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A Burlesque Biography By Mark Twain English Literature Essay

by Symbol Twain (1835-1910) Several people having at different times intimated that if I would write an autobiography they might read it when they got leisure, I yield at last to the frenzied general population demand and herewith tender my record.

Ours is a noble house, and extends a long way back to antiquity. The initial ancestor the Twains have any record of was a friend of the family by the name of Higgins. This was in the eleventh century, when our people were surviving in Aberdeen, state of Cork, Britain. Why it is our long collection has since borne the maternal name (except when one of these occasionally required a playful refuge within an alias to avert foolishness), instead of Higgins, is a unknown which none of us has ever sensed much want to stir. It is some sort of vague, pretty romance, and we leave it by themselves. All of the old families do this way.

Arthour Twain was a guy of considerable note--a solicitor on the road in William Rufus's time. At about the age of thirty he visited one of those fine old English places of resort called Newgate, to see about something, rather than returned again. While there he passed away suddenly.

Augustus Twain appears to have made something of the stir about the year 1160. He was as full of fun as he could be, and used to have his old saber and sharpen it up, and enter a convenient put on a dark night, and stick it through people as they passed, to see them leap. He was a created humorist. But he got to going too far with it; and the very first time he was found stripping one of these parties, the regulators removed one end of him, and put it through to a nice high place on Temple Club, where it might contemplate the folks and have a good time. He never liked any situation so much or jammed to it such a long time.

Then for the next two hundred years the family tree shows a succession of soldiers--noble, high-spirited fellows, who always proceeded to go into battle singing, directly behind the military, and always went a-whooping, right ahead of it.

This is a scathing rebuke to old lifeless Froissart's poor witticism that our family tree never had but one limb to it, and this that one caught out at right angles, and bore fruits winter and warmer summer months.

Early in the fifteenth century we have Beau Twain, called "the Scholar. " He composed a lovely, beautiful hand. And he could imitate anybody's hands so directly that it was enough to make a person chuckle his head off to view it. He previously infinite sport with his talent. But by and by he got a deal to break stone for a highway, and the roughness of the task spoiled his side. Still, he loved life on a regular basis he was in the stone business, which, with inconsiderable intervals, was some forty-two years. Actually, he died in funnel. During all those long years he gave such satisfaction that he never was through with one contract a week till the federal government provided him another. He was a perfect pet. And he was always a well liked with his fellow-artists, and was a conspicuous person in their benevolent key modern culture, called the String Gang. He always wore his hair brief, had a inclination for striped clothes, and passed on lamented by the federal government. He was a sore loss to his country. For he was so regular.

Some years later we've the illustrious John Morgan Twain. He came over to this country with Columbus in 1492 as a passenger. He appears to have been of the crusty, unpleasant disposition. He complained of the food completely over, and was always threatening going ashore unless there is a change. He needed fresh shad. Barely a day handed down over his head that he did not go idling about the ship with his nasal in the air, sneering about the commander, and expressing he didn't believe Columbus realized where he was going to or had have you ever been there before. The memorable cry of "Land ho!" delighted every heart and soul in the ship but his. He gazed awhile through a bit of smoked goblet at the penciled line resting on the faraway drinking water, and then said: "Land be hanged--it's a raft!"

When this doubtful passenger came up to speed the dispatch, be brought nothing at all with him but a vintage newspaper comprising a handkerchief designated "B. G. , " one cotton sock proclaimed "L. W. C. , " one woolen one designated "D. F. , " and a night-shirt proclaimed "O. M. R. " And yet during the voyage he concerned more about his "trunk, " and gave himself more airs about it, than all the rest of the passengers put together. If the ship was "down by the head, " and wouldn't normally steer, he would go and move his "trunk" further aft, and then watch the result. If the ship was "by the stern, " he'd suggest to Columbus to details some men to "shift that baggage. " In storms he previously to be gagged, because his wailings about his "trunk" made it impossible for the men to listen to the orders. The man does not appear to have been openly costed with any gravely unbecoming thing, but it is known in the ship's log as a "curious scenario" that albeit he brought his baggage up to speed the dispatch in a newspapers, he got it ashore in four trunks, a queensware dog crate, and a couple of champagne baskets. But when he came back insinuating, within an insolent, swaggering way, that a few of this things were absent, and would search the other people' baggage, it was too much, plus they threw him overboard. They viewed long and wonderingly for him to appear, but not a good bubble increased on the quietly ebbing tide. But while every one was most utilized in gazing over the side, and the interest was momentarily increasing, it was witnessed with consternation that the vessel was adrift and the anchor-cable hanging limp from the bow. Then in the ship's dimmed and historic log we find this quaint note:

"With time it was discouvered yt ye troblesome passenger hadde ended up downe and got ye anchor, and toke ye same and solde it to ye dam sauvages from ye interior, stating yt he hadde founde it, ye sonne of any ghun!"

Yet this ancestor got good and noble instincts, and it is with pride that we call in your thoughts the fact that he was the first white person who ever interested himself in the task of elevating and civilizing our Indians. He built a commodious jail and put up a gallows, and also to his dying day he stated with satisfaction that he previously had a more restraining and elevating impact on the Indians than another reformer that ever before labored among them. At this time the chronicle becomes less frank and chatty, and closes abruptly by stating that the old voyager visited see his gallows perform on the first white man ever before hanged in America, and while there received incidents which terminated in his loss of life.

The great-grandson of the "Reformer" flourished in sixteen hundred then one, and was known inside our annals as "the old Admiral, " though in history he previously other headings. He was long in command word of fleets of swift vessels, well equipped and manned, and have great service in hurrying up merchantmen. Vessels which he adopted and maintained his eagle eyes on, always made good fair time over the ocean. But if a ship still loitered regardless of all he could do, his indignation would develop till he could contain himself no much longer-- and then he'd take that ship home where he resided and keep it there carefully, anticipating the owners to come for it, however they never have. And he'd try to find the idleness and sloth from the sailors of that ship by convincing those to take invigorating exercise and a bathtub. He called it "walking a plank. " All the pupils liked it. At any rate, they never found any fault with it after trying it. When the owners were late coming because of their boats, the Admiral always burnt them, so that the insurance money should not be lost. At last this fine old tar was cut down in the fullness of his years and honors. And to her dying day, his poor heart-broken widow presumed that if he had been cut down fifteen minutes quicker he could have been resuscitated.

Charles Henry Twain resided during the second option area of the seventeenth century, and was a zealous and recognized missionary. He modified sixteen thousand South Sea islanders, and taught them that a dog-tooth necklace and a pair of spectacles was not enough clothing to come quickly to divine service in. His poor flock treasured him very, very dearly; and when his funeral was over, they acquired up in a body (and came out of the restaurant) with tears to them, and saying, someone to another, that he was a good sensitive missionary, and they wished they had some more of him.

Pah-go-to-wah-wah-pukketekeewis (Mighty-Hunter-with-a-Hog-Eye-Twain) adorned the center of the eighteenth century, and aided Basic Braddock with all his heart and soul to resist the oppressor Washington. It was this ancestor who terminated seventeen times at our Washington from behind a tree. So far the beautiful affectionate narrative in the moral story-books is correct; but when that narrative goes on to say that at the seventeenth across the awe-stricken savage said solemnly that that man was being reserved by the fantastic Spirit for some mighty mission, and he dared not lift his sacrilegious rifle against him again, the narrative very seriously impairs the integrity of history. What he do say was:

"It ain't no (hic) no use. 'At man's so drunk he can't stan' still long enough for a man to hit him. I (hic) I can't 'ford to fool away any longer am'nition on him. "

That was why he stopped at the seventeenth round, and it was a good, plain, matter-of-fact reason, too, and one which easily commends itself to us by the eloquent, persuasive taste of probability there is approximately it.

I also savored the story-book narrative, but I sensed a marring misgiving that each Indian at Braddock's Defeat who fired at a soldier once or twice (two easily develops to seventeen in a hundred years), and missed him, jumped to the final outcome that the Great Nature was reserving that soldier for some grand mission; therefore i somehow feared that the sole reason why Washington's case is remembered and the others forgotten is, that in his the prophecy emerged true, and for the reason that of the others it didn't. There aren't books enough on the planet to support the record of the prophecies Indians and other unauthorized functions have made; but you can bring in his overcoat pouches the record of all prophecies which have been fulfilled.

I will remark here, in passing, that one ancestors of mine are so completely well-known ever sold by their aliases, that I have not thought it to be worth while to dwell after them, or even point out them in the order of their delivery. Among these may be mentioned Richard Brinsley Twain, alias Person Fawkes; John Wentworth Twain, alias Sixteen-String Jack port; William Hogarth Twain, alias Jack port Sheppard; Ananias Twain, alias Baron Munchausen; John George Twain, alias Captain Kydd; and then there are George Francis Twain, Tom Pepper, Nebuchadnezzar, and Baalam's Ass--they all participate in us, but to a branch of it relatively distinctly removed from the honorable direct line--in reality, a collateral branch, whose members chiefly differ from the early stock for the reason that, in order to obtain the notoriety we have always yearned and hungered for, they have got into a low way of heading to jail instead of getting hanged.

It is not well, when writing an autobiography, to follow your ancestry down too near to your own time--it is safest to speak only vaguely of your great-grandfather, and then skip after that to yourself, which I now do.

I was created without teeth--and there Richard III. had the advantage of me; but I was born with out a humpback, also, and there I put the good thing about him. My parents were neither very poor nor conspicuously honest.

But now a thought occurs if you ask me. My own background would really seem to be so tame contrasted start of my ancestors, that it's simply intelligence to leave it unwritten until I am hanged. If some other biographies I have read had quit with the ancestry until a like event happened, it could have been a felicitous thing for the reading public. So how exactly does it attack you?

A Child's Xmas in Wales

by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Word Count: 3016

One Holiday was much like another, in those years around the sea-town nook now and away of all sound except the faraway talking about the voices I sometimes notice a moment before sleep, that I can never bear in mind whether it snowed for six days and six times as i was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and nights and twelve evenings after i was six.

All the Christmases spin down toward the two-tongued sea, like a chilly and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our neighborhood; and they visit the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my side into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of vacations resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the day of the Christmas Eve, and I was at Mrs. Prothero's garden, looking forward to cats, with her kid Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my own memory space, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there have been cats. Patient, wintry and callous, our hands twisted in socks, we waited to snowball the pet cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle above the white back-garden wall space, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our dangerous snowballs at the green of these eyes. The smart cats never came out.

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows - eternal, ever since Wednesday - that people never observed Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we read it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off task of our enemy and victim, the neighbor's polar pet cat. But soon the tone of voice grew louder.

"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she overcome the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoking, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing wreck like a town crier in Pompeii. This is much better than all the pet cats in Wales standing on the wall membrane in a row. We bounded in to the house, laden with snowballs, and ceased at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

Something was getting rid of fine; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a publication over his face. But he was ranking in the center of the room, expressing, "An excellent Xmas!" and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.

"Call the open fire brigade, " cried Mrs. Prothero as she overcome the gong. "There will not be there, " said Mr. Prothero, "it's Christmas. " There was no flame to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero located in the middle of them, waving his slipper as if he were doing.

"Take action, " he said. And we threw all our snowballs in to the smoke - I think we missed Mr. Prothero - and ran out of our home to calling box.

"Let's call the authorities as well, " Jim said. "As well as the ambulance. " "And Ernie Jenkins, he loves fires. "

But we only called the flames brigade, and soon the fireplace engine emerged and three large men in helmets helped bring a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero received out just with time before they transformed it on. No person could have had a noisier Xmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the line and were standing up in the wet, smoky room, Jim's Aunt, Pass up. Prothero, came up downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very silently, to listen to what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She viewed the three high firemen in their shining helmets, standing on the list of smoke cigars and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, "Do you want anything to read?"

Years and years ago, after i was a youngster, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the colour of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed forever and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in wet prominent farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the British and the bears, prior to the motor car, prior to the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, whenever we rode the daft and happy hillsides bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a little young man says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my buddy knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea. "

"But that had not been the same snow, " I say. "Our snow had not been only shaken from white clean buckets down the sky, it arrived shawling out of the earth and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and physiques of the trees; snow grew over night on the roofs of the residences like a real and grandfather moss, minutely ivied the wall space and resolved on the postman, beginning the gate, such as a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Xmas cards. "

"Were there postmen then, too?"

"With sprinkling sight and wind-cherried noses, on get spread around, frozen feet they crunched up to the entrance doors and mittened on them manfully. But everything the kids could notice was a calling of bells. "

"You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the entrance doors rang?"

"I mean that the bells the kids could notice were included. "

"I only listen to thunder sometimes, never bells. "

"There were cathedral bells, too. "

"Inside them?"

"No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings on the bandaged town, over the iced foam of the powder and ice-cream hillsides, within the crackling sea. It felt that all the churches boomed for happiness under my window; and the weathercocks team for Holiday, on our fence. "

"Get back to the postmen. "

"They were just ordinary postmen, found of walking and pet dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on the entry doors with blue knuckles. . . . "

"Ours has got a black knocker. . . . "

"And they stood on the white Welcome mat in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making spirits with their breathing, and jogged from ft. to foot like small boys attempting to go out. "

"And then the presents?"

"And the Presents, after the Christmas box. Along with the cool postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He gone in his ice-bound boots such as a man on fishmonger's slabs.

"He wagged his handbag like a frozen camel's hump, dizzily converted the corner on one foot, and, by God, he was gone. "

"Make contact with the Presents. "

"There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old instructor times, and mittens designed for gigantic sloths; zebra scarfs of a compound like silky gum that may be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to your skin there have been mustached and rasping vests that made you ask yourself why the aunts experienced any skin left at all; and once I had just a little crocheted nose tote from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying around. And pictureless catalogs in which small guys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles' pond and does and drowned; and literature that told me everything about the wasp, except why. "

"Go on the Useless Presents. "

"Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a fake nostril and a tram-conductor's cover and a machine that punched seat tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, in error that no-one could explain, just a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo an ambitious cat will make who wanted to be considered a cow; and a painting book in which I possibly could make the grass, the trees, the ocean and the family pets any coloring I pleased, and still the amazing sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And soldiers of shiny tin soldiers who, if indeed they could not struggle, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Designers, complete with instructions. Oh, possible for Leonardo! And a whistle to help make the pups bark to wake up the old man nearby to make him conquer on the wall membrane with his adhere to tremble our picture off the wall. And a packet of tobacco: you put one in your mouth therefore you stood at the nook of the road so you waited for hours, in vain, for an old girl to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast time under the balloons. "

"Have there been Uncles like in our house?"

"There are always Uncles at Xmas. Exactly the same Uncles. And on Holiday day, with dog-disturbing whistle and sweets fags, I'd scour the swatched town for the news headlines of the little world, and discover always a useless bird by the POSTOFFICE or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all except one of his fires away. Women and men wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles their stiff dark-colored jarring feathers from the irreligious snow. Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all leading parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beverage and crackers by the dessertspoons; and felines in their fur-abouts observed the fires; and the high-heaped open fire spat, ready for the chestnuts and the mulling pokers. Some few large men sat in the front parlors, without their collars, Uncles almost certainly, trying their new cigars, retaining them out judiciously at biceps and triceps' length, coming back them with their mouths, coughing, then retaining them out again as though looking forward to the explosion; plus some few small aunts, not wished in your kitchen, nor anywhere else for example, sat on the very edge of their chairs, poised and brittle, fearful to break, like faded cups and saucers. "

Not many those mornings trod the piling pavements: a vintage man always, fawn-bowlered, yellow-gloved and, at the moment of time, with spats of snow, would take his constitutional to the white bowling green and back again, as he would take it damp or fire on Xmas Day or Doomsday; sometimes two hale young men, with big pipes blazing, no overcoats and breeze blown scarfs, would trudge, unspeaking, down to the forlorn sea, to work up an appetite, to blow away the fumes, who has learned, to head into the waves until nothing at all of these was left however the two furling smoking clouds with their inextinguishable briars. Then I would be slap-dashing home, the gravy smell of the meals of others, the bird smell, the brandy, the pudding and mince, coiling up to my nostrils, when out of a snow-clogged side street would come a son the spit of myself, with a pink-tipped cigarette and the violet history of a black attention, cocky as a bullfinch, leering all to himself.

I hated him on eyesight and sound, and would be about to put my dog whistle to my lips and blow him off the face of Holiday when all of the sudden he, with a violet wink, put his whistle to his lips and blew so stridently, so high, so exquisitely noisy, that gobbling encounters, their cheeks bulged with goose, would press against their tinsled windows, the whole amount of the white echoing road. For dinner we'd turkey and blazing pudding, and after evening meal the Uncles sat in front of the open fire, loosened all control keys, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Moms, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens. Auntie Bessie, who experienced recently been frightened, twice, by way of a clock-work mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and got some elderberry wine beverages. Your dog was suffering. Auntie Dosie needed three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in the center of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush. I'd inflate balloons to see how big they might inflate to; and, when they burst, which they all performed, the Uncles jumped and rumbled. In the abundant and heavy afternoon, the Uncles breathing like dolphins and the snow descending, I would remain among festoons and Chinese lanterns and nibble dates and try to make a model man-o'-war, following a Instructions for Little Technical engineers, and produce what might be mistaken for a sea-going tramcar.

Or I'd go out, my dazzling new boots squeaking, into the white world, on to the seaward hill, to call on Jim and Dan and Jack and pad through the still roads, going out of huge footprints on the invisible pavements.

"I wager people will think there's been hippos. "

"What do you do if you saw a hippo decreasing our road?"

"I'd go like this, bang! I'd put him above the railings and spin him down the hill and then I'd tickle him under the hearing and he'd wag his tail. "

"What would you do if you saw two hippos?"

Iron-flanked and bellowing he-hippos clanked and battered through the scudding snow toward us once we passed Mr. Daniel's house.

"Let's post Mr. Daniel a snow-ball through his notice box. "

"Let's write things in the snow. "

"Let's write, 'Mr. Daniel appears like a spaniel' around his backyard. "

Or we walked on the white shoreline. "Can the fishes see it's snowing?"

The silent one-clouded heavens drifted to the sea. Now we were snow-blind travelers lost on the north hillsides, and huge dewlapped dogs, with flasks round their necks, ambled and shambled up to us, baying "Excelsior. "

We went back home through the indegent streets where only a few children fumbled with bare red hands in the wheel-rutted snow and cat-called after us, their voices fading away, even as we trudged uphill, in to the cries of the dock wild birds and the hooting of boats out in the whirling bay. And then, at tea the recovered Uncles would be jolly; and the glaciers cake loomed in the heart of the table just like a marble grave. Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, since it was only once a year.

Bring out the extra tall tales given that we told by the flames as the gaslight bubbled just like a diver. Spirits whooed like owls in the long evenings after i dared not look over my shoulder; family pets lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I recall that we went singing carols once, when there wasn't the shaving of your moon to light the traveling streets.

At the finish of a long street was a drive that resulted in a big house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that evening, every one of us fearful, each one keeping a natural stone in his hand in case, and most of us too brave to say a term. The wind through the trees and shrubs made noises by old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house. "What shall we provide them with? Hark the Herald?"

"No, " Jack said, "Good King Wencelas. I'll count up three. " One, two three, and we commenced to sing, our voices high and apparently distant in the snow-felted darkness across the house that was occupied by no one we knew.

We stood close mutually, near the dark door. Good King Wencelas looked out On the Feast of Stephen. . . And then a small, dried words, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry, eggshell tone from the other part of the entranceway: a tiny dry tone of voice through the keyhole. So when we stopped running we were outside our house; leading room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-gulping gas; everything was good again and shone over the city.

"Perhaps it was a ghost, " Jim said. "Perhaps it was trolls, " Dan said, who was simply always reading.

"Let's use and discover if there's any jelly kept, " Jack said. And we performed that.

Always on Holiday night there was music. An uncle enjoyed the fiddle, a cousin sang "Cherry Ripe, " and another uncle sang "Drake's Drum. " It had been very warm in the tiny house. Auntie Hannah, who acquired got to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Loss of life, and then another where she said her heart was just like a Bird's Nest; and then every person laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom windowpane, out in to the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I possibly could see the equipment and lighting in the home windows of all the other homes on our hill and notice the music growing from them up the long, steady dropping night. I turned the gas down, I acquired into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

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