Rich with surprise and hilarious adventure, The Prince and the Pauper is a delightful satire of England’s romantic past and a joyful boyhood romp filled with the same tongue-in-cheek irony that sparks the best of Mark Twain’s tall tales. Two boys, one an urchin from London’s filthy lanes, the other a prince born in a lavish palace, unwittingly trade identities. Thus a bedraggled “Prince of Poverty” discovers that his private dreams have all come true—while a pampered Prince of Wales finds himself tossed into a rough-and-tumble world of squalid beggars and villainous thieves. Originally written as a story for children, The Prince and the Pauper is a classic novel for adults as well—through its stinging attack on the ageless human folly of attempting to measure true worth by outer appearances.
Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835, led one of the most exciting of literary lives. Raised in the river town of Hannibal, Missouri, Twain had to leave school at age 12 and was successively a journeyman printer, a steamboat pilot, a halfhearted Confederate soldier, and a prospector, miner, and reporter in the western territories. His experiences furnished him with a wide knowledge of humanity, as well as with the perfect grasp of local customs and speech which manifests itself in his writing.
With the publication in 1865 of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, Twain gained national attention as a frontier humorist, and the bestselling Innocents Abroad solidified his fame. But it wasn't until Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), that he was recognized by the literary establishment as one of the greatest writers America would ever produce.
Toward the end of his life, plagued by personal tragedy and financial failure, Twain grew more and more pessimistic—an outlook not alleviated by his natural skepticism and sarcasm. Though his fame continued to widen—Yale & Oxford awarded him honorary degrees—Twain spent his last years in gloom and exasperation, writing fables about "the damned human race."
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