A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

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Modern Library, 2001 - Fiction - 465 pages
42 Reviews
Hank Morgan awakens one morning to find he has been transported from nineteenth-century New England to sixth-century England and the reign of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Morgan brings to King Arthur's utopian court the ingenuity of the future, resulting in a culture clash that is at once satiric, anarchic, and darkly comic.

Critically deemed one of Twain's finest and most caustic works, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is both a delightfully entertaining story and a disturbing analysis of the efficacy of government, the benefits of progress, and the dissolution of social mores. It remains as powerful a work of fiction today as it was upon its first publication in 1889.
 

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User Review  - alanteder - LibraryThing

This was good fun and had a surprising amount of social commentary whenever Hank (the Boss) Morgan was trying to educate his 6th century Britons on the evils of slavery, class structures and religious ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - benuathanasia - LibraryThing

Like most readers, I everything I knew about this book came from pop-culture references. I was curious going into out the premise could be dragged out so long. Dragged is a poor word-choice in this ... Read full review

Contents

XXIX
4
ur3 Court
31
H APT E R V An lmpimt1or1
44
CH PTI R V III T2Bo r r
63
of Civilization
82
9
108
ll
161
Copyright

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About the author (2001)

Chapter I
Camelot


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 of it. 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.

CHAPTER II

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."

"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, Clar

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