Essay: Mark Twain, the Prince

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[. . .] And then, sheerest fishnet stockings did envelop my legs, with the regular reticulation of their pattern like a veil of lace that did vanish under my skirt of steak.

When I beheld myself in the looking-glass, I thought how fine I seemed in the attire of an aristocrat like Lady Gaga -- although I remarked keenly, as I did examine myself, that even in such a remarkable costume, I still could not yet read my own poker-face.


Somewhat after one in the afternoon, Edward watched with mirth as Tom glumly underwent the ordeal ?of being dressed for dinner[footnoteRef:0]. With clothes the prince lent to him, Tom found himself as finely clothed as ?before, but everything different, everything changed, from his ruff to ?his stockings. [0: Adapted from Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2004. Chapter 9. ]

As Edward and Tom made their procession to the spacious and ornate apartment, where the prince had bid the table be set for two, Tom whispered quietly to him that he had no idea how to deal with all the footmen and grooms and valets-de-chambre who attended upon them at every moment.

"It is just court etiquette," remarked Edward blithely. "I will help you."

The seated themselves upon the gilded furniture, surrounded by courtiers and footmen. Tom was so hungry he started to reach for a warm bread-roll, but Edward grabbed his hand for the chaplain was about to say grace. Then the Royal Diaperer approached with napkins for the prince, attaching it to his neck. As he presented one to Tom, Tom looked confused. "It's a napkin," said the prince. "You wipe your hands on it."

"But it's made of silk!" said Tom.

"I can afford it," said the prince.

Tom then reached heartily and dipped his bread roll into the gravy. "Don't eat with your hands," said the prince. Tom was about to duck his face into the trencher of food to avoid eating with his hands, when the prince indicated that the shiny object to either side were utensils, intended to be used to pick up food. Edward demonstrated: "it's like mechanical fingers to eat with!" cried Tom with delight.


March 21. Told Tom Canty the story of Jack the Giant Killer. Tom Canty was disdainful that Jack lived on a farm. When I told him how Jack killed the giant, Tom asked if Jack then became king of the giants. I said that I did not know: Tom told me the story would be better if it involved royalty. Said a dozen paternosters and went to bed.

April 1. Tom Canty asked to borrow a book about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. He asked if it was true that Arthur was the once and future king, and I said this was how the legend went. Tom therefore asked if, in future, he might possibly meet King Arthur. I laughed and gave him some sweetmeats and a few more books. I spent the evening reading the Gospels in the Vulgate.

April 15. I was leaving the vestry this morning when a voice hailed me: "Good sir, I bid to thee felicitations and salutations of the morning!" I thought it was a noblewoman but it turned out the treble voice belonged to Tom Canty. I asked him what he meant by saying that, and he asked me: "Does it not mean good-morning?" When I explained to him that yes it did, although none but a courtier in French silk hose would speak thus, he merely remarked "Good." I hope the boy does not put on too many airs and graces.

April 30. After lighting a candle to commemorate the feast of Saint Walpurga, I heard a voice outside shouting: "And so, we few, we merry band of brothers, will take up arms for chivalry on Saint Swithin's Day." I thought I must be going mad, but when I went outside I found Tom Canty, garbed in rags which he had knotted and braided to make the best courtier's ruff and cloak that he could muster. When I asked what he was doing, he said he was playing at being the Prince of Wales. I said a quick… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Mark Twain, the Prince."  February 25, 2011.  Accessed August 26, 2019.