The Prince and the Pauper

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The world is made wrong; kings should go to school to their own laws, at times, and so learn mercy.

The Prince and the Pauper is a novel by American author Mark Twain. It was first published in 1881 in Canada, before its 1882 publication in the United States. The novel represents Twain's first attempt at historical fiction. Set in 1547, it tells the story of two young boys who are identical in appearance: Tom Canty, a pauper who lives with his abusive father in Offal Court off Pudding Lane in London, and Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII.

Quotes[edit]

"If that I could but clothe me in raiment like to thine, and strip my feet, and revel in the mud once, just once, with none to rebuke me or forbid, meseemeth I could forego the crown!"
"Rise, Sir Miles Hendon, Knight."
...but the Majesty of England slept on, undisturbed, and the calf did the same, it being a simple creature, and not easily troubled by storms or embarrassed by sleeping with a king.
"Let the child go," said he; "ye heartless dogs, do ye not see how young and frail he is? Let him go—I will take his lashes."
"O my child, my darling!"
"Where lieth the Great Seal?"
  • If that I could but clothe me in raiment like to thine, and strip my feet, and revel in the mud once, just once, with none to rebuke me or forbid, meseemeth I could forego the crown!
    • Prince Edward; Ch. 3: 'Tom's meeting with the Prince.'
  • A few minutes later the little Prince of Wales was garlanded with Tom's fluttering odds and ends, and the little Prince of Pauperdom was tricked out in the gaudy plumage of royalty. The two went and stood side by side before a great mirror, and lo, a miracle: there did not seem to have been any change made!
    • Ch. 3.
  • I pray thee of thy grace believe me, I did but speak the truth, most dread lord; for I am the meanest among thy subjects, being a pauper born, and 'tis by a sore mischance and accident I am here, albeit I was therein nothing blameful. I am but young to die, and thou canst save me with one little word. Oh speak it, sir!
    • Tom Canty to his «father» King Henry VIII; Ch. 5: 'Tom as a patrician.'
  • "My father!" cried Tom, off his guard for the moment. "I trow he cannot speak his own so that any but the swine that kennel in the styes may tell his meaning; and as for learning of any sort soever—"
    He looked up and encountered a solemn warning in my Lord St. John's eyes.
    He stopped, blushed, then continued low and sadly: "Ah, my malady persecuteth me again, and my mind wandereth. I meant the King's grace no irreverence."
    • Ch. 6: 'Tom receives instructions.'
  • "Offend me not with thy sordid matters. I tell thee again I am the King's son."
    A sounding blow upon the Prince's shoulder from Canty's broad palm sent him staggering into goodwife Canty's arms, who clasped him to her breast, and sheltered him from a pelting rain of cuffs and slaps by interposing her own person. The frightened girls retreated to their corner; but the grandmother stepped eagerly forward to assist her son. The Prince sprang away from Mrs. Canty, exclaiming—
    "Thou shalt not suffer for me, madam. Let these swine do their will upon me alone."
    This speech infuriated the swine to such a degree that they set about their work without waste of time. Between them they belaboured the boy right soundly, and then gave the girls and their mother a beating for showing sympathy for the victim.
    "Now," said Canty, "to bed, all of ye. The entertainment has tired me."
    • Ch. 10: 'The Prince in the toils.'
  • The little King dragged himself to the bed and lay down upon it, almost exhausted with hunger and fatigue... He murmured drowsily—
    "Prithee call me when the table is spread," and sank into a deep sleep immediately.
    A smile twinkled in Hendon's eye, and he said to himself—
    "By the mass, the little beggar takes to one's quarters and usurps one's bed with as natural and easy a grace as if he owned them..."
    • Ch. 12: 'The Prince and his deliverer.'
  • "Rise, Sir Miles Hendon, Knight," said the King, gravely—giving the accolade with Hendon's sword—"rise, and seat thyself. Thy petition is granted. Whilst England remains, and the crown continues, the privilege shall not lapse."
    • Ch. 12: 'The Prince and his deliverer.'
  • I beseech your good lordship that order be taken to change this law—oh, let no more poor creatures be visited with its tortures.
    • Tom; Ch. 15: 'Tom as King.'
  • "Mates, he is my son, a dreamer, a fool, and stark mad—mind him not—he thinketh he is the King."
    "I am the King," said Edward, turning toward him, "as thou shalt know to thy cost, in good time. Thou hast confessed a murder—thou shalt swing for it."
    "Thou'lt betray me?—thou? An' I get my hands upon thee—"
    "Tut-tut!" said the burley Ruffler, interposing in time to save the King, and emphasising this service by knocking Hobbs down with his fist, "hast respect for neither Kings nor Rufflers? An' thou insult my presence so again, I'll hang thee up myself." Then he said to his Majesty, "Thou must make no threats against thy mates, lad; and thou must guard thy tongue from saying evil of them elsewhere. Be King, if it please thy mad humour, but be not harmful in it. Sink the title thou hast uttered—'tis treason; we be bad men in some few trifling ways, but none among us is so base as to be traitor to his King; we be loving and loyal hearts, in that regard. Note if I speak truth. Now—all together: 'Long live Edward, King of England!'"
    "LONG LIVE EDWARD, KING OF ENGLAND!"
    The response came with such a thundergust from the motley crew that the crazy building vibrated to the sound. The little King's face lighted with pleasure for an instant, and he slightly inclined his head, and said with grave simplicity—
    "I thank you, my good people."
    This unexpected result threw the company into convulsions of merriment.
    • Ch. 17: 'Foo-foo the First.'
  • The distant dogs howled, the melancholy kine complained, and the winds went on raging, whilst furious sheets of rain drove along the roof; but the Majesty of England slept on, undisturbed, and the calf did the same, it being a simple creature, and not easily troubled by storms or embarrassed by sleeping with a king.
    • Ch. 18: 'The Prince with the tramps.'
  • At long intervals he drew his thumb along the edge of his knife, and nodded his head with satisfaction. "It grows sharper," he said; "yes, it grows sharper. [...] It was his father that did it all. I am but an archangel; but for him I should be pope!"
    • Ch. 20: 'The Prince and the hermit.'
  • Unhand me, thou foolish creature; it was not I that bereaved thee of thy paltry goods.
    • Edward; Ch. 22: 'A victim of treachery.'
  • Miles Hendon forgot all decorum in his delight; and surprised the King and wounded his dignity, by throwing his arms around him and hugging him. [...] The justice wrote a while longer, then read the King a wise and kindly lecture, and sentenced him to a short imprisonment in the common jail, to be followed by a public flogging. The astounded King opened his mouth, and was probably going to order the good judge to be beheaded on the spot; but he caught a warning sign from Hendon, and succeeded in closing his mouth again before he lost anything out of it.
    • Ch. 23: 'The Prince a prisoner.'
  • None believe in me—neither wilt thou. But no matter—within the compass of a month thou shalt be free; and more, the laws that have dishonoured thee, and shamed the English name, shall be swept from the statute books. The world is made wrong; kings should go to school to their own laws, at times, and so learn mercy.
    • Edward; Ch. 27: 'In prison.'
  • "Let the child go," said he; "ye heartless dogs, do ye not see how young and frail he is? Let him go—I will take his lashes."
    • Miles Hendon takes the lashes meant for Edward; Ch. 28: 'The sacrifice.'
  • The mock King's cheeks were flushed with excitement, his eyes were flashing, his senses swam in a delirium of pleasure. At this point, just as he was raising his hand to fling another rich largess, he caught sight of a pale, astounded face, which was strained forward out of the second rank of the crowd, its intense eyes riveted upon him. A sickening consternation struck through him; he recognised his mother! and up flew his hand, palm outward, before his eyes—that old involuntary gesture, born of a forgotten episode, and perpetuated by habit. In an instant more she had torn her way out of the press, and past the guards, and was at his side. She embraced his leg, she covered it with kisses, she cried, "O my child, my darling!" lifting toward him a face that was transfigured with joy and love. The same instant an officer of the King's Guard snatched her away with a curse, and sent her reeling back whence she came with a vigorous impulse from his strong arm. The words "I do not know you, woman!" were falling from Tom Canty's lips when this piteous thing occurred; but it smote him to the heart to see her treated so; and as she turned for a last glimpse of him, whilst the crowd was swallowing her from his sight, she seemed so wounded, so broken-hearted, that a shame fell upon him which consumed his pride to ashes, and withered his stolen royalty. His grandeurs were stricken valueless: they seemed to fall away from him like rotten rags.
    • Ch. 31: 'The Recognition procession.'
  • At last the final act was at hand. The Archbishop of Canterbury lifted up the crown of England from its cushion and held it out over the trembling mock-King's head. In the same instant a rainbow-radiance flashed along the spacious transept; for with one impulse every individual in the great concourse of nobles lifted a coronet and poised it over his or her head—and paused in that attitude.
    A deep hush pervaded the Abbey. At this impressive moment, a startling apparition intruded upon the scene—an apparition observed by none in the absorbed multitude, until it suddenly appeared, moving up the great central aisle. It was a boy, bareheaded, ill shod, and clothed in coarse plebeian garments that were falling to rags. He raised his hand with a solemnity which ill comported with his soiled and sorry aspect, and delivered this note of warning—
    "I forbid you to set the crown of England upon that forfeited head. I am the King!"
    • Ch. 32: 'Coronation Day.'
  • "Sir Thomas, arrest this—No, hold!" His face lighted, and he confronted the ragged candidate with this question—
    "Where lieth the Great Seal? Answer me this truly, and the riddle is unriddled; for only he that was Prince of Wales can so answer! On so trivial a thing hang a throne and a dynasty!"
    • The Lord Protector; Ch. 32.
  • What dost thou know of suffering and oppression? I and my people know, but not thou.
    • King Edward VI; Conclusion: 'Justice and Retribution.'

About[edit]

The tale is full of romantic surprises, and besides being rich in historical facts and teachings, is charged with a generous and ennobling moral.
~ Harper's Magazine
  • Ingenious in conception, pure and humane in purpose, artistic in method, and, with barely a flaw, refined in execution.
    • H. H. Boyesen, unsigned review, Atlantic, 48 (December 1881), 843–5, in Mark Twain: The Contemporary Reviews (1999), edited by Louis J. Budd, p. 201
  • All that is really vital in the wild humor of Mark Twain is here, but it is strengthened and refined.
    • Joel Chandler Harris, "Books and Book Men", Atlanta Constitution (25 December 1881), p. 11, in Mark Twain: The Contemporary Reviews (1999), edited by Louis J. Budd, p. 204
  • Mark Twain has finally fulfilled the earnest hope of many of his best friends, in writing a book which has other and higher merits than can possibly belong to the most artistic expression of mere humor.
    • Edwin Pond Parker, "The Prince and the Pauper", Hartford Courant (28 December 1881), p. 2, in Mark Twain: The Contemporary Reviews (1999), edited by Louis J. Budd, p. 205
  • The tale is full of romantic surprises, and besides being rich in historical facts and teachings, is charged with a generous and ennobling moral.
    • "Editor's Literary Record", Harper's Monthly, 64 (March 1882), 634–5, in Mark Twain: The Contemporary Reviews (1999), edited by Louis J. Budd, p. 214

External links[edit]