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Pudd'nhead Wilson: and Those Extraordinary Twins

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140430400
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/28/1969
  • Series: Penguin English Library Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 537,947
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.92 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and died at Redding, Connecticut in 1910. In his person and in his pursuits he was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at twelve when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing but toward the end of his life he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimental-and also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. His nostalgia helped produce some of his best books. He lives in American letters as a great artist, the writer whom William Dean Howells called "the Lincoln of our literature."


Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri; his family moved to the port town of Hannibal four years later. His father, an unsuccessful farmer, died when Twain was eleven. Soon afterward the boy began working as an apprentice printer, and by age sixteen he was writing newspaper sketches. He left Hannibal at eighteen to work as an itinerant printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. From 1857 to 1861 he worked on Mississippi steamboats, advancing from cub pilot to licensed pilot.

After river shipping was interrupted by the Civil War, Twain headed west with his brother Orion, who had been appointed secretary to the Nevada Territory. Settling in Carson City, he tried his luck at prospecting and wrote humorous pieces for a range of newspapers. Around this time he first began using the pseudonym Mark Twain, derived from a riverboat term. Relocating to San Francisco, he became a regular newspaper correspondent and a contributor to the literary magazine the Golden Era. He made a five-month journey to Hawaii in 1866 and the following year traveled to Europe to report on the first organized tourist cruise. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (1867) consolidated his growing reputation as humorist and lecturer.

After his marriage to Livy Langdon, Twain settled first in Buffalo, New York, and then for two decades in Hartford, Connecticut. His European sketches were expanded into The Innocents Abroad (1869), followed by Roughing It (1872), an account of his Western adventures; both were enormously successful. Twain's literary triumphs were offset by often ill-advised business dealings (he sank thousands of dollars, for instance, in a failed attempt to develop a new kind of typesetting machine, and thousands more into his own ultimately unsuccessful publishing house) and unrestrained spending that left him in frequent financial difficulty, a pattern that was to persist throughout his life.

Following The Gilded Age (1873), written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, Twain began a literary exploration of his childhood memories of the Mississippi, resulting in a trio of masterpieces --The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), on which he had been working for nearly a decade. Another vein, of historical romance, found expression in The Prince and the Pauper (1882), the satirical A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), while he continued to draw on his travel experiences in A Tramp Abroad (1880) and Following the Equator (1897). His close associates in these years included William Dean Howells, Bret Harte, and George Washington Cable, as well as the dying Ulysses S. Grant, whom Twain encouraged to complete his memoirs, published by Twain's publishing company in 1885.

For most of the 1890s Twain lived in Europe, as his life took a darker turn with the death of his daughter Susy in 1896 and the worsening illness of his daughter Jean. The tone of Twain's writing also turned progressively more bitter. The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), a detective story hinging on the consequences of slavery, was followed by powerful anti-imperialist and anticolonial statements such as 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness' (1901), 'The War Prayer' (1905), and 'King Leopold's Soliloquy' (1905), and by the pessimistic sketches collected in the privately published What Is Man? (1906). The unfinished novel The Mysterious Stranger was perhaps the most uncompromisingly dark of all Twain's later works. In his last years, his financial troubles finally resolved, Twain settled near Redding, Connecticut, and died in his mansion, Stormfield, on April 21, 1910.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

Read More Show Less
    1. Also Known As:
      Samuel Langhorne Clemens (real name); Sieur Louis de Conte
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1835
    2. Place of Birth:
      Florida, Missouri
    1. Date of Death:
      April 21, 1910
    2. Place of Death:
      Redding, Connecticut

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 11, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Very Insightful!

    This book is very insightful and gives a great glimpse into human character and what drives our actions. It is a great story and Mark Twain, as usual, tells and excellent story. I had a difficult time reading the grammatically incorrect language of some of the black characters (Mark Twain's regionalism at its finest) but the ideas were conveyed very strongly through their actions and reactions to different situations. This is highly recommended for the classroom setting in which an instructor can lead readers into the themes and motifs prevalent in this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    PuddN'head Wilson

    PuddN'head Wilson is an incredible book, which clearly defines the lines between social inequality and racial nonsense. <BR/><BR/>I found myself torn between detesting the son of Roxy, falsely referred to as "Tom", and wishing at the same time that he would escape being detected.<BR/><BR/>The conclusion left me betwixt regarding the punishment in which was received and at the same time not. This ending distinctly shows the mindset that was involved concerning slaves and the degradation they endured while being looked upon as mere chattels.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2006

    Provocative as it is Humorous

    A good book by Twain, in his eccentric and original stile, this book is provocative as much as it is humorous. The concluding court room drama at the end makes up for some lower moments. However, a word to the wise, in many parts the reading in this book can be rather trying, with the 19th century Negro slave talk, as in other famous Twain novels but, there is more here than in Sawyer or Fin. Yet, at the same time when you factor in the overall story, I would recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2003

    Great Tale by MR. Twain

    I thought this book was expertly written and Mark Twain really grabs you with the description and great detail I loved this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2002

    Pudd'nhead Wilson

    Pudd'nhead Wilson Is a great and thrilling novel about a slave girl who swithches her son with her masters son, and in doing so turns a mier slave boy into the heir of a very large sum of money. In the beginning this book seems to be a very calm book with a small bit of mystery and chaos. But things take a crazy turn and everything changes. From murder to trial this book tells a very interesting and unique storie, Teaches good lesson's, and shows what happens when you use bad judgement. Also, This book teaches character and how to use what little evidence you have to prove what is write. Although the book is hard to follow at times it becomes exiting and adventurous toward the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2001

    Deceiving Appearances and Labels Have Profound Consequences!

    Do others ever misjudge you? Did you, as a result, ever have a nickname you didn¿t like? Did you appreciate that experience? How did you overcome it? What if you had been switched in the baby nursery at the hospital for another child? How might your life have been different? These are the kinds of thoughts that will occur to you as you read Pudd¿nhead Wilson. I was attracted to the story after reading about its genesis in the new illustrated biography of Mark Twain. Pudd¿nhead Wilson is tragic story about the consequences of two children being switched at birth in the slave-holding society of the American South. Those who admire the eloquent portrayal of common humanity among African-Americans and whites in Huckleberry Finn will find more examples of this point to delight them in Pudd¿nhead Wilson. Pudd¿nhead Wilson was a novel that gave Mark Twain a great many problems. The book started as a short story about Italian Siamese twins with a farcical character, as the drunken twin caused the Prohibitionist one to get into trouble with his woolly headed sweetheart. As Twain turned the story into a novel, the most important characters began to disappear in favor of new characters. Stymied, Twain realized that he had written two stories in one novel. He then excised the original of the two stories in favor of the tragedy, while leaving many satirical and ironic characteristics. Part of this switch no doubt related to Twain¿s growing pessimism as he grew older and to the personal tragedies and financial difficulties dogged his efforts and life. Perhaps it is this deep plot difficulty that caused Twain to leave the novel with two rather large flaws, which vastly reduce its effectiveness. The first flaw is building a plot around switching two children at birth to establish that perceived racial differences and slavery had been unjust. Unfortunately, the ¿bad¿ actor in the novel turns out to be the irresponsible Tom Driscoll (ne Valet de Chambre), who is 1/32 African-American but is raised as a white free man. Thus, those readers who wish to believe in racial differences affecting character can point to that underlying racial factor as still being present in explaining the misbehavior in the story . . . despite what appears to have been Twain¿s opposite intention. Had Twain developed his story to make the false Tom morally equal to his all-white counterpart Chambers (ne Thomas a Beckett Driscoll), the story would have worked much better in condemning racism and slavery. The second flaw involves having the story turn on establishing the unchanging nature of finger prints in a trial conducted in a small Missouri town many decades before that point was scientifically proven and legally accepted. For us today, the story moves slowly because we know all about fingerprints as a means of identification which makes much of the eventual resolution easy to anticipate, and also because Twain left many unnecessary remnants of his other story in the book. Despite these weaknesses, the Pudd¿nhead Wilson has many brilliant sections that strikingly portray how the concepts and realities of slavery corrupted both African-Americans and slave-holders. Because of thefts in the Driscoll household, the real Tom¿s father threatens to sell his slaves down the river (a fate to be avoided). When three of them confess, he agrees to sell them locally. Frightened by the potential for her child to be sold in the future, Roxy plans to kill herself and her son. By accident, she realizes that she can successfully switch the two children¿s clothing, since both of them look the same to Tom¿s father, and ensure that her son will never be sold, because he will be raised as the master¿s son, a white person. Many of the ways for rearing white child are bad for Tom, making him spoiled and disagreeable. Chambers does much better on a simple diet, and from performing physical labor. Tom is arrogant and nasty. Chambe

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2000

    Intoxicatingly Fun

    Mark Twain shows his mastery of novel writing in Pudd'nhead Wilson. You will laugh as you read the hilarious twists that Mark Twain adds to make this book truly one-of-a-kind.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2000

    Twain has gain a new fan

    I have heard of Mark Twain. After reading a hefty memoir, I decided to read a work of fiction.I've heard comments about about Mark Twain e.g. racist, great storyteller. Well, I am African American and I did not find Mr Twain to be racist but a very witty and comedic storyteller. The introduction fowared by Langston Hughes was insightful to read. It was a quick read, and a great book that took me back to the times of the past.Ironically, reading Twain you notice that the past somewhat reflects the future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2000

    Some of Twain's best

    I think the most important thing about this book is that it proves Twain was not a racist. A lot of people have accused him of being such because rather than actually read his books they just flip through and count the words they don't care for. If you hear someone call Twain a racist throw this at them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2000

    Read Read Read!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This was one of the best books ever!

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    Posted February 17, 2011

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    Posted December 6, 2009

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