A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

by Mark Twain

Paperback, 1983



Call number




Bantam Classics (1983), Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages


A blow on the head transports a Yankee to 528 A.D. where he proceeds to modernize King Arthur's kingdom by organizing a school system, constructing telephone lines, and inventing the printing press.

Media reviews

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User reviews

LibraryThing member ysar
I loved the idea of this tale. A man with full knowledge of modern marvels somehow travels back to a much less civilized time and wreaks havoc. But after the initial fascination wore off, it became a rather tedious read.
The main character suddenly finds himself in medieval times, surrounded lunacy and superstition. A well-timed eclipse is the only thing that saves him from execution, and he then begins using his knowledge of modern conveniences to claim his position as a man of magic. Initially, it's fun and interesting, but it soon becomes one "magic" display after another, while the locals act like idiots, until the whole thing blows up and he finds himself back in the modern day. I suppose it would make for a good movie, but as much as I like Twain, I have to say I am more than finished with this book… (more)
LibraryThing member fdholt
Mark Twain has used the subject of knighthood and King Arthur to write about problems of the nineteenth century. His main character, Hank Morgan, is hit on the head and wakes up in Arthur’s England. With New England ingenuity, he soon has modern conveniences like electricity, schools, telegraph, telephone, railroads, etc. Many of his adventures are hilarious, but several are graphic and heartrending. One of the best sections involves the quest to free friends of Lady Alisande la Carteloise who have been enchanted by ogres. This is the same Sandy who speaks in very long sentences, at least a page or two in length, and puts most everyone to sleep!

When I read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court as a teenager, I was caught up in the Camelot mystique and did not choose to recognize the issues that Twain was trying to preach to his audience. Slavery was still raw in this country; there was a wide gulf between the haves and have-nots; education was not free to all. The established church also did not far well in this novel. (The Boss wanted to replace the Catholic Church with a free-form system of Protestant churches.) By far, the most interesting section was the lesson on economics where the wages paid to a worker and the price of goods could make the less-well paid worker much better off. But most disturbing to me was the wanton killing – life was cheap and not really valued. The nobility killed and cared not. Even Hank kills many knights and doesn’t seem to see the parallels. But just maybe, this is one of the things that Twain wants us to notice - this and the parallels to life in the author’s day.

Reading this book may make you uncomfortable but it will make you think. It was well worth the re-reading these many years later.
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LibraryThing member OscarWilde87
The United States in the 19th century. Hartford, Connecticut. Hank Morgan receives a blow to the head and is suddenly and inexplicably transported to 6th-century England. After this time travel, Hank Morgan, still equipped with his 19th-century knowlege, starts an adventure through medieval England. Captured and brought to King Arhtur's court he is sentenced to burn at the stake. However, Hank Morgan manages to escape his fate by divining a solar eclipse, which, regarding the circumstances, is not such a big feat. Much to the chagrin of the greatest magician of England, the famous Merlin, Morgan manages to become the chief minister to King Arthur and is henceforth known and feared as 'The Boss' because of his magical capabilities. Living up to his position, Hank Morgan slowly starts to institute changes in a society that can only seem totally backward to his 19th-century eyes. His main goals throughout the novel are to diminish the power and influence of the church, to abolish the insitution of knight-errantry, to introduce the democratic republic as a new system of government, and, on a more personal level, to publicly make Merlin look like a fool whenever he can.

As much as this book can be seen as a criticism of monarchy and the strong role of the church, it can be read as a criticism of slavery in the United States. Aristocrats in 6th-century England are compared to slaveholders in America: "The repulsive feature of slavery is the thing, not its name. One needs but to hear an aristocrat speak of the classes that are below him to recognize - and in but indifferently modified measure - the very air and tone of the actual slaveholder; and behind these are the slaveholder's spirit, the slaveholder's blunted feeling. They are the result of the same cause in both cases: the possessor's old and inbred custom of regarding himself as a superior human being." (p. 190)
The original illustrations by Daniel Carter Beard underline Twain's criticism throughout the novel and contribute to its satiric tone.

Speaking of the humorous and satirical qualities of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arhtur's Court, I much enjoyed the frequent jabs Twain took at different institutions or groups of people. Those parts definitely contributed to an already great reading experience. Read what Mark Twain has to say about the German language when he compares it to 6th-century English:
"(...) I was standing in the awful presence of the Mother of the German Language. (...) If words had been water, I had been drowned, sure. She had exactly the German way: whatever was in her mind to be delivered, whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or a cyclopedia, or the history of a war, she would get it into a single sentence or die. Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth."

To my mind, Twain's exploration of the possibility of speeding up historical development makes this novel even more valuable. When 19th-century Yankee Hank Morgan tries to use his advanced knowledge of history to do away with monarchy and set up a democratical society, the question arises whether 6th-century England is ready for such a radical change. In the end, Morgan himself has to act as the driving force of revolution only to see his system fail when people fall back to their 6th-century beliefs. The church certainly plays an important role here as a separation of church and state is not yet ingrained in people's minds. Therefore, the experiment of introducing a democratic system in the 6th-century is doomed to fail. Now is it just that mankind is not ready for the change yet and has to exist a couple of centuries longer to recognize the merit of a different system? Or is it the radical and abrupt way in which Hank Morgan approaches his project? In the end, even Hank himself recognizes that with him as a leader in a democratic society nothing much would change as people would regard him as the ruling monarch and 'The Boss'.

In conclusion, Mark Twain's novel is a highly enjoyable and highly recommendable read for several reasons, of which I will name the four main ones for me. First, it is a humorous depiction of 6th-century customs, especially knight-errantry. Second, it raises some very interesting questions and makes you rethink the development of different systems of government. Third, Beard's illustrations fit perfectly to Twain's narrative and as Twain said himself "[Beard ] not only illustrates the text but he illustrates my thoughts". Fourth, the narrative of the Yankee's adventure's in King Arthur's court are highly readable and reminded me somewhat of the adventures of Miguel Cervantes' Don Quixote, which I loved. All in all, 4.5 stars.
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LibraryThing member Jerry.Yoakum
Pretty clear where "Army of Darkness" got some inspiration. Don't worry, there is next to no similarities except for conceptual similarities. This was a really good book. Enjoyable to listen to and think about. I really liked the distinction that was made between men and Men. Good points on the importance of free thought, fairness, and the idea that institutions should serve mankind instead of the other way around.… (more)
LibraryThing member MrsLee
A time travel fantasy written before that genre was terribly popular. Ah, lack a me. I wish I hadn't reread this. The suck fairy has robbed my memory of the fun of this story. I listened to the audio version, with William Dufris as the narrator. Although I didn't enjoy a couple of his characterizations, he was a fine reader, so I don't believe the suck can be attributed to him. What ruined this for me, was the bombardment of ranting. I don't remember that from my first read (I was in my early twenties then). Possibly because I skimmed it? Also, I didn't like The Boss. He was the epitome of the "Ugly American Abroad." He was judgmental, believing that he was the only one with intelligence or ideas worth having, and his way was the only right way. Did Twain do this on purpose, to illustrate the ugly American? If so, he did a masterful job, but I won't ever need to read this again.
For positive notes, oh, no, I can't think of any. Even the humor didn't amuse me this time. Ah well.
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LibraryThing member feelinglistless
With just a vague memory of the film adaptation starring Bing Crosby, some notion of the influences it has had on Doctor Who, and the cover illustration as a guide, I approached A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court expecting a typically structured but entertaining story of a man out of time and although Twain/Clemens’s tale begins in that mode, it quickly tips over into a far darker meandering satire on Western imperialism and industrialisation. The protagonist Hank Martin is a loathsome figure and even though the story’s told from his POV, I slowly became more and more protective of the Arthurian characters who barely seem to deserve the treatment the Yankee gives them. But that’s Twain/Clemens’s point I think; how the modern versions of us, apparently so sophisticated, are desperate to sap the magic from the world, be it in nature or man itself. A difficult read but a transportative one. This is psychogeographical literature.… (more)
LibraryThing member cbl_tn
When a “modern” 19th-century New Englander gets hit on the head and finds himself in King Arthur's England, it's obvious that there will be a clash of cultures. Hank Morgan doesn't think much of the average medieval person (or even the above average ones). From his “advantage” as a beneficiary of industrial age inventions, he sees the people of Camelot as simple-minded and superstitious. He does find one person with promise, a young man he calls Clarence. With Clarence's help, Hank surreptitiously embarks on an improvement plan to introduce the wonders of 19th-century technology into Arthurian Britain.

Even though 19-century technology is no longer what anyone would consider modern, it's fun to see the anachronistic blending of distinct historical eras, such as knights wearing sandwich board ads or competing against each other in baseball. Twain lived at the right time to tell this story. He couldn't have written the same book today. It's just believable that a 19th century man could train enough laborers to replicate 19th century technology as long as the raw materials were available. It would be much harder for a single 21st century man (or woman) to train medieval laborers to build a computer, a cell phone, a television, or an airplane, and connect them all with the Internet.

I thought I had read this book years ago, but only the first few chapters seemed familiar to me. Maybe I started the book but didn't finish it. I listened to an unabridged audio version this time. It took a while for me to warm up to the narrator. Or maybe it took him a while to become fully invested in the story. I also discovered that some parts of the book don't work well in audio format. Twain uses archaic language and speech patterns when the medieval characters tell stories. These parts of the book are difficult to follow in audio format. I would encourage most readers to start with the book and save the audio version for a re-read.
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LibraryThing member InfoTechHS
I loved this book. It was short and funny.
LibraryThing member bragan
Mark Twain's classic tale of a 19th-century go-getter who gets hit on the head, wakes up in the kingdom of Camelot, and proceeds to gleefully set about introducing his own era's technology and ideas about civilization to the Dark Ages (soon to be briefly lit by electricity).

This isn't the first time I'd read this novel, but my last encounter was nearly a quarter-century ago, and apparently I hadn't remembered it nearly as well as I'd thought. I'd recalled it, somewhat fondly, as a comic romp, a humorous satire of both Arthurian romance and the social attitudes of the Gilded Age, as well as the predecessor of a zillion less interesting science fiction stories in which improbably ingenious time travelers manage to rebuild their own technologically advanced civilizations centuries early, from scratch.

Well, it is all of those things. But what I'd completely forgotten is that it's also a scathing diatribe against monarchy, slavery, state-established religion, and the oppression of the poor, complete with lots of disturbing and depressing scenes calculated to bring the importance of these subjects home. Twain being Twain, it's very well done, but it does perhaps get to be a bit much. It certainly wasn't an ideal thing to read at a time when I was busy and easily distracted.

Rating: Despite it not being quite the right book at the right time for me, I figure it still probably deserves 4/5. Because, come on, Twain.
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LibraryThing member hbergander
King Arthur and Sir Lancelot riding bicycles have impressed me deeply when I was a little boy. Whereupon I decided to add to the art of my writing the art of bike riding and to name myself Sir Tarquin.
LibraryThing member Sandydog1
Funny and clever, until the end at least. Why all that killing?
LibraryThing member andyray
Twain's version of Gulliver's Travels, with wonderful satire on the nature of the modern world thrown in.
LibraryThing member FredB
Mark Twain's classic tale of culture clash. The narrator was great.
LibraryThing member benfulton
None of the other reviews have mentioned it, but I thought you needed a pretty strong stomach and a lack of empathy to get through all the tortures, deaths, and casual confinement of prisoners for decades. I read this book when I was about 14, and recently wanted to reread to see if my son would like it, but I think I must have read an abridged version. Way too sad for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member skylightbooks
This book is so many things. It's laugh-out-loud funny, full of lush, rich writing, an exciting page-turning story, a social critique and a political manifesto. It's just like how Orwell's Animal Farm isn't about animals, this book too is so much much more. -Courtney
LibraryThing member stsmith
The Connecticut Yankee in king Arthur's court is a story about a man from the 50’s who some how travels through time into the era of king Arthur’s court. When he first gets there he finds Camelot. Unlike you would hear in the story books Camelot is run down and old. Poor people everywhere. Even naked kids playing in the mud. He meets a boy named Clarence who helps him get out of trouble and into the court of king Arthur. The Yankee impresses the king and makes him very high up in society in Camelot.

The goal of the Yankee is to develop Camelot into a wonderful village. With school and everyday stuff we have now. Another important you need to know is Merlin. Now in story books Merlin is the good guy advisor. In this story he is kind of the bad guy. He doesn't want to loose his position to the Yankee. So Merlin dose everything in his power to stop him. but fails every time.

The Yankee goes to many different locations like a dark castle controlled by a evil queen. Or a sacred well up upon the hills. The Yankee experiences extreme peril and bright ideas. He faces of a Calvary of knight out to get him. As he gains more popular in Camelot the more the dangers arise. But its all in a days work for the Yankee.

Over all its a great adventures story of a man to change the world. using his smarts to achieve great victory. putting his worries aside to help others. and make Camelot a batter place.
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LibraryThing member sgerbic
A delightful humorous account of time travel by Mark Twain. Reading a work from the 1880's by an author writing in the "style" of England in the 6th Century was at times difficult to understand. Twain's humor shielded in serious dialog made it even more difficult. But nonetheless I did enjoy reading Twain's views on slavery, economy, health, chivalry, and religion from eyes that had just seen the bloody American Civil War. The accounts of his character hank's interactions of slavery were heart wrenching as well as the stories of poverty, illness and injustice. Twain's goal in this work was to ridicule chivalry, some say because of Southern attitudes towards chivalry during the war.

I expected many great quotes, but only this one stood out, "My acquaintance smiled - not a modern smile, but one that must have gone out of general use many, many centuries ago." (p, 16) And one more, Hank has just met Clarance who informs hank he is a page, "Go 'long, I said; "you ain't more than a paragraph." (p.28)

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LibraryThing member jesseh2121
Slow read. I got pretty bored with it and the old english became tiring after awhile trying to constantly figure out what they were saying.
LibraryThing member Harmless_Dilettante
If you've only seen the Danny Kay adaptation, then don't judge this book by its movie. The novel is darker and deeper, with an outcome as inevitable as it is unlikely. Twain's witty take on the now classic, even cliched, time traveller tale is American Science Fiction at its best.
LibraryThing member tikitu-reviews
Funny, but the satire is pretty heavyhanded a lot of the time, and overwhelms the plain storytelling too much for me, especially in the last third or so.
LibraryThing member corinneblackmer
Like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Connecticut Yankee uses the literary and historical past to satirize the idealization of the medieval period and the fictions of Sir Walter Scott, which Twain held responsible for the willingness of the South to enter the failed cause of the Civil War. Hank Morgan works in an arms factory in modern day Hartford, Connecticut, but a blow to the head sends him back into the world of Camelot and King Arthur. Rather than idyllic, the world into which Hank enters reeks of superstition, cruelty, poverty, misery, and moral chaos, including slavery. The drama unfolds as the skill of Hank in manipulating physical reality transforms him into a demi-god, which in turns sparks his desire to eliminate, through all means necessary, the superstitious world that confronts him. This takes the form of a total war that before its time anticipates the carnage of WWI and the outcome of the clash between psychological ignorance and belief and modern scientific and technological "wizardry." Although the tone is occasionally clumsy, and although the book cannot hold a candle to masterpieces by Twain such as Huckleberry Finn or The Mysterious Stranger, Connecticut Yankee contains one passage, about the nastiness of attempting to live inside armor that is so hilarious it brings tears to the eyes.… (more)
LibraryThing member otterley
I love Arthurian stories (from Malory to TH White) and time travelling. But this book really didn't work for me. I found the switches from chunks of Malory to Yankee slang disconcerting (and neither easy to read). If 6th century Britain, with its feudal rules, is unpalatable - then so is the capitalist, utilitarian, materialistic 19th century outlook that Hank brings to Camelot. Both wreak havoc and destruction - but I'd rather have the world with some imagination and fantasy, rather than 'olde England' with its green landscapes taken over by match factories and tabloid journalis,m.… (more)
LibraryThing member mojacobs
I picked up this book in a second hand shop, because I was curious what Twain would have made of this nice idea: a technically well educated 19th century man in the court of Arthur. I did not expect too much, and I was right to: the story is secondary to the political messages in this book, and the story is not very interesting. I read a lot of it diagonally - the book is very slow in places. A bit disappointing, and I wonder if this will stay a "classic" - I think it might quietly disappear in the mists of time.”… (more)
LibraryThing member john257hopper
Overall I found this disappointing. It had a few good bits in it, where the author/narrator rails against oppression and injustice and a few moving and horrifying scenes depicting said oppression and injustice. However, these were surrounded by oceans of silliness in which the author is preoccupied with reproducing the details, both good and bad, of 19th century American society into 6th century England (of course, it is not really 6th century England, as it is the Thomas Malory depiction of King Arthur in the style of high Medieval chivalry). Despite his self-proclaimed lofty ideals and opposition to the violence of the era, the narrator uses violence himself and casually causes the deaths of 25,000 knights in the final battle. This may be authorial comment on 19th century white American treatment of the native American and Black populations, but I rather doubt it - it all seems too trivial to be satirical.… (more)
LibraryThing member cyderry
Mark Twain was considered a humorist during his lifetime and this book definitely shows his talent in that area. As the reader progresses through the adventure of Hank also known as "The Boss" we see items from the "future" being incorporated into the 6th century environment - knight's armor used as advertising billboards, newspaper (when most residents couldn't read), schools and factories.

Slavery was a blatant issue throughout with both the Boss and Arthur ending the Slave market at one time. But the amusing details that Twain adds - Child's Name being HelloCentral, cycling knights instead of riding horses, pipe smoking seeming to be a dragon - all has the reader laughing and smiling throughout.

I'm usually not a big fan of Classics, but this one was fun!
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Original publication date


Physical description

336 p.; 6.7 inches


0553211439 / 9780553211436

Local notes

Bantam Classic

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