Mark Twain and His "English" Novels
This piece was first printed in the London Times Literary Supplement of December 25, 1981. That helps to account for references in it to the Christmas trade. Publishers would bring out some choice item such as Dickens Christmas Carola few days before the holiday and count upon an astonishingly swift response where the author was already a household name.
Samuel L. Clemens (or "see Mark Twain," as indexes and enclyclopedias shunt us to the more famous pen-name) was born in 1835 and died in 1910. It is generally felt that Twain's best work was done in his fourth and fifth decades, ranging from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer ( 1876) to The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson ( 1894), with Life on the Mississippi ( 1883) and Huckleberry Finn ( 1884) the central summit of his achievement. Sam Clemens quit Hannibal, Missouri before he was a grown man and later on went back there only to gather notes for the autobiographical Life on the Mississippi. By then he was a well-established resident of New England, living in Hartford, Connecticut in prosperous proximity to such other celebrities as Harriet Beecher Stowe. However, it is also said that Twain was a deeply American writer, drawing his truest inspiration from the great Mississippi valley of boyhood and youth -- the realm of his remembered, inmost heartland.
If so, what of his two "English" novels? The Prince and the Pauper was published in December 1881. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court came out eight years after, at the end of 1889. They belong chronologically to Twain's most productive period. Do they belong in more important respects? Are they a closely related pair?