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“My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death.”
One of the greatest satires in American literature, Mark Twain’s 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court' begins when Hank Morgan, a skilled mechanic in a nineteenth-century New England arms factory, is struck on the head during a quarrel and awakens to find himself among the knights and magicians of King Arthur’s Camelot. The ‘Yankee’ vows brashly to "boss the whole country inside of three weeks" and embarks on an ambitious plan to modernize Camelot with 19th c. industrial inventions like electricity and gunfire. It isn’t long before all hell breaks loose!
Written in 1889, Mark ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court’ is one of literature’s first genre mash-ups and one of the first works to feature time travel. It is one of the best known Twain stories, and also one of his most unique. Twain uses the work to launch a social commentary on contemporary society, a thinly veiled critique of the contemporary times despite the Old World setting.
While the dark pessimism that would fully blossom in Twain’s later works can be discerned in 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,' the novel will nevertheless be remembered primarily for its wild leaps of imagination, brilliant wit, and entertaining storytelling.
About the Author
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "the Great American Novel."
Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which provided the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. After an apprenticeship with a printer, he worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to the newspaper of his older brother Orion Clemens. He later became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River before heading west to join Orion in Nevada.
He referred humorously to his singular lack of success at mining, turning to journalism for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. In 1865, his humorous story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," was published, based on a story he heard at Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California, where he had spent some time as a miner. The short story brought international attention, and was even translated into classic Greek. His wit and satire, in prose and in speech, earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.
Though Twain earned a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he invested in ventures that lost a great deal of money, notably the Paige Compositor, which failed because of its complexity and imprecision. In the wake of these financial setbacks, he filed for protection from his creditors via bankruptcy, and with the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers eventually overcame his financial troubles. Twain chose to pay all his pre-bankruptcy creditors in full, though he had no legal responsibility to do so.
Twain was born shortly after a visit by Halley's Comet, and he predicted that he would "go out with it," too. He died the day following the comet's subsequent return. He was lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age," and William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature."
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