Twain's attitude toward the past was fascinatingly ambivalent. On the one hand he despised its glamorization in the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott et al., but on the other hand he could not keep from returning to it himself again and again. The Prince and the Pauper is one example, but there are numerous others, from 1601 backwards in time to A Connecticut Yankee at the Court of King Arthur. In the hilarious attempt to free Jim in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer's head was filled with the romanticism of the past that Twain abhorred in the novels of the day. It would be tempting to think that Tom was inspired by The Prisoner of Zenda if it were not that Huckleberry Finn antedated Zenda by ten years. And it is too much to hope that Anthony Hope was inspired by Tom Sawyer's elaborate schemes.
From: Scott Holmes <[log in to unmask]>
To: TWAIN-L <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sat, Mar 3, 2012 3:26 pm
Subject: The Prince and the Pauper
I mentioned a while back that I was reading Mark Twain The Fate of Humor
by James M. Cox, in fits and starts during my lunch break at work. I
was a bit surprised to read that he'd considered The Prince and the
Pauper to be a failure. Rather strong words. I grant that it is not up
to par with the likes of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but then few
books are. I was wondering if this is the prevailing consensus among
Twain scholars. I've just started a series of readings from this novel
as Second Life events, the virtual world on the internet. I must admit
that Twain's attempts to duplicate speech patterns from the court of
King Henry VIII are awkward, a skill he was a master of with the
dialects along the Mississippi River.