A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Hank Morgan is a confident, practical 19th-century American, managing 1,000 men in a Connecticut factory, until a fellow nicknamed Hercules knocks him unconscious. When he awakes, Hank is sitting beneath an oak tree surrounded by beautiful countryside. Before long, he is up the tree, seeking refuge from an over-zealous jousting knight. After careful negotiation the two set out together, Hank humouring his armoured companion, whom he assumes is from a circus or an asylum, apparently called Camelot. Only when a pageboy mentions that he was born in 513 does our hero discover that he has transmigrated, body and soul, to the court of King Arthur. This singular event is the basis of one of Mark Twains finest comic novels. Adapted twice for film and once staged as a Broadway musical, A Connecticut Yankee is a satire on both contemporary politics and nostalgia for medieval mores.
Hank is an entrepreneur, certain that he can and should transform Camelot into a modern democratic society, free from superstition and slavery, enriched by science. Unsurprisingly, his mission meets with resistance resistance that is ultimately cataclysmic, forcing Hank to change his view of humankind: What this folk needed, then, was a Reign of Terror and a guillotine, and I was the wrong man for them. This Folio edition is introduced by Fred Kaplan, a Twain biographer and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He comments that, while preposterously funny, this novel is no laughing matter. Rather it is a brilliant display of Twains ability to drive home serious, often unpalatable ideas, through humour and irony.
Twain considered illustrations for his novels with great care, knowing their importance to his readers. We hope that he would have approved of David Hughess bold interpretation of A Connecticut Yankee. His coloured pen-and-ink drawings and endpaper designs capture wonderfully the absurdity of the narrative and its excoriating take on human life.
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