Tuesday, 21 January 2014

CONNECTICUT YANKEE

We have received from Messrs. E. S. Wigg and Son an advance copy of Mark Twain's new work, " A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur," published by Chatto & Windos, London. Of late years more than one writer of serious romance has presented an imaginative picture of human society as it may possibly be a century or so hence, and in the attempt to exhibit modern civilisation after another cycle of development scope has been afforded for the exposition of favorite social and philosophical theories. At the same time the continued advance of scientific discovery and invention is always credited by such authors with wonders compared with which the achievements of the nineteenth century pale into insignificance. Mark Twain's new book reverses this process. Setting out as a humorist in search of a new field in which to display his drollery, he discovers it in the fanciful notion of bringing a prosaic intelligent Yankee of the present day face to face with the England of the sixth century, when King Arthur held his court and the order of the Round Table was in all its glory. The machinery by which the shrewd Connecticut Democrat is transported backward to an age which to his practical mind is stamped by a ridiculous barbarism is of a kind familiar enough, but the idea is worked out into a comic narrative of adventures that will be appreciated by every reader who can forgive the irrepressible Mr. Clemens for his invasion of ground hitherto consecrated to poetry and romance. The Yankee comes into competition with the great magician Merlin, whom he puts to shame with the miracles of science, and he brings his common-sense to bear on knight-errantry and the other social customs of the time, acquiring power which enables him gradually to introduce some of the features of more civilised epochs— the newspaper, the telephone, political economy, and so on. His one consistent enemy is the court enchanter, and to retain his influence over vulgar and superstitious minds he is compelled unwillingly to make similar claims to supernatural endowments, of which he presents to them surprising evidences. How be blows up Merlin's tower, unhorses the valiant Sir Lancelot with a lasso, faces the whole chivalry of England, in a moment of dire peril, with a couple of revolvers, and expels with gunpowder an evil spirit from a holy fountain which had ceased to flow— these things and other of his notable exploits are described by the author in his typical style, which will be found exceedingly amusing if the reader will contrive to forget for a while Sir Thomas Malory and Tennyson in order to attend to the sacrilegious pranks of an American humorist who is determined to be funny at all hazards. The book is profusely illustrated, containing no lees than 220 cuts, the grotesqueness of which is in thorough keeping with the text.


South Australian Chronicle 1 February 1890,

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