Pudd'nhead Wilson

Mark Twain
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Full Text Conclusion


It is often the case that the man who can't tell a lie thinks he is the best judge of one.—Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar.

October 12, the Discovery. It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it.—Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar.

The town sat up all night to discuss the amazing events of the day and swap guesses as to when Tom's trial would begin. Troop after troop of citizens came to serenade Wilson, and require a speech, and shout themselves hoarse over every sentence that fell from his lips—for all his sentences were golden, now, all were marvelous. His long fight against hard luck and prejudice was ended; he was a made man for good.

And as each of these roaring gangs of enthusiasts marched away, some remorseful 301 member of it was quite sure to raise his voice and say—

"And this is the man the likes of us have called a pudd'nhead for more than twenty years. He has resigned from that position, friends."

"Yes, but it isn't vacant—we're elected."

The twins were heroes of romance, now, and with rehabilitated reputations. But they were weary of Western adventure, and straightway retired to Europe.

Roxy's heart was broken. The young fellow upon whom she had inflicted twenty-three years of slavery continued the false heir's pension of thirty-five dollars a month to her, but her hurts were too deep for money to heal; the spirit in her eye was quenched, her martial bearing departed with it, and the voice of her laughter ceased in the land. In her church and its affairs she found her only solace.

The real heir suddenly found himself rich and free, but in a most embarrassing situation. He could neither read nor write, and 302 his speech was the basest dialect of the negro quarter. His gait, his attitudes, his gestures, his bearing, his laugh—all were vulgar and uncouth; his manners were the manners of a slave. Money and fine clothes could not mend these defects or cover them up; they only made them the more glaring and the more pathetic. The poor fellow could not endure the terrors of the white man's parlor, and felt at home and at peace nowhere but in the kitchen. The family pew was a misery to him, yet he could nevermore enter into the solacing refuge of the "nigger gallery"—that was closed to him for good and all. But we cannot follow his curious fate further—that would be a long story.

The false heir made a full confession and was sentenced to imprisonment for life. But now a complication came up. The Percy Driscoll estate was in such a crippled shape when its owner died that it could pay only sixty per cent. of its great indebtedness, and was settled at that rate. But the creditors came forward, now, and complained that inasmuch as through an error for which they were 303 in no way to blame the false heir was not inventoried at the time with the rest of the property, great wrong and loss had thereby been inflicted upon them. They rightly claimed that "Tom" was lawfully their property and had been so for eight years; that they had already lost sufficiently in being deprived of his services during that long period, and ought not to be required to add anything to that loss; that if he had been delivered up to them in the first place, they would have sold him and he could not have murdered Judge Driscoll; therefore it was not he that had really committed the murder, the guilt lay with the erroneous inventory. Everybody saw that there was reason in this. Everybody granted that if "Tom" were white and free it would be unquestionably right to punish him—it would be no loss to anybody; but to shut up a valuable slave for life—that was quite another matter.

As soon as the Governor understood the case, he pardoned Tom at once, and the creditors sold him down the river.

Transcriber's Notes


1. background.

Welcome to Project Gutenberg's presentation of Pudd'nhead Wilson. The Italian twins in this novel, Luigi and Angelo, were inspired by a real pair of Italian conjoined twins who toured America in the 1890s. These were Giacomo and Giovanni Battista Tocci.

Homer Plessy was arrested for sitting in a whites-only passenger car on June 7, 1892, and one month later he stood before Judge John Howard Ferguson to plead his case. Plessy was an octaroon who could easily "pass white." Four years later, the Supreme Court condoned "Separate but Equal" laws in the famous Plessy vs. Ferguson case, which affirmed the decision of Justice Ferguson in local court. These events in 1892 unfolded as Twain wrote this story, and changed the tale that he ended up telling.

Arthur Conan Doyle released his best-selling collection of short stories, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, on October 14, 1892. The stories had already appeared in The Strand Magazine, one each month, from July 1891 to June 1892. Holmes inspired Twain to add a component of forensics to this story.

2. dialect.

The soliloquies and conversations in the novel follow some general rules. Twain introduced some variations in the spelling of dialect, and sometimes the sound of dialect, but the end meaning seems to be the same thing. Below is a table of some of these words, and alternatives found in the text:

Dialect used in
Pudd'nhead Wilson

The above table was presented as a foundation which played into the decision to make some emendations, below, that were not authorized by Twain in 1899. One curious notation is that there was sometimes pronounced dere, but also dah. Along the same lines, they most often became dey, but in one case, deh.

3. this version.

Our version is based on the 1894 publication of this novel in Hartford. This was Twain's original American release of the novel in book form. A scanned copy of this book is available through Hathitrust. The book contained some spaces in contractions: I 'll, dat 'll, had n't, could n't, dis 'll, 't ain't / t ain't, and dey 'll are some examples. These spaces were not retained in our transcription, and are not identified. We did make a few other emendations. These emendations were checked with the 1899 version of Pudd'nhead Wilson published by Harper & Brothers.

4. notes on emendations.

The errors on Page 233 and Page 288, were not changed in the 1899 book, so the case for making those changes may be found in the Detailed Notes section. The remaining errors were corrected in the 1899 publication, presumably authorized by Twain, who essentially made the case for those emendations.

In the HTML version of this e-book, you can place your cursor over the faint silver dotted lines below the changed text to discover the original text. The Detailed Notes section of these notes describe these emendations.

5. other versions.

Please note that many print versions of Pudd'nhead Wilson include the phrase 'spelling and usage have been brought into conformity with modern usage,' and editors have been liberal with their renditions of Twain's story.

6. detailed notes.

The Detailed Notes Section also includes issues that have come up during transcription. One common issue is that words are sometimes split into two lines for spacing purposes in the original text. These words are hyphenated in the physical book, but there is a question sometimes as to whether the hyphen should be retained in transcription. The reasons behind some of these decisions are itemized.

Production Notes Section:

1. chapter titles.

The Chapter Titles, such as Doom in Chapter XXI., were not part of Twain's book. They remain from another version of this book. The chapter titles are used in PG's Mark Twain index, so we have retained them.

2. the author's note.

The Author's Note to Those Extraordinary Twins is actually the author's introduction to the novella, Those Extraordinary Twins. Twain originally produced this book with two parts: Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins.

Project Gutenberg offers both stories, so we present the Author's Note as the Introduction to Those Extraordinary Twins, as Twain intended. If you want to read the Author's Note, please visit the Introduction of our production of the novella, Those Extraordinary Twins .

Detailed Notes Section:

chapter 1.

On Page 19, barber-shop was hyphenated between two lines for spacing. The 1899 Harper & Brothers version used "barber shop" in this spot. Even though barber-shop cannot be transcribed as such, the assumption is that the 1894 version put in the hyphen by mistake. We transcribed the word barber shop.

chapter 2.

On Page 34, changed ca'se to 'ca'se, used as dialect for because, in the clause: "but dat's ca'se it's mine." The author used 'ca'se eighteen other times as dialect for because, and did not use ca'se again.

chapter 3.

On Page 43, insert missing period after tomb.

chapter 6.

On Page 81, add a comma after door: "The twins took a position near the door the widow stood at Luigi's side, Rowena stood beside Angelo,..."

chapter 7.

On Page 88, add a period after fault in the sentence: The Judge laid himself out hospitably to make them have a good time, and if there was a defect anywhere it was not his fault.

chapter 9.

On Page 114, there is a word missing before the semicolon in the clause: Tom sprang up and seized a billet of wood and raised ; the 1899 Harper & Brothers version provided the missing word, "it."

chapter 11.

On Page 131, change dicision to decision in the clause: Luigi reserved his dicision.

On Page 133, change comma to a period after years in the sentence: "I never got a chance to try my hand at it, and I may never get a chance; and yet if I ever do get it I shall be found ready, for I have kept up my law-studies all these years,"

On Page 149, Correct spelling of Cappello to Capello. The surname of the twins was Capello in the letter on page 73, and two other times in Chapter 6.

chapter 13.

On Page 167, Change ' to " in the sentence: "Why, my boy, you look desolate. Don't take it so hard. Try and forget you have been kicked.'

On Page 176, ship-shape was hyphenated and split between two lines for spacing. The 1899 Harper & Brothers version of the novel used shipshape, and so will we.

chapter 14.

On Page 182, changed period after hatching to question mark in the sentence: What could be hatching.

On Page 184, remove comma after sha'n't, in the clause: but if he doesn't, I sha'n't, let on.

On Page 189, low-down is hyphenated and split between two lines for spacing. On Page 188, low-down is spelled with a hyphen, and on pages 241 and 243 low-downest is also hyphenated. There is no occurrence of lowdown. We transcribed low-down with a hyphen: like a ornery low-down hound!

chapter 16.

On Page 216, Changed ? to ! in the sentence: En keep on sayin' it?

chapter 18.

On Page 229, Changed 'against to against in the clause: with fury 'against the planter's wife.

On Page 233 , Changed de to den in the clause "en de good gracious me." The author always used den for then, except in this case. De is dialect for the. Twain did not correct this in the 1899 Harper & Brothers version of the novel, but den makes more sense then de. Roxy was floating on the river, and then she cried good gracious me, because she spotted the Grand Mogul.

Changed day to dey in two places. The novel used dey as dialect for they regularly, and almost consistently, except in two cases. Both cases were presumed errata:

  • On Page 232, en day warn't gwine to hurry
  • On Page 229, en day knows how to whale 'em, too.

chapter 19.

On Page 253, back-yard is hyphenated and split between two lines for spacing. The 1899 Harper & Brothers version of the novel used back-yard, and so will we.

chapter 20.

On Page 273, changed countenence to countenance in the clause: "I don't know about that," and Tom's countenence darkened,...

chapter 21.

On Page 288 , there are two quotes made by the crowd in double quotes. Twain did not correct this in the 1899 version of the novel by Harper & Brothers. But these lines are surrounded by Wilson's narrative, which is already in double quotes. Therefore, we have used single quotes for the two remarks from the gallery.

  • 'Why, it's so—I never noticed that before!'
  • 'Why, that's so, too!'


On Page 302, removed in from the sentence: "But we cannot follow his curious fate further—that in would be a long story."