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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)

by Mark Twain

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,274122555 (3.71)2 / 330
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.… (more)
  1. 50
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Morteana)
  2. 41
    The Practice Effect by David Brin (espertus)
    espertus: A whimsical fast-moving fantasy about a modern scientist who is transported to a seemingly Earth-like feudal society.
  3. 21
    King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: These novels have some similar plot elements.
  4. 10
    Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper (DWWilkin)
    DWWilkin: One of the first time travel stories
  5. 01
    The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain (-pilgrim-)
    -pilgrim-: Another satire of governmental forms, set in English history.
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English (115)  German (2)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (122)
Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)
Robert Frost aloudread from this to school students when he taught at Plymouth (N.H.) Normal School. I haven’t read it for fifty years. Hilarious, as all his works: he puts on armor for his reluctant adventures, can’t reach his hanky in his helmet, as he grows overheated from sun on the metal, “A man in armor always trusted to chance for his food on a journey, and would have been scandalized at the idea of hanging a basket of sandwiches on his spear” (Ch.XIII, p.98*).

Wonderful contrast of medieval and American takes on kings and aristocracy. “It is enough to make a body ashamed of his race to think of the sort of froth that has always occupied its thrones without shadow of right or reason, and the seventh-rate people that have always figured as its aristocracies— a company of monarchs and nobles who, as a rule, would have achieved only poverty and obscurity if left, like their betters, to their own exertions”(ChVIII, p.65).

The day they were going to burn him at the stake-- for looking so foreign (to the medievals) and being so big— he gets classed above Merlin because he predicts an eclipse of the sun on the hour they plan to burn him. Twain had read of an eclipse in 528, on June 21, three minutes past Noon. The pyre is readied for his execution, so he warns he will black out the sun if they go ahead. When King Arthur calls off the execution, Twain responds, “For a lesson, I will let this darkness proceed, and spread night in the world; but whether I blot out the sun for good, or restore it, shall rest with you. You shall remain king over all your dominions, but you shall appoint me your perpetual minister and executive, and give me for my services one percent”(Ch.VI, p.52).

Granted such, he first establishes a Patent Office, then tries to make military and naval academies, etc. When goaded to make another miracle, he uses 19C know-how from Benjamin Franklin, a lightening rod, wired to some powder kegs in Merlin’s Tower, height of the land. As a storm finally gathers, Twain calls down a lightening strike which blows up the centuries-old Roman tower. Merlin is demoted.

As I re-read, I’ve forgotten how he wins against the joust he’s been challenged to years hence—year where the challenging knight has gone off “holy grailing,” getting lost in a search for the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper. I think he dismounts, which leaves the challenger befuddled. But several chapters have passed, and no joust yet.

Very funny on armor causing him to overheat and perspire; he needs to cool off, using his helmet as a bucket (illustration by Dan Beard, p.95). Twain compares the Herald's decoration, fore-and-aft, to "sandwich boards" used for advertising, here, "Persimmon's Soap," which Twain made, as demand grew. His soap factory employed fifteen hands, running day and night, with the atmospheric effect so strong that Sir Launcelot "did hardly anything but walk up and down on the roof and swear...He was always complaining that a palace was no place for a soap factory"(124).

King Arthur's so old the queen's the more responsible, but she's a creature of habit, as we all are. (Twain says very little human behavior from "nature," all from habit.) One queenly habit is executing people-- she plans to burn an old woman who cursed her, but Twain/the Boss superior to Merlin tells her she can't. Then the "poor queen was so humbled that she was afraid to hang the composer without consulting me...I ordered the musicians into our presence to play again. Then I saw that she was right, and gave her permission to hang the whole band"(135). When the Boss lets go a young father off the Rack--his wife and child nearby-- he decides to replace the bandleader with the executioner. "He said he couldn't play--a plausible excuse, but too thin; there wasn't a musician in the country that could"(143).

*Pagination from Harper Brothers Complete Twain, 1899. ( )
  AlanWPowers | Apr 20, 2022 |
It is the tale of a commonsensical Yankee who is carried back in time to Britain in the Dark Ages, and it celebrates homespun ingenuity and democratic values in contrast to the superstitious ineptitude of a feudal monarchy. Twain wrote it after reading Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur.

Hank Morgan, a mechanic at a gun factory, is knocked unconscious and awakens in England in the year 528. He is captured and taken to Camelot, where he is put on exhibit before the knights of King Arthur’s Round Table. He is condemned to death, but remembering having read of an eclipse on the day of his execution, he amazes the court by predicting the eclipse. Later he concocts some crude gunpowder and uses it to blow up Merlin’s tower. It is decided that he is a sorcerer like Merlin, and he is made minister to the ineffectual king. In an effort to bring democratic principles and mechanical knowledge to the kingdom, he strings telephone wire, starts schools, trains mechanics, and teaches journalism. He also falls in love and marries.

But when Hank tries to better the lot of the peasants, he meets opposition from many quarters, including the knights, the church, Merlin, and the sorceress Morgan le Fay. He and Arthur, in disguise, travel among the miserable common folk, are taken captive and sold as slaves, and only at the last second are rescued by 500 knights on bicycles. Hank and his family briefly retire to the seaside. ( )
1 vote Marcos_Augusto | Jan 19, 2022 |
Here's what wrote upon reading in 1984: "Hmmmm . . . . Entertaining, yet I think I missed some of the point. The church in the sixth century (and perhaps later) is too all-powerful. Nobility is a foolish and wasteful concept in Twain's eyes. Most humorous scene; knights on bicycle." ( )
  MGADMJK | Dec 4, 2021 |
This is more of a political satire than a true time-travel novel. It was first published in 1889, and at first seems to be a eulogy of modern scientific progress and American democracy in comparison to absurdities of the British hereditary aristocratic system. However, as the book progresses, we see that things are not quite as they at first appear. The descriptions of the final battle, with electrified fences, trenches, explosives and machine guns are eerily prophetic of First World War battlefields. Nineteenth Century rational thinking and technology was unable to win out against the ingrained superstition and religious dogma of King Arthur's age. The protagonist sets out on a mission to enlighten and educate the ignorant people of the Sixth Century, but in the end commits atrocities which are at least as bad as those perpetrated by the Catholic Church and its supporters. And he did these things on the basis of reason, and so cannot offer religious brainwashing or superstition as excuses. The book is a little long-winded and tedious in places, but there are many well-written episodes of high adventure which more than balance these out. ( )
1 vote Hoppy500 | Dec 1, 2021 |
My opinion of this book vacillated wildly throughout. This is technically what you think it is. Its a comedy about a man who ends up in arthurian britain. However it isn't just a comedy... its a dark, DARK comedy! I mean its like 1984 dark... in fact its like 1984 not just in its darkness but also in its politics.
This book has a lot to say about human ignorance, slavery, the human capacity to sell each other out and work against their own interest etc.
The pointedness of the story actually works against it a little as its far longer than it needs to be. If your just writing for writings sake you can make it as long as you like, but if your trying to make a point its best to keep it short and punchy.
Having said that i'm glad it wasn't too short as it took me at least a third of it to get used to the language. The arthurian speak was actually fine for me but the 19th century american dialect was really annoying. For a while i tried, in my head, to replace the Yankee with Ash from the Evil Dead (Army of Darkness) films :), but wasn't able to keep it up.
Slavery is addressed in the book as i've mentioned but Twain avoids any open talk about african americans, it seems very deliberate. I think Twain knew his audience and wanted to get his point across without it being blocked by the readers racism, at least thats what i hope he was doing.
In the end this is a difficult and longer read than i would have liked with a wildly fluctuating tone. It did make me chuckle at times as well as upset me. Another of those 'glad i read it (past tense) books' ;) . ( )
  wreade1872 | Nov 28, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (121 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Twain, Markprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Banbery, FrederickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beard, Daniel CarterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dietz, NormanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dufris, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Facetti, GermanoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferrari, AntongionataIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzpatrick, Lucy MabryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gross, GeorgeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hearne, JackIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hyman, Trina SchartIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaplan, JustinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krüger, LoreÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langton, StuartNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lopez, AbelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pérez Rilo, RicardoIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Railton, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Camelot—Camelot,” said I to myself. “I don’t seem to remember hearing of it before. Name of the asylum, likely.”
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There never was such a country for wandering liars; and they were of both sexes.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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