Hank Morgan finds himself transported back to England's Dark Ages — where he is immediately captured and sentenced to death at Camelot. Fortunately, he's quick-witted, and in the process of saving his life he turns himself into a celebrity — winning himself the position of prime minister as well as the lasting enmity of Merlin.
About the Author
Bernard L. Stein was until recently an editor on the staff of the Mark Twain Papers in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.
Henry Nash Smith is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkeley.
Date of Birth:November 30, 1835
Date of Death:April 21, 1910
Place of Birth:Florida, Missouri
Place of Death:Redding, Connecticut
Read an Excerpt
Camelot-Camelot," said I to myself. "I don't seem to remember hearing of it before. Name of the asylum, likely."
It was a soft, reposeful summer landscape, as lovely as a dream, and as lonesome as Sunday. The air was full of the smell of flowers, and the buzzing of insects, and the twittering of birds, and there were no people, no wagons, there was no stir of life, nothing going on. The road was mainly a winding path with hoofprints in it, and now and then a faint trace of wheels on either side in the grass-wheels that apparently had a tire as broad as one's hand.
Presently a fair slip of a girl, about ten years old, with a cataract of golden hair streaming down over her shoulders, came along. Around her head she wore a hoop of flame-red poppies. It was as sweet an outfit as ever I saw, what there was of it. She walked indolently along, with a mind at rest, its peace reflected in her innocent face. The circus man paid no attention to her; didn't even seem to see her. And she-she was no more startled at his fantastic make-up than if she was used to his like every day of her life. She was going by as indifferently as she might have gone by a couple of cows; but when she happened to notice me, then there was a change! Up went her hands, and she was turned to stone; her mouth dropped open, her eyes stared wide and timorously, she was the picture of astonished curiosity touched with fear. And there she stood gazing, in a sort of stupefied fascination, till we turned a corner of the wood and were lost to her view. That she should be startled at me instead of at the other man, was too many for me; I couldn't make head or tail ofit. And that she should seem to consider me a spectacle, and totally overlook her own merits in that respect, was another puzzling thing, and a display of magnanimity, too, that was surprising in one so young. There was food for thought here. I moved along as one in a dream.
As we approached the town, signs of life began to appear. At intervals we passed a wretched cabin, with a thatched roof, and about it small fields and garden patches in an indifferent state of cultivation. There were people, too; brawny men, with long, coarse, uncombed hair that hung down over their faces and made them look like animals. They and the women, as a rule, wore a coarse tow-linen robe that came well below the knee, and a rude sort of sandals, and many wore an iron collar. The small boys and girls were always naked; but nobody seemed to know it. All of these people stared at me, talked about me, ran into the huts and fetched out their families to gape at me; but nobody ever noticed that other fellow, except to make him humble salutation and get no response for their pains.
In the town were some substantial windowless houses of stone scattered among a wilderness of thatched cabins; the streets were mere crooked alleys, and unpaved; troops of dogs and nude children played in the sun and made life and noise; hogs roamed and rooted contentedly about, and one of them lay in a reeking wallow in the middle of the main thoroughfare and suckled her family. Presently there was a distant blare of military music; it came nearer, still nearer, and soon a noble cavalcade wound into view, glorious with plumed helmets and flashing mail and flaunting banners and rich doublets and horse-cloths and gilded spearheads; and through the muck and swine, and naked brats, and joyous dogs, and shabby huts it took its gallant way, and in its wake we followed. Followed through one winding alley and then another,-and climbing, always climbing-till at last we gained the breezy height where the huge castle stood. There was an exchange of bugle blasts; then a parley from the walls, where men-at-arms, in hauberk and morion marched back and forth with halberd at shoulder under flapping banners with the rude figure of a dragon displayed upon them; and then the great gates were flung open, the drawbridge was lowered, and the head of the cavalcade swept forward under the frowning arches; and we, following, soon found ourselves in a great paved court, with towers
and turrets stretching up into the blue air on all the four sides; and all about us the dismount was going on, and much greeting and ceremony, and running to and fro, and a gay display of moving and intermingling colors, and an altogether pleasant stir and noise and confusion.
King Arthur's Court
The moment I got a chance I slipped aside privately and touched an ancient common looking man on the shoulder and said, in an insinuating, confidential way-
"Friend, do me a kindness. Do you belong to the asylum, or are you just here on a visit or something like that?"
He looked me over stupidly, and said-
"Marry, fair sir, me seemeth-"
"That will do," I said; "I reckon you are a patient."
I moved away, cogitating, and at the same time keeping an eye out for any chance passenger in his right mind that might come along and give me some light. I judged I had found one, presently; so I drew him aside and said in his ear-
"If I could see the head keeper a minute-only just a minute-"
"Prithee do not let me."
"Let you what?"
"Hinder me, then, if the word please thee better." Then he went on to say he was an under-cook and could not stop to gossip, though he would like it another time; for it would comfort his very liver to know where I got my clothes. As he started away he pointed and said yonder was one who was idle enough for my purpose, and was seeking me besides, no doubt. This was an airy slim boy in shrimp-colored tights that made him look like a forked carrot; the rest of his gear was blue silk and dainty laces and ruffles; and he had long yellow curls, and wore a plumed pink satin cap tilted complacently over his ear. By his look, he was good-natured; by his gait, he was satisfied with himself. He was pretty enough to frame. He arrived, looked me over with a smiling and impudent curiosity; said he had come for me, and informed me that he was a page.
"Go 'long," I said; "you ain't more than a paragraph."
It was pretty severe, but I was nettled. However, it never phazed him; he didn't appear to know he was hurt. He began to talk and laugh, in happy, thoughtless, boyish fashion, as we walked along, and made himself old friends with me at once; asked me all sorts of questions about myself and about my clothes, but never waited for an answer-always chattered straight ahead, as if he didn't know he had asked a question and wasn't expecting any reply, until at last he happened to mention that he was born in the beginning of the year 513.
It made the cold chills creep over me! I stopped, and said, a little faintly:
"Maybe I didn't hear you just right. Say it again-and say it slow. What year was it?"
"513! You don't look it! Come, my boy, I am a stranger and friendless: be honest and honorable with me. Are you in your right mind?"
He said he was.
"Are these other people in their right minds?"
He said they were.
"And this isn't an asylum? I mean, it isn't a place where they cure crazy people?"
He said it wasn't.
"Well, then," I said, "either I am a lunatic, or something just as awful has happened. Now tell me, honest and true, where am I?"
"In King Arthur's Court."
I waited a minute, to let that idea shudder its way home, and then said:
"And according to your notions, what year is it now?"
"528-nineteenth of June."
I felt a mournful sinking at the heart, and muttered: "I shall never see my friends again-never, never again. They will not be born for more than thirteen hundred years yet."
I seemed to believe the boy, I didn't know why. Something in me seemed to believe him-my consciousness, as you may say; but my reason didn't. My reason straightway began to clamor; that was natural. I didn't know how to go about satisfying it, because I knew that the testimony of men wouldn't serve-my reason would say they were lunatics, and throw out their evidence. But all of a sudden I stumbled on the very thing, just by luck. I knew that the only total eclipse of the sun in the first half of the sixth century occurred on the 21st of June, a.d. 528, o.s., and began at 3
minutes after 12 noon. I also knew that no total eclipse of the sun was due in what to me was the present year-i.e., 1879. So, if I could keep my anxiety and curiosity from eating the heart out of me for forty-eight hours, I should then find out for certain whether this boy was telling me the truth or not.
Wherefore, being a practical Connecticut man, I now shoved this whole problem clear out of my mind till its appointed day and hour should come, in order that I might turn all my attention to the circumstances of the present moment, and be alert and ready to make the most out of them that could be made. One thing at a time, is my motto-and just play that thing for all it is worth, even if it's only two pair and a jack. I made up my mind to two things; if it was still the nineteenth century and I was among lunatics and couldn't get away, I would presently boss that asylum or know the reason why; and if on the other hand it was really the sixth century, all right, I didn't want any softer thing: I would boss the whole country inside of three months; for I judged I would have the start of the best-educated man in the kingdom by a matter of thirteen hundred years and upwards. I'm not a man to waste time after my mind's made up and there's work on hand; so I said to the page-
"Now, Clarence, my boy-if that might happen to be your name-I'll get you to post me up a little if you don't mind. What is the name of that apparition that brought me here?"
"My master and thine? That is the good knight and great lord Sir Kay the Seneschal, foster brother to our liege the king."
"Very good; go on, tell me everything."
He made a long story of it; but the part that had immediate interest for me was this. He said I was Sir Kay's prisoner, and that in the due course of custom I would be flung into a dungeon and left there on scant commons until my friends ransomed me-unless I chanced to rot, first. I saw that the last chance had the best show, but I didn't waste any bother about that; time was too precious. The page said, further, that dinner was about ended in the great hall by this time, and that as soon as the sociability and the heavy drinking should begin, Sir Kay would have me in and exhibit me before King Arthur and his illustrious knights seated at the Table Round, and would brag about his exploit in capturing me, and would probably exaggerate the facts a little, but it wouldn't be good form for me to correct him, and not over safe, either; and when I was done being exhibited, then ho for the dungeon; but he, Clarence, would find a way to come and see me every now and then, and cheer me up, and help me get word to my friends.
Get word to my friends! I thanked him; I couldn't do less; and about this time a lackey came to say I was wanted; so Clarence led me in and took me off to one side and sat down by me.
Well, it was a curious kind of spectacle, and interesting. It was an immense place, and rather naked-yes, and full of loud contrasts. It was very, very lofty; so lofty that the banners depending from the arched beams and girders away up there floated in a sort of twilight; there was a stone-railed gallery at each end, high up, with musicians in the one, and women, clothed in stunning colors, in the other. The floor was of big stone flags laid in black and white squares, rather battered by age and use, and needing repair. As to ornament, there wasn't any, strictly speaking; though on the walls hung some huge tapestries which were probably taxed as works of art; battle-pieces, they were, with horses shaped like those which children cut out of paper or create in gingerbread; with men on them in scale armor whose scales are represented by round holes-so that the man's coat looks as if it had been done with a biscuit-punch. There was a fireplace big enough to camp in; and its projecting sides and hood, of carved and pillared stone-work, had the look of a cathedral door. Along the walls stood men-at-arms, in breastplate and morion, with halberds for their only weapon-rigid as statues; and that is what they looked like.
In the middle of this groined and vaulted public square was an oaken table which they called the Table Round. It was as large as a circus ring; and around it sat a great company of men dressed in such various and splendid colors that it hurt one's eyes to look at them. They wore their plumed hats, right along, except that whenever one addressed himself directly to the king, he lifted his hat a trifle just as he was beginning his remark.
Mainly they were drinking-from entire ox horns; but a few were still munching bread or gnawing beef bones. There was about an average of two dogs to one man; and these sat in expectant attitudes till a spent bone was flung to them, and then they went for it by brigades and divisions, with a rush, and there ensued a fight which filled the prospect with a tumultuous chaos of plunging heads and bodies and flashing tails, and the storm of howlings and barkings deafened all speech for the time; but that was no matter, for the dog-fight was always a bigger interest anyway; the men rose, sometimes, to observe it the better and bet on it, and the ladies and the musicians stretched themselves out over their balusters with the same object; and all broke into delighted ejaculations from time to time. In the end, the winning dog stretched himself out comfortably with his bone between his paws, and proceeded to growl over it, and gnaw it, and grease the floor with it, just as fifty others were already doing; and the rest of the court resumed their previous industries and entertainments.
As a rule the speech and behavior of these people were gracious and courtly; and I noticed that they were good and serious listeners when anybody was telling anything-I mean in a dog-fightless interval. And plainly, too, they were a childlike and innocent lot; telling lies of the stateliest pattern with a most gentle and winning naivety, and ready and willing to listen to anybody else's lie, and believe it, too. It was hard to associate them with anything cruel or dreadful; and yet they dealt in tales of blood and suffering with a guileless relish that made me almost forget to shudder.
I was not the only prisoner present. There were twenty or more. Poor devils, many of them were maimed, hacked, carved, in a frightful way; and their hair, their faces, their clothing, were caked with black and stiffened drenchings of blood. They were suffering sharp physical pain, of course; and weariness, and hunger and thirst, no doubt; and at least none had given them the comfort of a wash, or even the poor charity of a lotion for their wounds; yet you never heard them utter a moan or a groan, or saw them show any sign of restlessness, or any disposition to complain. The thought was forced upon me: "The rascals-they have served other people so in their day; it being their own turn, now, they were not expecting any better treatment than this; so their philosophical bearing is not an outcome of mental training, intellectual fortitude, reasoning; it is mere animal training; they are white Indians."
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments vii
The Text of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court 1
[The Natural History of Morals] W. E. H. Leeky 386
[The Saints of the Desert] 388
Composition and Publication 391
Related Documents 392
The "Tournament" in a.d. 1870 392
[The Herald's Report of Twain's Speech at Governor's Island] 394
The New Dynasty 397
Enchantments and Enchanters 403
Notebook and Journal Entries 405
A Connecticut Yankee in Letters 409
To Mary Mason Fairbanks, November 16, 1886 409
To Charles L. Webster, August 3, 1887 410
To Theodore Crane, October 5, 1888 410
From Edmund Clarence Stedman, July 7, 1889 411
To William Dean Howells, August 5, 1889 413
To William Dean Howells, August 24, 1889 413
To William Dean Howells, September 22, 1889 414
To William Dean Howells, November 22, 1889 415
To William Dean Howells, December 23, 1889 415
To Sylvester Baxter, November 20, 1889 415
Dan Beard's Illustrations 417
[Making the Illustrations for A Connecticut Yankee] Daniel Carter Beard 417
[The Character of the Yankee] Daniel Carter Beard 419
To Dan Beard, August 28, 1989 Mark Twain 419
To a Reader, December 20, 1889 Mark Twain 420
Reading the Illustrations in A Connecticut Yankee Beverly David Ray Sapirstein 420
Early Criticism 429
[Nothing More Delicious] Sylvester Baxter 429
[His Wonder-Story] William Dean Howells 432
[King Arthur or Jay Gould?] The London Daily Telegraph 436
Mark Twain's New Book: A Satirical Attack on English Institutions William T. Stead 440
[This Melancholy Product of the American Mind] The Boston Literary World 443
Recent Criticism 445
"Well, My Book Is Written-Let It Go. …": The Making of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Howard G. Baetzhold 445
The Use of History in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee Howard G. Baetzhold 477
The Ideas in a Dream Henry Nash Smith 492
The Meaning of A Connecticut Yankee Everett Carter 501
The Quarrel with Romance Bruce Michelson 520
Hank Morgan's and Mark Twain's Queer Anxieties Tison Pugh 536
A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of Wu Chih Tien Hsuan Hsu 547
Compositional Chronology 561
Selected Bibliography 563
What People are Saying About This
"Dufris's enthusiastic narration is perfect; the deep drawl he produces might very well be the voice of Twain himself, and his pacing and comedic timing will delight listeners." -Publishers Weekly Starred Audio Review
Reading Group Guide
1. How does Hank Morgan change throughout the novel? Is this change for the better, or for worse? How does his speech reflect his change in attitude?
2. The theme of the “mysterious stranger” (an outsider who enters a community or circle and enacts some kind of disruption) often appears in Twain’s works. How does Hank use his status as an “outsider” to his advantage? What does he bring from the outside that benefits sixth-century England? Into which world does Hank ultimately fit?
3. What is Hank Morgan’s view of the Catholic church?
4. Many critics consider A Connecticut Yankee to be Twain’s most flawed work because he simply wanted to do “too much.” Do you agree? If so, why?
5. Consider the end of the novel. What statement does Twain make with this ending? Do you feel it is a fulfilling way to end the book?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For pete's sake! Every third word is mispelled or replaced with an inappropriate word. It's like having spellcheck correcting the entire works of Twain! As a new nook user, now I know how they get you to upgrade to the paid versions...just make the free ones unreadable.
I like the book, but the formatting of this particular version was really bad, at least on Nook for Android. The beginning of the book was garbled with the very first paragraph beginning in the middle and others out of order. I am going to look for a different version.
I would give it 0 stars if i couldd the paragraphs were jumbled in with each other and ut was really confusing i only gor ti page 30 if yiu reading this dont take up the wasted space
Mark Twain's book is about a nineteenth century Yankee named Hank who finds himself in Camelot after getting hit on the head. He must immediately fight for his life and find his place in his new world. His resources include his knowledge of the future, an understanding of technology and machinery, and a quick wit. The plot focuses on Hank's attempts to refine the culture and ideas of this early medieval time. I liked the way that events in the story unfolded because it was refreshingly unpredictable and unique. At one point in time, he is posting billboards on knights for advertisement purposes, and later he is lassoing knights from their saddles in a jousting tournament. Although these things may seem silly and off-the-wall, Twain uses interesting, eye-catching language (for instance, when he is describing the castle on page thirty-three, he says, "There was no gas, there were no candles' a bronzed dish half full of boardinghouse butter with a blazing rag floating in it was the thing that produced what was regarded as light"). His description of simple things is still extremely interesting. He provides a deeper message about politics and the oppression of the people. Although I sincerely enjoyed the plot and Twain's language, I did not like Hank as a character. As he came into power due to his knowledge and understanding, he became conceited. He liked to think of the world around him as a stage; he would do things in a way that would be the most picturesque, instead of in ways that would most easily help himself and the people around him. As an example, Hank, at one point in the novel, chants in a magical language as he is freeing water from a well with an explosion. Twain seems to be teaching a lesson by pointing out the flaws in Hank, but at times his character was annoying to me because of his showy attitude. Altogether, the book was very enjoyable. My own dislikes as I read the story were few and minor. The story is very well done and deserves to be read if you are looking for a good classic.
I loved this book! It is so funny and really an enjoyable read. I love anything by Mark Twain because he puts such humor into potentially boring subjects. He really lightens up the whole King Arthur story. I would recommend this book to anyone I know. You must read this book!!
The book is good after you get past the photo copies but its anoying that google is thrown in everywhere in the book
A good friend recommended that I read this book and I enjoyed every word. First of all, I thought it was hilarious, full of biting satire. Secondly, it was such a fresh look at Camelot, Twain wasn't held back by the idealized and over-romanicized legends of King Arthur. I highly recommend this book, it may change your point of view.
One of my favorite books. It's so smart and deep. Some moments are emotional but it is written with humor and some moments you can't help but laugh with amazement and admiration. Mark Twain is brilliant.
this is actully a great read but I would not reccommend this version. thie books that are digitized are really hard to read unless you are into that sort of thing. go pay the couple of bucks and get it so you can actully read it
There are some missed spelled words and the paragraphs are jumblled up but it us really good. By the way im 11.
The reviews for every version of this book have been jumbled up! If you are going to get this then get the one for barnes and noble classics! So what if its three bucks more, it's readable!
I like the story, I just don't like the prose he used. It became tedious to read after awhile. I seem to have this same problem with many 18th and 19th century works. The eBook didn't have many obvious errors, just some weird page breaks due to the transfer process.
Very poor edition.
Did anyone read the description. It is translated from a book written prior to 1923. It clearly explains there will be errors. If you want to read an updated edited version then pay for it.
Way to boring!
No surprises with Mark Twain as he continually dazzled and entertained me with his non-stop action, wild, color characters. Coupled with healthy doses of dry and sometimes, caustic old-fashioned sense of humor, I hung onto his every word as if it were the first time I had read this book. I can never get enough of Mark Twain.
What would happen if a man today traveled back in time to the middle ages and superimposed himself on the government? The result is some of the most inspired satire ever created, known as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, written by Mark Twain. The protagonist, Hank Morgan, is smart and cynical, the perfect man to poke fun at the romanticized ideas of chivalry and feudalism. He uses his knowledge and cunning to prove himself an all-powerful magician, which secures him a position in the government as second-in-command to the king. Hank isn't without his flaws; he suffers from a temper and can act irrationally because of it in some cases. However, he's a hilarious and usually kind character that's easy to get attached to. As funny as some encounters can get, there are also some downright shocking moments. Heartbreaking displays are shown throughout the book: families with smallpox left to die, slavery, and incredibly twisted seeming governmental policies. Not only is it gruesome, but it is all considered normal in the sixth century. Although the deplorable state of humanity in that time is only part of the focus of the book, it certainly has a powerful and profound effect on the reader. It goes without saying that this book is an absolute delight. It's easily equal to any of Mark Twain's other classics. Hank Morgan should be regarded as one of the great characters: one who's never perfect, but always entertaining.
Very entertaining. And an interesting commentary on several different aspects of life today.
The jokes are 100+ years old but still hold up. There are episodes that drag, but it is a fun read.
A delightful humorous account of time travel by Mark Twain. Reading a work from the 1880's by an author writing in the "style" of England in the 6th Century was at times difficult to understand. Twain's humor shielded in serious dialog made it even more difficult. But nonetheless I did enjoy reading Twain's views on slavery, economy, health, chivalry, and religion from eyes that had just seen the bloody American Civil War. The accounts of his character hank's interactions of slavery were heart wrenching as well as the stories of poverty, illness and injustice. Twain's goal in this work was to ridicule chivalry, some say because of Southern attitudes towards chivalry during the war. I expected many great quotes, but only this one stood out, "My acquaintance smiled - not a modern smile, but one that must have gone out of general use many, many centuries ago." (p, 16) And one more, Hank has just met Clarance who informs hank he is a page, "Go 'long, I said; "you ain't more than a paragraph." (p.28)01-2010
I picked up this book in a second hand shop, because I was curious what Twain would have made of this nice idea: a technically well educated 19th century man in the court of Arthur. I did not expect too much, and I was right to: the story is secondary to the political messages in this book, and the story is not very interesting. I read a lot of it diagonally - the book is very slow in places. A bit disappointing, and I wonder if this will stay a "classic" - I think it might quietly disappear in the mists of time.¿
I loved this book. It was short and funny.
Mark Twain's classic tale of culture clash. The narrator was great.
An absolutely wonderful, humourous book. One of Twain's best.