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

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An electronic text can be found at Project Gutenberg - not too well to read online but worth a look for its illustrations. (This is an 1889 edition).

Whoseover feels like not reading but listening to the book might have a look at Libri Vox which has a free legal audio of the book (downloadable either by chapter or in a complete zip-file). Nico Zorn


Summary by Chapter

Chapter 1 – Camelot

The Yankee is taken prisoner by a knight. He first supposes some circus or lunatics’ asylum but eventually gets told he is in Camelot (and later gets to know the year &c.)

Chapter 2 – King Arthur’s Court

A view at the town (well) of Camelot, finally getting to know day and year (and not believing it) – there will be an eclipse in some days, not again for some hundred, which will prove the date (only known by Yankee)

Chapter 3 - Knights of the Table Round

The Yankee sits while the knights of the round talk; description of the high dais and the king and his knights eating like pigs, telling the same stories all over again. There are dogs running around and fetching bits thrown to the ground – great spectacle; some knights yield to Arthur. Clarence tells the Yankee what is going on etc. Merlin tells a tale as well, all going to napping or sleeping…

Chapter 4 - Sir Dinadan the Humorist

Dinadan wakes first and laughs when others have stopped. The knights think about what to do with the Yankee and his magical protection clothes (as according to the story told by his captor)… Merlin finally tells them to simply undress him, it is done and all look at him naively interested. He is ushered to the dungeon

Chapter 5 - An Inspiration

The Yankee in the dungeon tells Clarence that he was a magician and will turn the sun dark if they do not let him out. Some rushing forth and back and the Yankee is believed by the king (not Merlin). He intends to use the eclipse at the time and date of his scheduled execution… but then he learns that he shall now be executed a day prior, due to Clarence telling them he would grow his full power only then (unknowingly dooming the Yankee…)

Chapter 6 - The Eclipse

When the execution is just going to start, the eclipse happens to begin (one day early – no explanation by the Yankee, who is startled). The Yankee quickly uses the momentum of the situation and demands time to think what he wants to make the sun come back (of course stretching time so it happens naturally) and eventually settles for being first man below the king and getting 1% of everything that he improves above the current state of economy (figuring he has 13 centuries’ knowledge). It is granted.

Chapter 7 - Merlin’s Tower

Merlin intrigues against the Yankee. He is eventually thrown into the dungeon by him. Many people come to see another wonder by the Yankee and he decides to give them another one. In a factory, some gunpowder has been made and eventually the Yankee blows up Merlin’s Tower before a mass of people… and Merlin who had been fetched and was unable to protect his lodging. He is allowed to stay as a “weather mage”, though.

Chapter 8 - The Boss

He then begins to enjoy his position and tries to start to establish modernity. He comments that people more regard him as a powerful animal and that only with a title one is respected – he could gain one easily but does not since it contradicts his education. After some years, the people, an authority (the only one) give a title to him which is equivalent of “The Boss”. The Yankee likes and respects the king but dislikes the hereditary system they gained power by.

Chapter 9 - The Tournament

A tournament is held and the Yankee starts the first newspaper. Sir Dinadan tells the Yankee a anecdote he has so often heard before and the Yankee falls to sleep. When Dinadan is unhorsed he exclaims that he hopes him dead – but unfortunately Sir Sagramor (le Desirous) is also unhorsed, takes him to be meant, and challenges the Yankee. Fortunately Segramor is going to seek the grail first (which is quite fashionable, may last years, and never return). The king starts to entice the Yankee to go questing himself to earn renown in order to meet Sagramor more worthily but the Yankee declines.

Chapter 10 - Beginnings of Civilization

The Yankee has now been training people in various crafts, established a school system and introduced some other faiths than the Roman Catholic. Mining has been improved and a “secret heaven” of 19th century-ness is established properly. There are especially vast progresses in military and navy – he has established academies (“my West Point”) Clarence became his trusted (and bright) lieutenant and establishes telephone and telegraph lines all over the country; the country itself hardly changed although taxes went down and revenues still up. Sagramor is still questing.

Chapter 11 - The Yankee in Search of Adventures

A woman, Alisande/Sandy, arrives at the court stating that she escaped three ogres in a castle but there are more noblewomen left to be freed. The king gives this quest to the Yankee. He questions the woman learning really nothing about the whereabouts of the castle (could be everywhere, god changes its position, etc.). Clarence informs him that the woman will ride with him – he is put into armour, saddled, and departs

Chapter 12 - Slow Torture

The armour increasingly bothers the Yankee – esp. since he has no pockets and therefore no handkerchief. Also he has no food since the sandwich he wanted to smuggle into his helmet fell down and were eaten by dogs (and the other knights would not gave allowed it). The armour itself is hot and itchy and he cannot get off the horse since he would not be able to get back on. Sandy constantly chatters. In a storm they search refuge, the next day the Yankee has to walk. (Still annoyed: he realised the day before that he had not taken matches from one of his factories to light his pipe)

Chapter 13 - Freemen

The two meet some humble freeman. The Yankee asks them to have breakfast with them and they are very flattered. Sandy refuses to participate. The Yankee talks about taxes and the church and other matters with the king and tries to get to them the idea of democracy – unsuccessfully. Still, he sends the man to Clarence to be put into the “Man Factory” since there seems material for improvement

Chapter 14 - “Defend Thee, Lord”

Sandy and the Yankee meet seven knights. He scares them paralysed by lighting his pipe under the helmet and by the smoke appearing as a dragon. The Yankee thinks he has failed but Sandy says by their standing still the knights are defeated. She goes talk to them and tells them to go to Arthur’s court and subject themselves prisoners to the Yankee (as is common behaviour)

Chapter 15 - Sandy’s Tale

Being asked about the knights, Sandy tells a (long, long, long and blunt) story about Sir Gawain, Sir Uwaine and Sir Marhaut. The Yankee continually criticises the tale and gives hints for improvement (“and down went both, horse and men, smashed to the ground.” Or similar AGAIN and AGAIN). The Yankee and the woman approach a castle. By the way they meet one of the Yankee’s own men: Sir La Cote Male Taile who rides away – depressed, since he was unable to sell any soap there… the hermit he washed died and is considered a martyr now. The Yankee suggests a new advertising slogan: “Patronised by the Elect”.

Chapter 16 – Morgan Le Fey & Ch 17 A Royal Banquet

The Yankee learns the castle belongs to Morgan Le Fay, who is beautiful and quick-tempered. During with banquet an audience Morgan kills a boy because he has touched her. When the Yankee protests he is going to be thrown into the dungeon but Sandy steps in and tells all he is The Boss – he stays free and criticises Morgan a bit for various misgovernings (she stating she knew him but expected some magic)

Chapter 18 – In the Queen’s Dungeon

Still at Morgan’s castle. Trying to explain to Morgan that sudden passion is a mildening circumstance in murder and that killing the page was a crime. (Morgan does not see it as such: the Yankee makes “training” responsible). Morgan decides to pay for the page, though, which she would not really need to – the Yankee cannot bear to be nice to her, though. He asks her to examine her prisoners and she grants it eventually; visit to the dungeon; tale of some prisoner who has seen funerals and festivities at his beloved and wondered who was dead – all were alive, Morgan played all the funerals to torture this hated prisoner.

Chapter 19 – Knight Errantry as a Trade

Continuance of Sandy’s tale… musings about the uselessness of economics of knights’ fights - only piles of flesh and demolished armours left in the end. Telling Sandy to not think about it too much because argueing about business does not fit her.

Chapter 20 - The Ogre’s Castle

Sandy announces that they approach the ogres’ castle… which seems to be a pig-sty to the Yankee and the ogres to be farmers. Obviously he is under a spell since Sandy sees the pigs as nobility and the farmers as ogres. The Yankee says he can kill them as long as he knows how much higher he needs to aim. He talks with the “ogres”, buys the pigs and gets going with them which is a real hassle as one can imagine, esp. since he needs to treat them as royalty. Eventually coming to a hut which y. takes to be Sandy’s home but in fact is not. The “noblewomen” eventually being taken home by others…

Chapter 21 - The Pilgrims

Meeting pilgrims who want to go to the Valley of Holiness where a fountain flows as a miracle. 200 years ago it stopped flowing due to the being built of a heretic bath X_X. Shortly before arrival, they will learn that the fountain has stopped flowing again and that Merlin is on the job.

Chapter 22 - The Holy Fountain

The Yankee examines the fountain and sees the problem (some wall broken away). He tells the prior he can mend it but will not do so since magicians must not mingle in each other’s jobs and he will only try when Merlin has freely given up. In between he has some looks at the hermits and equips one who bows a lot with machinery so his movements benefit X_X. Merlin gives up eventually but laughs at the Yankee since a demon with unspeakable name cursed the fountain and one must know his name to lift the curse and die while doing so. Naturally, the Yankee stays unimpressed and promises to try to lift the curse the next day… only everybody should stay away half a mile. Meanwhile, some of his firework productions arrived

Chapter 23 - Restoration of the Fountain

The Yankee puts on a display of firework (4 coloured fountains) and utters names that really are unpronounceable… and makes a great show of it as well. Eventually the fountain bursts out again by great force. The Yankee is hailed and thanked. Wandering around he finds a phone office of his own and speaks with Clarence – the king is on his way to the valley and will soon arrive; also he has put up the standing army the Yankee suggested… unfortunately.

Chapter 24 - A Rival Magician

A humbug appears saying he can tell what everybody is doing right now. The Yankee feels the need to intervene as his own powers seem to fade. He eventually asks what his hand is doing. The other one says that is a useless trick and he only does things with the highest of the high. Yankee asks what Arthur does then and the other one answers he was sleeping. The Yankee says he was riding and would arrive soon after. Nobody believes him but he is eventually proven true, as he has learnt this fact via his phone.

Chapter 25 - A Competitive Examination

Examining officers for the standing army. The Yankee hopes to fill these ranks with his own westpointers but is shocked: they have the most magnificient strategy, can write and read as opposed to some noble competitors, and know strategy so well that the examining board does not understand them… but eventually nobility gets chosen since 4 generations of noble but is required. The Yankee proposes an elite regiment to the king, solely consisting of nobility and in which every noble can enter if he gives up the “royal grant”. Arthur likes the idea.

Chapter 26 - The First Newspaper

During an audience at which Arthur “cures” the ill and gives them money (which amount was greatly reduced by the Yankee by a coin reform), a newspaper boy arrives. The journalism is pretty crude and reminds of sports, is overly hailing The Boss. Nonetheless it is “a good start”. The monks are startled by the newly invented paper and the writing on it.

Chapter 27 - The Yankee and the King Travel Incognito

As the Yankee has stated before he wanted to go into the country incognito, he now does…accompanied by the king who thought this ingenious (and who was a bit desperate by the queen’s only interest in Sir Lancelot). The king only half the time keeps in his costume and the Yankee has to jump in to be hit by a whip instead of the king and so on. The king even buys a dirk to defend himself… but is convinced by the Yankee to throw it away since it is forbidden. The king does not really get cheered up. Eventually, the Yankee blows a bomb against some nobility who threaten the king and him (or was it next chapter?)

Chapter 28 - Drilling the King

The Yankee gives the king some drill, actor-like, how he shall move and stand and so on. The king does not really improve much but at least tries...

Chapter 29 - The Small-Pox Hut

The two enter a hut and discover the inhabitants are ill. The Yankee tries to send away the king since he might get infected but the king rejects – it would be cowardice. They learn that the hut is under church’s bane and the king is confronted with “his” own cruelty. He eventually weeps which is mistaken by the woman as knowing her fate himself. The children in the hut are dead or dying, nonetheless the king and the Yankee carry them to the woman so she has some relief in death – her husband died some hours before; she rejects water and food since death will be a mercy to her. (story before: her sons imprisoned, they forced to work on fields for all, no food of own, quarrels with nobles and church) Arthur and the Yankee leave shortly before one of the sons comes and reports they got free

Chapter 30 - The Tragedy of the Manor-House

The manor house has been burnt down (however) and one family got hanged for not really good reasons (they had some quarrels with the nobleman). The nobleman himself died in the flames and so did all prisoners, allegedly. Finding lodging, the king offers to buy the whole house since he had contact with infected ones (yeah, still cannot keep his role), the inhabitants decline but offer lodging. The king tells of the three sons who got away and urges the husband of the house to go after them. The Yankee leaves with the husband and tells him not to – he learns that they were cousins.

Chapter 31 - Marco

The king and Yankee live a while in the house of Marco, the Yankee looking around in the village, listening to various gossip and offering Marco and his wife new clothes, which they reject at first but eventually accept. He gets to know a rich (and somewhat arrogant) smithy and plans to do a big feast at his own cost which is eventually granted.

Chapter 32 - Dowley’s Humiliation

At the feast, the smithy boasts with his own good food and possessions and says he regards all as equal and offers his hand to the king who reluctantly shakes it. As the food and new furniture the Yankee bought are brought inside, all guests (and especially the smithy) get more and more startled. The bill is eventually presented: 39000 (pennies?). The Yankee pays $4 and tells the clerk to keep the change which again looks wasteful to the villagers. The smithy is totally humiliated and shaken down by this display of “wasteful” richness ;)

Chapter 33 - Sixth Century Political Economy

The Yankee argues about economy with smithy Dowley and the others at the table. They remain adamant that their wages are double as high and they certainly are so IN NUMBER. The Yankee repeatable proofs that they are so but are less than half in buying power. He uses workdays in spite of money to show that in his country, one gets things faster and therefore, pay is higher. He eventually gives up and deals a blow soon to be regretted: he goes back to a slight slip of the smithy that he had done sth. against the law. Eventually, the three become frightened and rise against Yankee and Arthur (who just woke and came in, being regarded as mad with his “unusual” ideas of agriculture)

Chapter 34 - The Yankee and the King Sold as Slaves

Yankee and King flee into the woods, escape the chase of an angry mob, gathered by Marco, only to be retrieved shortly after. They then seemingly get help by a nobleman who makes them ride on horses &c. Only later they discover, that they shall be sold as slaves and are so… for a price fairly low

Chapter 35 - A Pitiful Incident

While walking along (and the king always being to proud, unable to be broken in his pride and especially feeling wrong about his low price ($7) – „a real man“ acc. To the Yankee), the king becomes hater of slavery and wants to abolish it. Yankee now intends to get free now. A snowstorm sets in. There is a witch-hunt coming twds. The slave caravan and some already frozen to death. The slave master talks the witchhunters into burning the “witch” right there so his slaves can warm on the fire… the Yankee also witnesses a trial of a young woman which is eventually hanged. Here the clergyman took pity and recounted her story upon the gallows: her husband was shanghaied, she looked for him and eventually got into ruin, then stealing and being caught, being sentenced to death even against the will of the one she had stolen of (that one committed suicide before her hanging!)

Chapter 36 - An Encounter in the Dark

London, seeing knights they know but who do not look at them, even Sandy; in a barrack, the Yankee gets hold of some metal piece and gets free – but the slavemaster enters before he can free the rest. He gets out, the Yankee chases and attacks him outside. The guard shows up and takes him away – and it is revealed that it was a completely different man!

Chapter 37 - An Awful Predicament

Talking his way out of court, by stating he was a slave belonging to some noble who should fetch a doctor fort he allegedly ill, the Yankee wanders the town and learns that the slave master was slain. The slaves have been sentenced to death, only delayed by the search for one missing slave. The Yankee finds a telegraph line and contacts Camelot. Clarence sends out Sir Lancelot and his knights to London. Eventually, while slowly changing his clothing, the Yankee is caught (by one of the other slaves walking around with a guard) and the hanging shall commence before the knights can be there…

Chapter 38 - Sir Launcelot and Knights to the Rescue

The hanging begins. The people poke fun at Arthur and the Yankee who gave their true identities. Some slaves are already dead and the king is just about to be hanged, when Lancelot and other knights show up – recognising the Yankee by a cloth on his arm – and making the people bow down. They ride bicycles…

Chapter 39 - The Yankee’s Fight with the Knights

Being back at Camelot, the duel with the knight from before (Sir Seggemore?) is finally taking place. The Yankee unhorses him with a lasso, after evading three times. He had beforehand challenged all knights that wanted to deal with him and they come one after another, all falling down. When there is noone left, Sir Seggemore challenges him again, Merlin having stolen the only lasso and inventing some fake magic story about it disappearing after so many uses. The Yankee needs to fight armless, which is eventually granted. Before he is killed, he pulls out a revolver and shoots the other knight, then challenges all the knights there to come at him at once, together. The bluff almost fails, but when he shoots some more, the rest retreats. A plate is put up whereon he challenges all of England’s knights to get at him and 50 others… no bluff this time => The End of Knight Errantry

Chapter 40 - Three Years Later

All secret factories etc. were revealed and more put in. The round table was made into a stock company, a train was set up and the ticket controllers were totally made up from nobility (earl and higher)… but still cheating the company. And so on: short – modern age introduced in Britain.

Chapter 41 - The Interdict

the Yankee married Sandy and they have a child (named „Hallo Central“ due to a misunderstanding of Sandy’s…) now. The child grows ill and they travel to the shore and eventually to Gaulle. When the Yankee looks outside, the navy and everything is gone. He (alone) travels back to England – trains gone – nothing around, all novelties vanished: sure signs of war

Chapter 42 - War!

Clarence tells the Yankee what happened. The story between Lancelot and Guinevere was finally discovered by the king after the round table poked fun at Lancelot and some of the king’s relatives were slain. Later, Mordred suggested to put attention of the king to L. and the queen. Lancelot is trapped but escapes, killing all but the king; the land divides into a party of Sir Lancelot and The King and all fight… Mordred is appointed king while Arthur fights but tries to fasten his power. Eventually, Arthur and Mordred kill each other during peace talks in which other knights killed the other army… the queen became a nun. The church now searches The Boss. He talks with Clarence about what they have: gatling lasers, wired electrical fences and some other things. They proclaim the republic, decided to strike and give the church its death-blow… but the people is not so enthusiastic.

Chapter 43 - The Battle of the Sand-Belt

At Merlin’s cave, the Yankee has his final fortress: the wired fences are charged with high voltage, the production centres are blown up, the gatling guns put in position. Around 25k knights – all that remain in England – are to come. First they send in cattle, which are simply blown away by explosives (same time as the production halls get destroyed.) The first ones sneak in at night and get electrocuted. When all charge, they get all roasted by full electric blow, then shot at by the gatlings and flowed away by a redirected stream. Against Clarence’s advice, the Yankee goes on the battlefield to help wounded and is wounded himself. About here, he stops writing, because of a mistake he cannot bear…

Chapter 44 - A Postscript by Clarence

Clarence takes on: The Boss’ wound was non-fatal and cured well, but although they had won, they were now „conquered“, sieged inside their cave and the corpses outside omit foul breath. There was a “woman” come in, Merlin disguised, who made signs over the Yankee for him to sleep 1300 years (=> taking Arthur’s place?!?)…and electrocuted when discovered and (accidentally?) touching one wire. Clarence concluded that they would put The Boss into a cave to be undisturbed and whoever escapes shall finish the story and put it with him.

Postscript by Mark Twain

Back in Warwick castle, he finishes the reading and goes to the stranger’s chamber. The door is ajar. The stranger lies in his bed and mutters, taking Twain for Sandy and talking about the days of yore, eyesight dim and fading. Eventually he sets out for a last talk but does not finish, as he dies. The book ends here.