American Claimant

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Story by S. L. Clemens, written under his pseudonym Mark Twain and published in 1892. It is based on the play Colonel Sellers, written by Clemens with Howells (1883) and produced unsuccessfully (1886). The character of Sellers first appeared in The Gilded Age.

Viscount Berkeley is an earnest young man who desires a just trial of the rights of American claimants to his father's earldom, and he goes to America to investigate the matter, as well as to see the democratic institutions he admires. The current claimant is Colonel Mulberry Sellers, in his old age still “the same old scheming, generous, good-hearted … failure he always was,” and still on the trail of easy wealth. By a number of complicated coincidences, Berkeley, believed to have died in a hotel fire, disguises himself to seek work and test the institutions of Western democracy. Although disappointed in both quests until he is employed as a painter of chromos, he discovers Sellers, with whose beautiful and sensible daughter Sally he falls in love. Berkeley summons his father, who comes to America, is won over by Sally, and consents to a marriage. The families plan to return to England together, but as the ship is about to leave the colonel is missed. He has gone off on a scheme to control the sunspots, leaving a message that asks the others to watch for a vast sunspot which will mean: “Mulberry Sellers throws us a kiss across the universe.”

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Mark Twain (1835—1910) American novelist and humorist

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