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Samuel Clemens Works

“Heaven and Hell and sunset and rainbows and the aurora all fused into on
divine harmony . . . ” It is by the goodness of God that in out country we
have those three unspeakable precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of
conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them. Samuel Clemens’
profound response to beauty was immediately and untrammeled-the beauty of
nature, for which no special training is necessary for appreciation. The quote
above supports the idea that Samuel Clemens was a literary artist, possibly
America’s greatest. Yet, he was definitely not just a writer. He wrote many
novels that became American classics. Many of Clemens’ greatest works were based
on his own personal experiences as a young man on the Mississippi River, and
through theses writing he established a place for himself in the classics of
American literature. To this day, Samuel Langhorne Clemens is, without a doubt,
America’s most picturesque literary figure. Perhaps a part of his appeal to the
mass imagination lies in the fact that he himself became the embodiment of
literature throughout his and the rest of time. The mastery of his literary
oeuvres has surpassed the conventional cascade of literature since the 1800’s.

Samuel Clemens will be, forevermore, the epitome of the literary world.

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Throughout his life, Samuel Clemens maintained an engaging and infectiously
boyish enthusiasm that led his wife to nickname him “Youth.” Unlike
most men, Samuel Clemens never did renounce his boyhood; he carried with him
into maturity miraculously preserved and vibrant memories of his early and
middle adolescence, and it was through these memories that he filtered his adult
experience. At the age of fifty-five, he wrote to an unknown correspondent:
“And yet I can’t go away from the boyhood period and write novels because
capital is not sufficient by itself and I lack the other essential: interest in
handling the men and experiences of later times,” (Bellamy, Mark Twain as a
Literary Artist, 16). On this circumstance, he founded an enviable fame and
fortune and an enduring artistic achievement. (Bellamy, 17) Although the
splendid moment of his fame is still prolonged and extends immeasurably far into
the future, that fame was only a small part of his power. There was something
about him that moves people who knew nothing of his renown, who did not even
know who he was. Samuel Clemens’ personality was of a sort that compelled those
about him so strongly that wherever he went, he seemed a being from another
planet, a visitant from some remote star. Biography Born in Florida, Missouri,
on November 30, 1835, “Little Sam” was “a wild-headed, impetuous
child of sudden ecstasies,” who was constantly running away in the
direction of the river and, as he later wrote, was “drowned nine times in
Bear Creek and was suspected of being a cat in disguise”; a vividly
imaginative child, who loved the companionship of the good-natured slave and
visited the Negro quarters beyond the orchard as a place of ineffable
enchantment; a child whose sympathy included all inanimate things; a child who
“pitied the dead leaf and the murmuring dried weed of
November”(Bellamy, 4-7). In many, if not all, of his novels, short stories,
and other works, Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ personal life experiences reflect
heavily on his writing plots. Stories such as The Notorious Jumping From of
Calaveras County, Roughing It, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Life on the
Mississippi, AConnecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Adventures of
Huckleberry Finnhave all been closely related to some of the adventurous,
dangerous, and childish experiences in Clemens’ own life. As a young man, he
developed a troublesome cussedness that distinguished his as a child from his
elder and younger brother, Orion and Henry. His mischievousness led to a series
of escapades: several times nearly drowning, purposefully contracting measles,
smoking, rolling rocks down a hill before church-bound carriages, and running
away from home. Clemens and his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a port on
the Mississippi River, when Samuel was four years old. There, he received a
pubic school education. After the death of his father in 1847, Clemens was
apprenticed to two Hannibal printers, and in 1851 he began setting type for and
contributing sketches to his brother Orion’s Hannibal Journal. He contributed
reports, poems, and humorous sketches to the Journal for several years. (Baldanza,
Mark Twain, Intro. & Interpretation, 2) In 1857, at 22 years old, Clemens
made plans to travel to South America, and in April of that year, he started
down the Mississippi River toward New Orleans. In a change of plans, instead of
traveling to South America, he persuaded a riverboat pilot named Horace Bixby to
teach him the skills of piloting. With a burning determination for adventure, by
April of that year, Samuel had become a licensed riverboat pilot. But, the
beginning of the Civil War abruptly closed commercial traffic of the Mississippi
River. After serving for two weeks with a Confederate volunteer company, Clemens
decided not to become involved in the war. With this decision, he travels west
to Carson City, Nevada, with his brother Orion. Later, “Roughing It”
humorously described his unsuccessful attempts at prospecting for gold and
silver during this time and his eventual conclusions that he must support
himself by newspaper journalism (Bellamy, 19-21). He joined the staff of the
Virginia City, Nev., Territorial Enterprise in the summer of 1862 and in 1863,
he began signing his articles with the pseudonym Mark Twain, a Mississippi River
phrase meaning “two fathoms deep.” (Encarta 97, Mark Twain) After
gaining national recognition for the creation of The CelebratedJumping Frog of
Calaveras County, Twain was lecturing in New York City as well as traveling to
Europe and the Holy Land. In his return, in 1870, his married to the love of his
life, Olivia Langdon. In contribution of his happiness Twain characterizes love
and marriage in a simple statement: Love seems the swiftest, but it is the
slowest of all growths. In August of 1870, Jervis Langdon dies of cancer, only
three months prior to the birth of his new brother, Langdon. Soon after Langdon
was born, the Clemens family moves to Hartford, Connecticut. Through the next
ten years, many births and deaths occur within the Clemens family. In June of
1874, Clara Clemens, a second daughter, is born to Samuel and Olivia. And, in
July of 1880, Jean Clemens is born – Twain’s fourth and last child. After the
publishing of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Twain’s mother, Jane,
dies at the age of ninety. Shortly after, The Clemens family closes their house
in Hartford and moves to Europe hoping to economize, in which they live for the
next nine years. But, alone in England in August of 1896, Twain learns that his
daughter Susy had died of meningitis in Hartford. After he is able to pay off
his debts in full, he returns to the States at the turn of the century. Just
four years later, his wife, Olivia died of heart disease. And in the winter of
1910, Twain’s health begins to fall rapidly and dies of angina pectoris on April
21. Analysis A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Twain prefaced A
Connecticut Yankee with “A Word of Explanation” designed to account
for the tale that he has yet to unfold. He tells us that, while touring Warwick
Castle, he met a “curious stranger” who later gave to him a manuscript
“yellow with age.” The reader learns that the stranger’s name is Hank
Morgan, and the forty-four chapters that follow are presented as if they came
directly from the manuscript he left with Twain. The superintendent of a great
arms factory in nineteenth-century Connecticut, Hank is hit over the head with a
crowbar during a quarrel with one of the men under him. When he comes to, he
finds himself transported back to sixth-century England, on the outskirts of
Camelot. At first he thinks that he has stumbled into a lunatic asylum, but it
gradually dawns on him that he may indeed have been magically transported into
the past. He quickly determines upon a course of action, telling the reader,
“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… 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.” Captured by one of the knights of the Round Table, Morgan is
condemned as a “man-devouring ogre” and sentenced to be burned at the
stake. But thanks to an “encyclopedic knowledge” (uncharacteristic of
factory foremen), Hank recalls that an eclipse of the sun is close at hand. He
proclaims himself a magician and announces that he will blot out the sun
forevermore if he is harmed. Just as he is being chained to the stake, the
eclipse conveniently begins, and the court is duly terrified. The king entreats
Morgan to restore the sun, and Hank agrees on condition that the king appoint
him “perpetual minister and executive” entitled to “one percent
of such actual increases of revenue over and above its present amount” that
he expects to create for the state. The king agrees to these terms; the eclipse
comes to a timely end, and Morgan becomes “The Boss”- second in power
only to King Arthur. Determined to “civilized” Camelot by introducing
modern industrial technology, Morgan establishes various factories in the
countryside, allowing no one near them except by special permit. He fears the
power of the Church and believes that he may be overthrown if he brings about
change too quickly: “The people could not have stood it; and moreover I
should have had the Established Roman Catholic Church on my back in a
minute.” For the next four years, he prepares “the nuclei of future
vast factories, the iron and steel missionaries of my future civilization,”
but he does so in secret, consolidating his position as a great magician.

Because he finds it politically expedient to seem as if he shares the values of
the people around him, Morgan eventually is forced to leave the court on a
knightly quest. He travels into the country with the Demoiselle Alisande la
Carteloise- whom he promptly nicknames “Sandy”- in order to liberate
forty-five “princesses” held captive in “a castle” by
“three ogres.” Safely back in Camelot, Hank decides that the time has
now come to impose upon Britain the technology he had been nurturing over the
years. He determines “to destroy knight-errantry or be its victim”-
which hardly seems generous of him, since he now owes his life to the fidelity
of te same knights he has vowed to destroy. He enters a tournament and shoots
his knightly foe dead with a revolver. He thereupon dares “the chivalry of
England to come against him- not by individual, but in mass!” Hundreds of
knights promptly accept this challenge, but they break ranks and flee after Hank
quickly shoots nine more men dead. Since this is many centuries before firearms
were known in Europe, it looks as if Hank has triumphed through black magic.

Believing that he has “broke the back of knight-errantry,” Hank
exposes his hidden schools and factories to public view, establish railroads and
telephones, sets steamboats running on the Thames, and converts the Round Table
into a stock board. For three full years, medieval England seems to flourish,
thanks to the benefits of modern technology. By this time in the novel, Hank and
Sandy have married and produced a daughter. When the child falls ill, doctors
urge that she be taken to the French coast to recover. And while Hanks is
abroad, his new civilization crumbles. A civil war erupts, and the Church
imposes a banishment order. Upon his return to England, Hank finds that all of
England is marching against him- all but fifty-two boys, who were the product of
his special schools, and his chief lieutenant Clarence. Hank leads this small
band to a fortified cave. Protected by an electrified fence and armed with
torpedoes and machine guns, Hank prepares to fight. When the enemy approaches,
he throws a switch and electrifies some eleven thousand men. His machine guns
“vomit death” into the ranks of those who make it past the fence, and
within minutes, “armed resistance was totally annihilated, the campaign was
ended… Twenty-five thousand men lay dead around us.” After the battle is
over, Hank leaves his fortress in order to aid his wounded. As he bends over a
crippled knight, he is stabbed by the man he sought to help. His comrades bring
him back to the cave, where they soon realize that they are trapped. They can
defend themselves only from their cave, and it is surrounded by the putrefying
flesh of twenty-five thousand corpses. Gradually, they all fall ill. Then Merlin
makes his way into the cave, where he casts a spell over Hank Morgan so that he
will sleep for thirteen centuries, enabling Hank to meek Mark Twain in late
nineteenth- century England. Critiques Robert Keith Miller Our reading of this
tale is to a large extent dependent upon how we feel about Hank Morgan. Is he
“a good and trustworthy narrator… who usually carries the burden of
authorial attitudes,” or is he the imaginary forerunner of a modern fascist
dictator, leading his people to genocide from the confines of a sixth-century
fuehrer-bunker? One of the best descriptions of Hank Morgan is that which he
himself provides: I am an American. I was born and reared in Hartford, in the
State of Connecticut-anyway, just over the river, in the country. 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 earned my real trade; learned to make everthing; guns, revolvers,
cannons, boilers, engines, all sorts of labor-saving machinery. Why I could make
anything a body wanted- anything in the world… Set within an idyllic
countryside, Hank sees no value in anything about him. The land about him is
undeveloped; it would appeal to him only if filled with the signs of industry
and commerce. Here is a man who can gaze upon the fruited plain and envision an
asphalt parking lot. (Robert Keith Miller, Mark Twain, 115) Hank’s inability to
appreciate beauty is revealed even more clearly when, after establishing himself
as the second most powerful man in Britain, he finds himself installed in
“the choicest suite of apartments in the castle, after the king’s.”
Like a tourist who goes dismayed that Camelot is so little like East Hartford.

He compares a tapestry to a bed quilt and complains that the walls are decorated
only with silken hangings, whereas back home “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.” When he first
approaches Camelot, Morgan observes that the men “look like animals,”
and he later decides that they are “white Indians.” He scorns the
occasional condescends to see the people as “a childlike and innocent
lot,” he cannot take them seriously. Because their culture is completely
unlike his own, because it is so “un-American,” it therefore follows
that the country is not civilized. Hank tells us: I saw that I was just another
Robinson Crusoe cast away on an uninhabited island, with no society but some
more or less tame animals, and if I wanted to make life bearable I must do as he
did- invent, contrive, create, reorganize things; set brain and hand to work,
and keep them busy. (Miller, 120) In short, Hank is incapable of understanding
vales that are alien to his own; a supreme egotist, he set out to remake the
world in his own image. As a nineteenth-century entrepreneur, Morgan is the
representative within the novel of a seemingly more advanced society. But it
soon becomes clear that Hank values nothing so much as making money, and his
schemes for doing so reveals a distinctly unattractive side of his character.

Hank’s language consistently reveals his true values. His is the diction of the
marketplace. He tells us, for example, that “It is no use to throw away a
good thing merely because the market isn’t ripe yet.” After he has
destroyed Merlin’s Tower, he declares that “the account was square, the
books balanced.” When another of his schemes fails to work out, he tells us
that he “sold it short.” He mocks the knights because they all
“took a flier at the Holy Grail now and then,” observing: There were
worlds of reputation in it, but no money, Why, they actually wanted me to put
in! Well, I should smile.(Miller, 122) After all, Hank is much too
“practical” to waste time on anything that is not financially
remunerative. It should not come then in any surprise that Hank wishes he could
remake man without a conscience because conscience “cannot be said to
pay.” Ironically, when Hank is enslaved, he criticizes his master for
having a heart “solely for business.” Hank is completely unaware that
the slave master is only a cruder version of himself; both see men in terms of
their commercial value, and neither is apt to allow sentiment to interfere with
business. That Twain himself saw a parallel between slave masters and financiers
is establishes by an illustration in the first edition of A Connecticut Yankee,
an illustration that Twain singled out for praise: The slave master was given
the features of Jay Gould, the great robber baron. And it is worth nothing, at
this point, that Hank is tied by his name to a capitalist of dubious reputation,
the great American banker, J.P. Morgan. (Miller, 122) In short, Hank Morgan
never learns. He arrives in Camelot with all the prejudices of a
nineteenth-century provincial. He encounters a civilization that is radically
different from his own- a civilization that is, without question, far from
perfect. But his understanding f that civilization never grows in either depth
or complexity. He is, in Twain’s own words, “a perfect ignoramus,” and
his opinions cannot be accepted at face value. It would be a mistake, however,
to read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court as a satire at Hank’s sole
expense. Twain satirizes modern industrial society through Hank, whose faith in
advertising and cost effectiveness is naive to say at least. But Twain is no
simple romantic. Throughout the nineteenth century, many writers glorified the
Middle Ages, finding withing the distant past a soothing contrast to the dark
Satanic mills they saw before them. From Sir Walter Scott- who , as we know,
Twain absolutely loathed- on a Carlyle, Ruskin, and the Pre-Raphaelites, the
Gothic Revival in architecture, and a resurgence in Arthurian scholarship that
continues to this day, post-industrial man has been fascinated by the Age of
Chivalry and Faith. But A Connecticut Yankee is not a part of this tradition
(Miller, 133). Hank’s condemnation of Camelot is excessive, and through it we
discover many of his limitations. On the other hand, it must also be
acknowledged that Twain was not trying to idealize the past. Therefore, A
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court should not be read as an attack upon
the Middle Ages per se, any more than as a satire of modern American values. It
is, as Twain himself reminded us, a contrast. The contrast between the medieval
and the modern is comic in so far as it is grotesque- neither the past nor the
present is any more ideal than human nature itself. If humor seems eventually to
disappear toward the end of the novel, it is because the apocalyptic conclusion
denies us the possibility of hope. Presented with a vision of history in which
corruption seems to triumph, a vision in which the present is but a logical
extension of the past, we are ultimately left scorched by Twain’s anger at the
perpetual stupidity of men. As Hank Morgan observes, almost certainly speaking
for Twain: “I reckon we are all fools. Born so, no doubt.” (Miller,
1. Baldanza, Frank. Mark Twain: Introduction and Interpretation. (c) 1961
Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc. 2. Bellamy, Gladys. Mark Twain as a Literary
Artist. (c) 1950 Univ. Of Oklahoma Press. 3. Bloom, Harold. Mark Twain: Modern
Critical Views. (c) 1986 Chelsea House Publishing. 4. McNeer, May / Ward, Lynd.

America’s Mark Twain. (c) 1962 by May McNeer and Lynd Ward. 5. Miller, Robert
Keith. Mark Twain. (c) 1983 Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. 6. Twain, Mark. A
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. (c) 1889 by Charles L. Webster. 7.

Information Finder. Mark Twain. (c) 1994 World Book, Inc. 8. Microsoft Encarta
96 Encyclopedia. Mark Twain. (c) 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation.


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