The Laughter of Monarchs (a brief quote from Mark Twain)

This doesn’t have anything to do with Geneva this time, except for the fact that in the 1530s Geneva overthrew its prince and became an independent city state and republic. Genevans henceforth retained a deep and abiding distrust of monarchs. So on the occasion of a certain royal wedding and much fawning by those of a certain democratic republic on the other side of the ocean (a republic that once launched a war of independence to rid itself of monarchy, I might add), I feel compelled to quote a passage from the letters of Mark Twain from 1889.

In 1889, Twain had completed A Connecticut Yankee and it was ready for publication when the Brazilian monarchy crumbled and collapsed. Twain took the opportunity to write the following to Sylvester Baxter, of the Boston Herald:

Dear Mr Baxter,

Another throne has gone down and I swim in oceans of satisfaction. I wish I might live fifty years longer; I believe I should really see the thrones of Europe selling at auction for old iron…. It is enough to make a graven image laugh, to see apparently rational people, away down here in this wholesome and merciless slaughter-day for shams, still mouthing empty reverence for those moss-backed frauds and scoundrelisms, hereditary kingship and so-called “nobility.” It is enough to make the monarchs and nobles themselves laugh – and in private they do; there can be no question about that. I think there is only one funnier thing, and that is the spectacle of these bastard Americans… offering cash, encumbered by themselves, for rotten caracases [sic] and stolen titles.[1]

So much for selling at auction for old iron.

1. (Mark Twain, Mark Twain’s Letters, ed. by Albert Bigelow Paine, vol. II, pp. 519-520, Harper and Brothers, New York and London, 1917).

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>