Prince and the Pauper

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Novel by Clemens, published in 1882 under his pseudonym Mark Twain. Designed to be a children's book, it shows an essentially adult point of view in its attack on the social evils of Tudor England.

Prince Edward (later Edward VI) discovers Tom Canty, a pauper boy, to be his exact twin in appearance. When they exchange clothes, the prince is by error driven from the court, and the pauper is forced to act the part of royalty. Edward finds Tom's family, is mistreated, and runs away with Sir Miles Hendon, a disinherited knight, who takes pity on him, thinking his assertions of royal birth a sign of madness. In their wanderings, the prince sees the cruelty of church and court toward the poor, and learns the sufferings of his people through such dramatic incidents as the burning of two women whose only crime is that of being Baptists. Tom meanwhile is also thought unbalanced because of his peculiar behavior; becoming accustomed to his situation, however, he attempts to act the part of the real prince. On the morning of his coronation, Edward gets to Westminster Abbey and proves his identity by revealing the hiding place of the Great Seal, which Tom did not recognize after having taken it to crack some nuts. During his brief reign, Edward tempers the harshness of the law with a sense of justice, learned during his contact with the common people.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Mark Twain (1835—1910) American novelist and humorist