Twain is considered to be one of the most significant novelists in American history, but A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is generally thought of as an unstable effort. In his lifetime, Twain was greatly admired and immensely popular as a humorist, and he was widely read in newspapers. This popularity dwindled in his later years, from about the turn of the century until his death in 1910, when his writing became increasingly dark and his vision of humanity bleak. After his death, Twain received the attention that had been waning in his later years. Typical of this attention was the great journalist H. L. Mencken’s observation (quoted in A Mencken Chrestomathy) in 1919: “The older I grow the more I am convinced that Mark was, by long odds, the largest figure that ever reared itself out of the flat, damp prairie of American literature.” Perhaps the greatest single boost to Twain’s reputation came when Ernest Hemingway, himself a deeply respected novelist and an eventual Nobel Prize winner, is said to have declared Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be the source of all modern American fiction.
One of the things that has always maintained the reputation of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is its appeal to many different political perspectives, even gathering together those who do not agree with one another. Some, particularly those of Twain’s own time, have seen the book as a...
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