I’d love to have the resources to take a book like “Tale of Two Cities” or “Huckleberry Finn” and do a Parson’s Nose adaptation and presentation. These book are inherently dramatic and should be explored ala Nicholas Nickleby. The use of language is the best we’ll read and hear in our lifetimes.
In this passage from “Huckleberry Finn” the Duke and Dauphin have gone to sleep on the raft as Jim and Huck guide her down the Mississippi in the middle of the night. They’ve just swindled a whole town with their bogus theater performance and are pretty tickled with themselves.
Twain give us Huck’s evaluation of royalty and his acceptance that this is just the way life is and every man deserves a wide berth. Right after in the chapter he goes into his description of “nigger Jim” and how, by gosh, he cries for his family just like white folks. Twain is, I think, America’s greatest writer and, perhaps, its conscience. I want to bring him into our canon of work at PNP. Please let me know what you think about it in the comments below. Much appreciated. – ld
From Chapter 23:
“Don’t it s’prise you de way dem kings carries on, Huck?”
“No,” I says, “it don’t.”
“Why don’t it, Huck?”
“Well, it don’t, because it’s in the breed. I reckon they’re all alike,”
“But, Huck, dese kings o’ ourn is reglar ; dat’s jist what dey is; dey’s reglar rapscallions.”
“Well, that’s what I’m a-saying; all kings is mostly rapscallions, as fur as I can make out.”
“Is dat so?”
“You read about them once—you’ll see. Look at Henry the Eight; this ‘n ‘s a Sunday-school to HIM. And look at Charles Second, and Louis Fourteen, and Louis Fifteen, and James Second, and Edward Second, and Richard Third, and forty more; besides all them Saxon heptarchies that used to rip around so in old times and raise Cain. My, you ought to seen old Henry the Eight when he was in bloom. He WAS a blossom. He used to marry a new wife every day, and chop off her head next . And he would do it just as indifferent as if he was ordering up eggs. ‘Fetch up Nell Gwynn,’ he says. They fetch her up. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head!’ And they chop it off. ‘Fetch up Jane Shore,’ he says; and up she comes, Next morning, ‘Chop off her head’—and they chop it off. ‘Ring up Fair Rosamun.’ Fair Rosamun answers the bell. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head.’ And he made every one of them tell him a tale every night; and he kept that up till he had hogged a thousand and one tales that way, and then he put them all in a book, and called it Domesday Book—which was a good name and stated the case.
You don’t know kings, Jim, but I know them; and this old rip of ourn is one of the cleanest I’ve struck in history. Well, Henry he takes a notion he wants to get up some trouble with this country. How does he go at it—give notice?—give the country a show? No. All of a sudden he heaves all the tea in Boston Harbor overboard, and whacks out a declaration of independence, and dares them to come on. That was HIS style—he never give anybody a chance. He had suspicions of his father, the Duke of Wellington. Well, what did he do? Ask him to show up? No—drownded him in a butt of mamsey, like a cat.
S’pose people left money laying around where he was—what did he do? He collared it. S’pose he contracted to do a thing, and you paid him, and didn’t set down there and see that he done it—what did he do? He always done the other thing. S’pose he opened his mouth—what then? If he didn’t shut it up powerful quick he’d lose a lie every time. That’s the kind of a bug Henry was; and if we’d a had him along ‘stead of our kings he’d a fooled that town a heap worse than ourn done.
I don’t say that ourn is lambs, because they ain’t, when you come right down to the cold facts; but they ain’t nothing to THAT old ram, anyway. All I say is, kings is kings, and you got to make allowances. Take them all around, they’re a mighty ornery lot. It’s the way they’re raised.”
“But dis one do SMELL so like de nation, Huck.”
“Well, they all do, Jim. We can’t help the way a king smells; history don’t tell no way.”
“Now de duke, he’s a tolerble likely man in some ways.”
“Yes, a duke’s different. But not very different. This one’s a middling hard lot for a duke. When he’s drunk there ain’t no near-sighted man could tell him from a king.”
“Well, anyways, I doan’ hanker for no mo’ un um, Huck. Dese is all I kin stan’.”
“It’s the way I feel, too, Jim. But we’ve got them on our hands, and we got to remember what they are, and make allowances. Sometimes I wish we could hear of a country that’s out of kings.”
What was the use to tell Jim these warn’t real kings and dukes? It wouldn’t a done no good; and, , it was just as I said: you couldn’t tell them from the real kind.