Territory of Nevada and later briefly covering politics in Washington, D.C. Years later, he broke with the Republican party and identified himself as a Mugwump. After achieving fame, the newspapers of the day covered all his political activities from his support of local candidates for mayors and district attorneys, to his participation in the Anti-Imperialist League.

As to his anti-British sentiment -- At one time Twain planned to write a satire of England and visited there several times in the early 1870's with such a project in mind. However, he came to realize that he was known and loved by the British people and the book never materialized. Perhaps he no longer had the heart to lampoon them. All in all, I think it was their custom of hereditary titles and nobility that he believed was the true sham of British life. One of his personal notebook entries reads ""The institution of royalty, in any form, is an insult to the human race."" And as he writes in chapter 40 of CONNECTICUT YANKEE: ""A royal family of cats ... would be as useful as any other royal family....

Barb S.


14 58 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/10/1999 9:47:14 AM 61 0 "Barb: I love reading Twain's jabs at conventional political wisdom. Another favorite of mine is Will Rogers, who summed up the subject excellently, I think.

When a reporter asked him for comments on the outcome of some landmark presidential election, he remarked, ""Same old washing machine, same old clothes.""

>>Dale in Ala.


14 25 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/14/1999 2:46:13 PM 31 0 "Barb,
I haven't been able to get back on-line lately to reply to your last note, but thanks for the information about Twain's politics. I'd like to read more about that subject.

Thanks for including the reference to cats and royalty in CY. I always make quick notes to myself regarding my favorite parts of books inside the back cover (I know, book collectors are aghast, but I can't break the habit). The cats section in CY was included in my notes. I can't resist quoting more of it (it's a conversation with Clarence):

He believed that no nation that had ever known the joy of worshiping a royal family could ever be robbed of it and not fade away and die of melancholy {can't you just hear the irony dripping there?}. I urged that kings were dangerous. He said, then have cats. He was sure that a royal family of cats would serve every purpose. They would be useful as any other royal family, they would know as much, they would have the same virtues and the same treacheries, the same disposition to get up shindies with other royal cats, they would be laughably vain and absurd and never know it, they would be wholly inexpensive; finally, they would have as sound a divine right as any other royal house, and 'Tom VII, or Tom XI or Tom XIV by the grace of God King,"" would sound as well as it would when applied to the ordinary royal tomcat with tights on.

That is one of the finest pieces of satire I've read anywhere.

Barb


14 25 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/14/1999 2:51:01 PM 33 0 "Kent,
On a trip to Border's yesterday, I sat and looked at the 13 illustrations by Dan Beard that the Norton Critical Edition of CY included. I can certainly see why you stress their inclusion in the experience of reading this book. I wish that the Norton edition included all of them because there were also editorial notes for the ones that were included explaining the person who was the model for many of the characters in them. Tennyson was the model for Merlin if I remember correctly.

BTW, have you seen that edition of Connecticut Yankee, Kent and Barb? And, if so, what do you think of it?

Barb


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/14/1999 7:13:14 PM 30 0 "The Norton edition is fine, so far as it goes. For a truly complete critical edition, however, nothing rivals the University of California Press edition prepared by the Mark Twain Project. However, one needn't get the pricey full-blown edition. The paperback edition in the press's Mark Twain Library series contains all 220 illustrations and most of the bigger edition's annotation material. It costs about the same amount as the Norton edition, too.

Many of the Norton editions I've seen are very good. The Norton edition of Pudd'nhead Wilson is probably the best available of that book.
___________________

I used Dan Beard's picture of Merlin to illustrate my entry on Tennyson in Mark Twain A to Z--which, incidentally, may have more of Beard's pictures than the Norton edition of CY. (Aside from my great admiration of Beard's pictures, I happened to own a beat-up copy of an early edition that I didn't mind cutting up to make it easier to duplicate pictures. MTAZ uses more pictures from CY than any other source.


14 63 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/15/1999 1:57:26 AM 31 0 "KENT

Regrettably my edition of the book is not one of those mentioned. But it does come from my childhood and is therefore old, but not necessarily ancient. I can't tell if I bought it new or used. The price in the back is marked at $0.65, a princely sum. Published by Grosset & Dunlap with arrangement with Harper & Brothers.

The copyrights are interesting.

Copyright 1889 and 1899 by Samuel L Clemens.
and Copyright 1917 by Clara Gabrilowitsch.

Who is Clara Gabrilowitsch?

Another interesting tid-bit. The title page shows A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT. But on the preceding page under a listing of books by Mark Twain, it gives A CONNECTICUT YANKEE AT THE COURT OF KING ARTHUR. An inconsistency or did the book have multiple titles?

EDD



14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/15/1999 3:44:12 AM 34 0 "Edd,

I've often said that everything about Mark Twain is
complicated. His copyrights are no exception. The 1889 date in
your book represents Connecticut Yankee's original
copyright. He published the first edition with his own company,
Charles L. Webster. That company went bankrupt in 1894. The
following year he made Harper and Brothers his primary American
publisher, and they began reissuing his books in new editions.
(HarperCollins now controls most copyrights of Mark Twain
material that is still protected.)

I don't know the specifics on individual book titles, but I
imagine that the 1899 copyright date you spotted in your book was
for the first Harper's edition. The text of the novel was still
protected by the 1889 copyright; the new copyright probably
protected new material--possibly a brief forward.

Until recent decades, copyrights were good for periods of 28
years and could be renewed once. The 1917 copyright date in your
book thus represents the original copyright's renewal. (The book
fell into the public domain 28 years later--in 1946.)

Clara Gabrilowitsch (1874-1962) was Mark Twain's only surviving
child. She acquired the name Gabrilowitsch when she married the
Russian musician Ossip Gabrilowitsch in 1909 (see attached
wedding picture). As Mark Twain's sole heir, Clara renewed some
of his copyrights in her own name. (You'll also see many
copyrights in the name of the Mark Twain Company.)

Grosset and Dunlap, incidentally, was mainly a reprint house. I
would guess that it published your book during the 1930s. (I
don't think G&P licensed Mark Twain books from Harper's before
about 1930, but I wouldn't swear to that date.)
____________________________________

You also asked about the full title of Connecticut Yankee.
That's an interesting bit of confusion that you've noticed; it
has troubled me at times. The full title of the original American
edition of 1889 is

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Chatto & Windus published the book in England later the same year
as

A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur

Chatto evidently figured that the word ""Connecticut"" would mean
nothing to its British readers and dropped it from the title,
while rearranging the rest of title's words. Meanwhile, the
American edition stamped on the books' spines and front covers
this title:

A Yankee in the Court of King Arthur

The publisher evidently did that to save space.

Confusing? You bet. However, the book's original title was, and
remains: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

I'm merely guessing here, but I think all these title variations
may have contributed to confusion at Grosset and Dunlap. On the
other hand, perhaps the list of Mark Twain titles in your book
was taken from Chatto & Windus's list. (Are there any other odd
titles on that list? For example, does the list contain The
Innocents Abroad
or The New Pilgrim's Progress?)
_________________________________

As a side note, I'll mention that I've seen a lot of reprinted
Mark Twain books up for sale on eBay, and many (perhaps most) of
their sellers misrepresent the books' ages. They seem to confuse
copyright dates with publication dates. It's easy to tell when
Harper's books were issued because subtle date codes are printed
at the bottom of their copyright pages. Dating other publishers'
editions is tougher because those books rarely carried any date
information except copyright dates. Since such books have no
collectors' value, it's almost impossible to find detailed
information their publishing history.

I might also add that I was introduced to Mark Twain through one
of those reprint editions (Colliers) that our family owned. The
books may have no collector value, but they seemed pretty
wonderful to me when I was growing up.

__________________________________

I nearly forgot to attach the photo of Clara Clemens's wedding to Ossip Grabilowitsch, so here it is. The wedding took place at Mark Twain's last home, near Redding, Conn., on October 6, 1909. Immediately after the wedding, Clara and Ossip went to Europe, where Ossip was pursuing his career as an orchestra conductor.

Six and a half months later, Mark Twain died at Redding (April 21, 1910). Clara and Ossip returned in time to be with him when he died. Clara remained at her father's house while settling up his estate. In August 1910, she bore her only child--and Mark Twain's only grandchild--a daughter named Nina Gabrilowitsch. (Nina never had children, so Mark Twain now has no living descendants.) Clara and Ossip returned to Europe, but after the outbreak of World War I, they came back to the United States and settled permanently. Ossip later became conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and simultaneously had a career as a concert pianist. He died in 1936, and Clara later remarried.

Meanwhile, here's the wedding party picture. Mark Twain is easily identified wearing the Oxford University gown he got when he received an honorary degree in 1907. To his immediate right is his brother-in-law, Jervis Langdon; his youngest daughter, Jean (who died 2 months later); Ossip; Clara; and his old friend Joseph Twichell, who performed the wedding ceremony. (The person at the far left is a gate-crasher who has been tentatively identified as the author of Mark Twain A to Z.)


14 4 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/15/1999 11:16:18 AM 33 0 "Kent,
About that Mark Twain Library edition I found to see the illustrations: It's a neat thing to have only for that reason. Reading this paperback book would be an exercise in frustration, since it is not bound well, and clumps of pages tend to separate at the spine. If you thought you were likely to read it a few times, you'd want to get the hardcover, assuming it will stay together.

Tonya


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/15/1999 2:04:27 PM 33 0 "Tonya,

I'm not sure I understand you. Are you saying that it's a copy of the Mark Twain Library Connecticut Yankee that's coming apart?

I have copies of all the MTL editions. Some of them I have worked over pretty roughly, but none of them has shown any sign of coming apart. In fact it was a copy of MTL CY that I used while writing Mark Twain A to Z, and it shows no signs of wear, except the marks I made on it.

By the way, the MTL titles are also available in hardcover editions, which represent a nice compromise in price and heft between the MTL pb editions and the really big Univ. of California editions.

>>Grouchy in Southern Calif., who only works over his books roughly when they ask for it


14 4 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/16/1999 1:16:06 AM 28 0 "Kent,
Yes, it's a paperback first edition of CY that says The Mark Twain Library on the cover and on the spine, published by UofC, with a blue cover and all the illustrations. And yes, it comes apart more and more every time I open it.

I bought this at a used bookstore, so although I can say it seemed the book had never been opened (the spine wasn't cracked or even bent anywhere) unfortunately I can't say whether or not it rec'd proper care. For all I know the glue got worn out because some dolt stored it in the attic for a couple of years. Which must be the case, since your well worn copy hasn't come apart -- so I should have kept quiet.

Tonya


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/16/1999 2:09:55 AM 29 0 "Bummer, Tonya, but at least you've got the illustrations.


14 25 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/17/1999 5:55:30 PM 25 0 "The Norton edition only has 13 of Beard's illustrations, Kent. I was disappointed in that. I thought they would have way more. I'm still looking for a Mark Twain Library edition. Would like to own one. This book is becoming more and more significant to me in retrospect. I keep telling various people about it...most of them are giving me a blank look.

Thanks for posting that picture and all of the information about Twain's family. I absolutely love the look of Twain in that picture with his gown. It seems to reflect the embittered Twain that I find in later writing (Letters From the Earth is the one I'm thinking of), so I don't know why I like it so much...maybe because it does seem to reflect that so accurately. What did the other daughter die of? I assume that his wife was dead at that point.

Barb


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/17/1999 10:38:17 PM 26 0 "Mark Twain's youngest daughter, Jean Clemens (1880-1909), was an epileptic. The day before Christmas, she died in her morning bath, apparently the victim of a heart attack suffered during a seizure. Like the other members of her family, she was buried a Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, N.Y., where her mother's Langdon family already had a plot.

Mark Twain was himself too ill to go to the funeral. He stayed home and wrote a moving eulogy to his daughter (it was published after his own death. I'm attaching a DOS text copy here.)

Mark Twain's first child, a boy named Langdon, had been born in 1870. He died in infancy. His first daughter, Susie died of spinal meningitis in 1896 at age 24. His wife, Livy, died in Italy in 1904. A lot of sad stories, which are sadder still when you learn more details (which you can always find in Mark Twain A to Z.)

I'm also attaching some pictures of the Clemens family graves that I took in Elmira a couple of years ago. Mark Twain and all the members of his immediate family, as well as both of Clara's husbands, are buried there (Clara's second husband's grave is unmarked), alongside the members of Livy's family, who originated in Elmira.

You'll notice, in the first picture that Mark Twain's grave is very simple. The second picture (looking approximately toward the southeast) shows the entire plot, with a large monument erected in the center by the Langdon family. The stela at the far right has copper reliefs of Mark Twain and Clara's husband Gabrilowitsch on its front; Clara had it erected after her husband died in 1936. The headstones of Mark Twain and the others shown in the first picture are visible just in front of that stela.
______________________________

To offset some of the gloom these images convey, I've reopened this note in order to add a Clemens family picture from a happier time. It shows Mark Twain's whole family (except Langdon, who died in 1872) sitting on the ""ombra"" porch of their Hartford house around 1884--about 5 years before Connecticut Yankee was published. Clockwise from Mark Twain are Susie, Jean, Livy, and Clara. (I've got some interesting variations of this photo, but I don't think this is the moment to post them.)


14 67 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/17/1999 11:22:35 PM 28 0 "Kent,

Thanks for posting the info and pictures of Mark Twain's grave site. It's quite a nice place. It looks very similar to where my grandmother and other relatives are buried in Arcade, NY just northwest of Elmira.

Robt


14 133 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/18/1999 7:14:38 PM 26 0 "Thank you for posting Twain's eulogy to his daughter. A high school classmate of mine had an epileptic seizure in a bathtub and drowned. He was about Jean's age when it happened.

Twain's comments made him seem a lot more real to me. How devastating to have 3 children die before you. It seems so against the natural ""order"" we have come to expect.

From what I have read about him it sounds like he was very close to his wife and daughters. Is that correct?

Ann


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/19/1999 1:43:27 AM 22 0 "Ann,

There is no question that Mark Twain loved his family and was close them. He was a completely straight-arrow guy, devoted to his wife, whom he adored without reservation, and he was crazy about his children. However, he was not a complete success as a family man, and he knew it. He spent a lot of time with his children as they were growing up and doubtless contributed a great deal to their educations. However, as they moved into adulthood, his attention and his fame became smothering to them. He wanted to keep them too close, and they couldn't do anything without being reminded they were Mark Twain's daughters.

Mark Twain can't be blamed for Susie's death from spinal meningitis, but he was in England when she died in Connecticut, and he ever afterward felt a sense of guilt (as he had when his infant son had died). Susie's death put a great strain on his relationship with Livy, whose own health was always fragile. The fact that Susie died in their Hartford house was probably the main reason they never lived in the house again, after a long absence abroad. (Mark Twain visited Hartford several times after Susie's death, but Livy never even returned to the city.)

In 1903 Mark Twain took his family to Italy for the sake of Livy's health. She died near Florence the following summer. Afterward Mark Twain never enjoyed really normal relations with either of his daughters--both of whom suffered mental health problems that required their hospitalization for various
stretches.

There is a terrific book on Mark Twain's last decade, Mark Twain: God's Fool, by Hamlin Hill. It offers exceptionally poignant insights into the deterioration of Mark Twain's family.


14 133 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/19/1999 4:34:00 PM 24 0 "Very interesting information, Kent. I assumed Jean was in a sanatorium for treatment of epilepsy, but maybe it was for her mental problems?

It must be extremely difficult to be the child of a celebrity.

Ann


14 107 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/24/1999 10:12:02 PM 25 0 "Just finished the book and feel there is more to it than meets the eye. Looking over the above notes and in addition reading biographical data helps to understand the person and the book. Rebelling against authority especially if it is hereditary is only part of it. There are two aspects of his life that may help to understand the man. If I remember correctly M.T. was a sickly child and for years struggled with his health. It would not surprise me if his family was similarly susceptible to illness. In those days the life expectancy was was a great deal shorter than it is now. So M.T. may have felt very vulnerable and as members of his family passed away his vulnerability and perhaps his antagonism to religious and political institution may have increased.
A thing that surprised me is M.T. ability to try and succeed at various occupations. His ability to become famous to struggle for success and to succeed after all.
So I see him as a basically vulnerable individual who did well in spite of all this. Now for his sense of humor. I guess he was born with it and it was one of his truly strong points. That M.T. was capable of love readily appears in the present book, especially the final pages when the hero last wish is to be united and near Sandy. His description of his love for Sandy and their child also leaves no doubt that he is wring from genuine and deep feelings.

All in all a remarkable book and it makes me wish to read some of his other works as well. Ernie


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/25/1999 2:45:39 AM 23 0 "Yes, Ernie, there is much more about Connecticut Yankee
than meets the eye, even though so much does meet it. It's
a very richly textured story, full of invention and surprises.
Among Mark Twain's novels, it's the only one that approaches epic
proportions.

I don't think I'd read too much into Mark Twain's health problems
at the time he wrote Connecticut Yankee, however. Aside
from a scare about his chances of surviving infancy, he was
relatively healthy from his early childhood through the late
1880s; he even regarded himself as largely immune to illness.
True, his wife's health was precarious, but she didn't suffer any
really serious health crises until later years. His son, Langdon,
died in 1872, but his three daughters were all healthy and strong
during the late 1880s. I don't think he was particularly worried
about anyone's health during that period. Even his 86-
year-old mother was still alive in 1889. (She died the following
year, but Mark Twain was more pleased with the fact that she had
survived that long than he was upset by her passing.)

Mark Twain had, however, seen family health problems early in his
life. One older brother died before Mark Twain was born; another
older brother and a sister died while he was a child; his father
died when he was eleven; and a younger brother was killed in a
steamboat accident while both he and Mark Twain were working on
the Mississippi River. Another brother and a sister were still
alive in 1889, however.

On the other hand, the book's description of Hello-Central's
croup may have been inspired by the Clemens family's experience
with Clara's croup. (In this regard, I'm attaching a story Mark
Twain wrote about ""membranous croup"" to this note.)

There are those who think there was a dark side to most of Mark
Twain's writings throughout his career; however, the real
personal and financial troubles he experienced all happened
after he published Connecticut Yankee.
__________________________________

I agree that Mark Twain had a large capacity for love. Serious
romantic relationships among mature adults occur only
rarely in his fiction, however. The relationship between Hank and
Sandy in Connecticut Yankee might be considered an
example, but I don't know if I would call it ""mature."" Up until
the moment when Hank surprises us by announcing he is married to
Sandy, there isn't much indication that he has any real affection
for her. Indeed, it appears that he has married her only to
prevent a scandal from developing because she spends so much time
close to him (an important example of Mark Twain's own prudery--
how he ever picked up a reputation as a saucy writer is a
mystery). By Hank's own admission, he doesn't develop a real
affection for Sandy until they've been married a while; then,
suddenly he sings her praises to the sky. Still, I think Hank's
remarks about Sandy and about marriage reflect Mark Twain's
feelings about Livy and his own marriage. (If you look in The
Quotable Mark Twain,
you'll find a batch of his quotes about
Livy that read like they came straight out of Connecticut
Yankee
's remarks about Sandy.)

One final remark about Hank's devotion to Sandy: Daniel Beard's
final illustration in the book suggests that Hank and Sandy
conquered time and are reunited after death--an idea not
articulated in the novel itself, and one that I doubt Mark Twain
would ever have suggested. The ideas conveyed by this
illustration interest me greatly, as similar ideas have been
conveyed in several film adaptations of the story. The 1949 Bing
Crosby film, for example, reunites Hank (Crosby) and Sandy
(Rhonda Fleming) at its end, when Hank is revisiting the castle
in modern times. I've wondered if Beard's picture helped inspire
such film scenes.

(I'm attaching Beard's picture to this note.)
____________________________

Ernie, I'm pleased to hear you want to read more of Mark Twain's
work. I could suggest any number of places to start, but I don't
think you would go wrong by starting with one of his travel
books. The Innocents Abroad (1869) and A Tramp
Abroad
(1880) are both set in Europe and touch on many of the
same themes as Connecticut Yankee. The first of these is
the more even and probably the most satisfying overall, but the
second has its own charms and may rise to greater heights (though
less often). Roughing It (1872) and Life on the
Mississippi
(1883) are both set in the United States; each
has wonderful passages, and both offer sides of Mark Twain you
won't find in the Europe books. (His last major travel book,
Following the Equator [1897] is an entirely different kind
of book. It has its own strengths, but I wouldn't recommend
anyone read it without reading Mark Twain's other books first.)

Whatever you read next, Ernie, try to find fully illustrated copies!


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/25/1999 3:03:12 AM 26 0 "PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE FILMS

When we started talking about Connecticut Yankee in early February, I hoped that enough questions would arise to give me excuses to post photos from film adaptations. That didn't happen, though we've had some good discussions, so I'll go ahead and post the pictures anyway.

(1) Poster from the 1920 film, outside a theater in Hannibal, Mo. (don't let me forget to post my story about what happened to Katharine Hepburn's brother and she and he attended this film in NYC)
____________________

(2) 1931 film: Hank (Will Rogers) being dragged to the Round Table

(3) Hank in the dungeon of Morgan le Fay (played by Myrna Loy, not in picture)

(4) Hank about to be burned at the stake

(5) Hank returns to modern times

(6) Merlin (Brandon Hurst), King Arthur (William Farnum), and Hank (Rogers; note his badge)
_______________________

(7) Poster for 1949 film

(8) Sir Sagramour (William Bendix)

(9) Hank at the stake

(10) An imposter at the stake


14 118 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/25/1999 6:48:55 AM 30 0 "Several days ago someone asked about how the British reacted to CONNECTICUT YANKEE. A colleague recently sent me the text of an unsigned editorial tribute from the London Times which ran on April 28, 1910 -- a few days after Twain died. A portion reads:

His ""A Yankee at King Arthur's Court "" is a book which we have sedulously avoided as we would avoid a book on Sir Lancelot at the Court of Mr. Taft. The "" Morte d'Arthur"" is Malory is a sacred thing: the Yankee intermeddleth not with it, We voyage in it like Sir Galahad in the magic barque and we do not desire, the company of a bargeman from Massachusetts.

Barb S.


14 25 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/25/1999 10:10:20 AM 29 0 "Lots of comments have occurred to me as I've read these past few notes on CY. I'll try to get some of them down and add more later.

First, Kent, I read the Twain's piece on the croup and thought how perfectly he had picked up on that quality of ongoing argument between spouses even with the exaggeration required by the kind of humor he was doing. I also wondered how his wife reacted to his family portrayals...did she always react with good humor? I might have wanted to give him a little punch from time to time.

Also, Twain obviously loved his wife deeply. However, he's another of those writers who tend to draw women as a different species. Since he obviously loves some of them and is supportive of women's suffrage in CY, I'm pretty tolerant of that. However, it does jump out at me frequently.

Also, when you were giving recommendations to Ernie, it struck me that most people are not in the least aware of the volume of writing that Twain did (including me, going into this). Most people think of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and maybe Connecticut Yankee. Then, when a few other titles are mentioned, they ring a bell. However, I've been struck since this discussion started at how many things he's written about which I was totally unaware.

I still love the idea of Will Rogers as Hank. He seems perfect. Too bad that the film wasn't terribly good (at least, I remember you saying that). Also, who played Merlin in the Will Rogers version? And, what do you think of the Bing Crosby version? I've never liked it much, but not because I had any knowledge of the book. Should I go back and watch it again?

And, Barbara, thanks for posting that editorial. One interesting point about that to me is that the author of my Afterword to CY says that Twain had great respect for Malory's Morte Darthur.

Barb


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/25/1999 1:11:15 PM 29 0 "Murvyn Vye played Merlin in the Bing Crosby Connecticut
Yankee.


Crosby's film is a silly adaptation that has little in common
with its source beyond its title. However, it's not without its
positive points. For example, it's the only film adaptation I
know of that ends at Warwick Castle, as the novel does. And
Crosby himself (bastard though he was in real life) is a pleasant
character who injects a lot of life into the film. I enjoy the
scene in which he tunes up the castle band, and his joust with
the knights is fun. (Speaking of which, Will Rogers performs a
lot of rope tricks in his own version of that scene--which,come
to think of it, was probably filmed not far from I live right
now).

Aside from the violence that most film adaptations do to Mark
Twain's plot, they sin most egregiously in ignoring the
spirit of his story. The Crosby film is basically an airy
musical that plays for laughs. Its version of the Boss (called
""Hank Martin,"" as in several other adaptations--possibly to avoid
confusion with the name of Morgan le Fay, even though she doesn't
appear in this version) isn't the slightest bit interested in
changing sixth-century England. He's content to run a simple
smithy and spend his spare time ogling Sandy.

I'm going to post separate notes with several synopses I've
written of Connecticut Yankee adaptations. (I wrote these
synopses for my own use while I was writing Mark Twain A to
Z
; they aren't necessarily 100 percent accurate; it's tough
to write an accurate synopsis of a film, even while watching it.)
_________________________

I have a lot to say on the subject of Mark Twain and his wife,
Livy, but I'll let that go until later. For now, I'll merely
attach another ""McWilliamses"" story--perhaps the most famous of
the trilogy.

And yes, Barb, Mark Twain wrote more than most people realize. I
can put this in numbers:

* The recently published Oxford Mark Twain set of American first
editions published in his lifetime runs to 29 volumes,
some of which contain more than one book

* The Mark Twain Project's edition of Mark Twain's previously
unpublished writings, including his voluminous letters, is
expected to exceed 70 volumes (none of which overlap the
books mentioned above)

* The texts in my own Mark Twain A to Z came from 87
volumes
, including many not in the sets mentioned above.

The man wrote a lot--and almost every sentence is worth
reading.


14 98 Conn. Yankee (Feb.) 02/25/1999 4:41:35 PM 27 0 "Mark Twain's use of German in the McWilliams story I attached to the previous note has reminded me of the great fun he had with the German language (which also figures into Connecticut Yankee, by the way).

I'm therefore going to post the funniest thing he ever wrote on German to a new thread in this conference.



 

 

Mark Twain

 
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