A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Mark Twain meets a strange man while touring Warwick Castle. The man seems very well acquainted with certain legendary people. While relaxing that evening, the man appears at Mark Twain's room at the Warwick Arms and begins his tale. Too tired to continue, he gives Twain a manuscript.
Hank and the knight travel through the country side en route to Camelot. He cannot believe that the people they pass are not surprised by the appearance of the knight but are quite startled by his appearance.
Hank arrives in Camelot but must be convinced he is not in some kind of asylum. He meets the boy, Clarence, that will be his ally throughout his adventures. He is then summoned to the court and finds himself in the company of other prisoners, many of whom are not in particularly good physical condition. We get to see the dining habits of British royalty circa 528AD.
After the feast the knights tell the tales of the latest exploits and how they acquired the recent batch of prisoners. Merlin soon chimes in with with his oft told tale of how King Arthur acquired his sword from a lake. This puts most of the audience to sleep.
Hank is displayed before King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Sir Dinadan tells is tale of Hank's capture, describing him as a Sky Towering Monster with thirteen knights. Hank's clothing is described as enchanted. He is stripped naked and thrown into a dungeon.
Hanks wakes up in the dark, thinking he's been having a strange dream but the boy Clarence arrives to remind him of his doom. Not only is the dungeon guarded by men at arms but Merlin has cast a spell as well. This inspires Hank to have Clarence tell the king that he too is a great magician. Merlin doubts this claim and insists Hank describe his powers. The pending eclipse comes to mind.
Hank has been tied to the stake and about to be burned alive when the eclipse begins. He plays this for all it's worth and winds up wrapped in finery and promoted to a very high position in the court. Merlin doesn't like this much.
Hank is assigned new quarters in the castle but is annoyed by the lack of the small conveniences needed to make life pleasant. He must deal with the masses of people made aware of his presence because the eclipse frightened everyone in the land. And, he must put Merlin in his place. He does this by blowing up the Roman tower the belongs to Merlin.
Well, I liked the king, and as king I respected him—respected the office; at least respected it as much as I was capable of respecting any unearned supremacy; but as MEN I looked down upon him and his nobles—privately. And he and they liked me, and respected my office; but as an animal, without birth or sham title, they looked down upon me—and were not particularly private about it, either. I didn't charge for my opinion about them, and they didn't charge for their opinion about me: the account was square, the books balanced, everybody was satisfied.
The countryside is in a mood to party as it is now tournament season. Hank Morgan inadvertently causes offense to Sir Sagramor le Desirous and a duel is called for, three of four years in the future as Sir Sagramor is about to go in search of the Holy Grail.
Hank Morgan describes his preparations for the new dawn of civilization but remarks on his fear of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Demoiselle Alisande la Carteloise, henceforth known as Sandy, arrives at court with an adventure. King Arthur assigns this adventure to Hank. He is to accompany Sandy to a castle far away and free forty-five princesses from three ogres.
Hank and Sandy are traveling along on horseback, Hank encased in his suit of armor. Gradually little annoyances become major annoyances, those itches you can't scratch.
Hank and Sandy come across a group of Freemen doing maintenance on a road. Hank stops to breakfast with them but Sandy would rather eat with the cows than with people of a lower class than she.
The group of Freemen Hank breakfasted with gave him some flint and steel so he is now able to light his pipe. This strikes fear in the Freemen, who try to run away. It knocks Sandy off the back of the horse and defeats a force of twelve knights the charge Hank en masse.
Sandy tells the tale of Sir Gawain and Sir Uwain in her long and unhurried manner, with Hank drifting in and out of awareness. They approach a large castle of unknown ownership.
Hank and Sandy approach the unknown castle and meet a knight bearing an advertisement for Persimmon's Soap, an experiment of Hank's to help in the overthrow of the Church. The knight tells them it is Morgan Le Fay's castle they approach. She is a dangerous person and only Sandy's astute knowledge of the superstitions of the day save them both from incarceration in Morgan's deadly dungeons.
Morgan Le Fay hosts a royal banquet which is interrupted by the grandmother of the young page dirked by Morgan in chapter 16. Sandy invokes the power of The Boss to save the old lady from Morgan sending her to the stake. Morgan takes Hank down into the dungeons of her castle to witness the final moments of a man on the rack.
Hank decides to empty Morgan Le Fay's dungeons. Twain provides us with a satire on political prisoners. Such is explained as there is no Nature in humans, only heredity and training.
Sandy continues her tale of Sir Marhaus while Hank ponders Knight errantry as a business proposition. He also speculates on the ages of the knights and ladies of the time, noting their apparent longevity. Sandy is struck to silence when he asks her age.
Hank and Sandy meet upwith one of Hank's knights, Sir Madok, advertising Peterson's Prophylactic Tooth-Brush and Noyoudont tooth-wash. He was chasing after another of Hank's knights, Sir Ossaise of Surluse, advertising stove polish. Two days later they arrive at the ogre's castle. Apparently it is enchanted for Hank's eyes only for he sees a pig sty and hogs along with three swineherds. Sandy sees the castle and her princesses. Hank must free them and take them home again.
Hank and Sandy depart the hogs/princesses, leaving them for friends and family to deliver them home again. The departing, they encounter a train of pilgrims heading for the Valley of Holiness, a place of austerity where no one bathes. En route they then encounter a train of slaves chained together. Nearing the Valley of Holiness, they meet with Sir Ozana, one of Hank's knights selling stove pipe hats. He informs them of the current conditions in the valley.
Hank and Sandy arrive at the abbey and find Merlin at work attempting to revive the dried up fountain. The abbot presses Hank to take over for Merlin but Hank declines explaining that Merlin would cast obstructionist spells if forced to leave. While Merlin continues to labor Hank and Sandy visit the hermits.
Hank arrives at the broken fountain and finds Merlin making futile efforts at restoring it. Merlin ceases his efforts and Hank takes his turn. Amid a huge production of fireworks, chanting monks and Germanic incantations, not to mention a patched well with pump installed, the water flows.
The water flows and Hank convinces the abbot to allow him to rebuild the bath. He does so and all is clean. After recovering from a cold, Hank must vanquish a rival magician.
King Arthur makes judgment against a newlywed couple and in favor of the local bishop. He also favors the noble borne in competitive examination for officership in a new standing army, as opposed to selecting graduates of Hank's West Point Academy. Hank finds a solution by suggesting a regiment to include, automatically, all noble borne, and a second regiment consisting of common folk officered by graduates of the academy. This solves another problem that had been bothering Hank, the Royal Grant, the gifting of all borne into the Pendragon clan.
Hank prepares to travel the countryside as a common person and King Arthur wishes to join him. Arthur is first required to perform the King Evil, healing the sick by touching. Hank becomes bored of the ceremony and is fortunately interrupted by the arrival of the world's first newspaper boy delivering the first edition.
Hank barbers King Arthur so as to appear like a common peasant and they head out into the country. Hank struggles to control the King as Arthur is unable to conceal his kingliness. Hank blunders and must come up with some new definitions of being a prophet to cover his inability to read Arthur's mind. He hits an extreme point when forced to hurl a dynamite bomb at two knights that threatened to skewer them.
Because King Arthur does not look nor act like a peasant Hank tries to train him to walk and talk as a common man.
Hank and the King come across a desolate hut and find a women dying of small pox. King Arthur displays perfect heroism by carrying the woman's dying daughter to her despite the dangers of smallpox. In this place we find the results of the societal disparities and the king flinches but remains silent when this is mentioned.
Hank and the Arthur depart the smallpox hut just as the sons of the dead couple arrive. They had escaped their captivity, slain the Baron and fired the manor house. Hank and Arthur see the burning house and a mob of peasants chasing down and hanging family members of the escaped sons. Hank notes that members of the mob do not enjoy their murderous activity but are compelled by the social structure.
Hank, Arthur and Marco the coal burner, travel to Abblasoure, a little hamlet, on the track of the escaping murderers. Hank begins an experiment in social stratification. Along the way they pass individuals of varying social rank as well as a gang of children that had just attempted to hang another child, in imitation of their elders.
Hank puts on a feast for the community of peasants. Dowley, the blacksmith had been bragging about his own good fortunes and wealth but this blow-out put him in his place.
After the feast Hank and the peasants sit down for a discussion of economics and politics. Hank tries to explain that wages are not as important as purchasing power. He fails to convince them. In frustration Hank takes to discussion further trying to discredited the use of the pillory. He goes too far and now has a group of frightened peasants that no longer trust him.
Hank and Arthur attempt to escape the angry and frightened mob of villagers bt wading down a stream and climbing into a tree via an overhanging bough. Their hiding place is soon discovered and they are forced to fight. The fight is interrupted by a local earl that provides them with safe passage and transportation to the nearest town. The next morning they find that the Earl is no friend as he turns and sells them into slavery.
There are actually two pitiful incidents in this chapter. The first occurs when a mob is chasing a woman and her children whom they accuse of being a witch. The woman is burned at the stake and the train of slaves is warmed by her pyre. The second incident is a poor woman that had stolen a swatch of cloth to sell so that she might feed her child. She is hanged. Thus was English justice.
The slave caravan arrives in London and Hank conceives of a plan for their escape to freedom.
Hank convinces a judge to release him from prison and quickly finds the London telegraph office. He sets Clarence to dispatching five hundred knights with Lancelot at the head to rescue himself and the king. Unfortunately Hank is recognized as the escaped slave and the entire set of slaves is set to be executed that afternoon, well before the knights have time to arrive.
On the very verge of King Arthur being hanged, Sir Lancelot and the knights ride in on bicycles and save the day.
The time for Hanks duel with Sir Sagramour has arrived. The Knight dressed in armor with lance and sword versus The Yankee dressed in gymnastic tights with a lasso and a pair of pistols. This is actually a battle between Hank and Merlin with the future of Knight Errantry in question.
Three years after Hank defeats the Knights in a free for all duel many of his clandestine projects are coming to fruition and they are no longer clandestine. We now find knights as traveling salesmen and Clarence speculates on replacing royalty with cats. Hank also introduces baseball to take the place of duels. There has also been a significant change in Hank's life, he and Sandy have a daughter name Hello Central. She becomes ill with membranous croup and the family takes a sea voyage.
Preoccupied with their child's illness, Hank and Sandy are not aware that all activity in England had ceased. Church bells were silenced and no ships sailed. Hank returns to Camelot but finds all is dark.
Clarence explains to Hank what has happened in Hank's absence. The Knights have split into two factions centered upon King Arthur or Sir Mordred. They battle to the death and the land is left with The Church in control. Clarence has set up a defense for what is left of Hank's forces, 52 boys from fourteen to seventeen years of age, centered in Merlin's large cave. Hank issues a proclamation that all political power is now reverted to a republic then stands ready for an attack by The Church's knights.
Hank and Clarence along with the 52 boys from the military academies annihilate the knights of England.
The conquerors trapped by the conquered. A disguised Merlin puts Hank to sleep for 13 centuries.


The ungentle laws and customs touched upon in this tale are historical, and the episodes which are used to illustrate them are also historical. It is not pretended that these laws and customs existed in England in the sixth century; no, it is only pretended that inasmuch as they existed in the English and other civilizations of far later times, it is safe to consider that it is no libel upon the sixth century to suppose them to have been in practice in that day also. One is quite justified in inferring that whatever one of these laws or customs was lacking in that remote time, its place was competently filled by a worse one.

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 Castlemaine, 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 thing which ought to be settled, and I am not going to have anything particular to do next winter anyway.


HARTFORD, July 21, 1889

Help Produce Mark Twain Videos

PDF from Gutenberg Version