death of a relative Sellers becomes the rightful Earl of
Rossmore and consequently the American Clairnant-
Gwendolen is sent for from school-The remains of the
late Claimant and brother to be shipped to England-
Hawkins and Sellers nail the hatchments on Rossmore
Gwendolens letter-Her arrival at home-Hawkins is introduced,
to his great pleasure-Communication from the bank thief-
Hawkins and Sellers have to wait ten days longer before
getting the reward-Viscount Berkeley and the late Claimants
remains start simultaneously from England and America
Arrival of the remains of late Claimant and brother in England
-The usurping earl officiates as chief mourner, and they
are laid with their kindred in Cholmondeley church-Sally
Sellers a gifted costume-designer-Another communication
from the bank thief-Locating him in the New Gadsby-
The colonels glimpse of one-armed Pete in the elevator-
Arrival of Viscount Berkeley at the same hotel
Viscount Berkeley jots down his impressions to date with
a quill pen-The destruction of the New Gadsby by fire-
Berkeley loses his bearings and escapes with his journaled
impressions only-Discovery and hasty donning of
one-armed Petes abandoned wardrobe-Glowing and affecting
account in the morning papers of the heroic death of the
heir of Rossmore-He will take a new name and start out incog
The colonels grief at the loss of both Berkeley and one-armed
Pete-Materialization-Breaking the news to the family-
The colonel starts to identify and secure a body (or ashes)
to send to the bereaved father
The usual actress and her diamonds in the hotel fire-The
colonel secures three baskets of ashes-Mrs. Sellers forbids
their lying in state-Generous hatchments-The ashes to be
sent only when the earl sends for them
Lord Berkeley deposits the $500 found in his appropriated
clothes-Attends Mechanics Debating Club-Berkeley
(alias Tracy) is glad he came to this country
The absolute best of Mark Twain?
No. Nothing by Mark Twain can qualify as his 'best'. The breadth of his writing career cuts too wide a swath for such a statement. However, The American Claimant, obscure though it is, is certainly among his best.
The American Claimant is about Americans, the way they view themselves, the way they are viewed by others through the eyes of a British nobleman. Even though a century has passed since the book was written, most of the acute observations are as true today as when it was written.
A family of Americans descended from an eldest son of a British Earl, Lord Rossmore, has been claiming the title for many generations. The actual young Earl, filled with idealism, decides to abdicate, to change places with the American claimant. He travels to the US with the intention of contacting Colonel Mulberry Sellers, the claimant, to exchange places. Sellers is an American dreamer, always down on his luck, an inventor, a philanthropist of sorts.
Through a series of Keystone Kops misfortunes the Earl loses his letters of credit, assumes the clothing of bank robber from the west, takes up life in a boarding house of workmen, determined to make a life on his own and abandon the wealth of his past.
This is the setting for The American Claimant. The Earl discovers the American dream isn't quite as it is cracked up to be, discovers his taste for the common man is far less palatable in close proximity. Every attempt to find employment is thwarted until he discovers himself to be a worthy hack as an artist.
Fate takes a hand in the lives of the young Earl and the heir of the claimant, leading to a zesty, if predictable wrap-up.
As with every book by Mark Twain, this one is fun. It is astute. It is thought provoking. It is well written, the characters sympathetic and mostly believable, the plot, circuitous in the best Mark Twain tradition. It also contains an element of subtle wisdom and tongue-in-cheek observation more finely honed than in many of the earlier writings.
The author declared in the beginning that this would be a story without weather. He held to his promise, but in the end provided weather for the story in an appendix, for those who must have it.
I don't know why this book has fallen by the wayside. It shouldn't have done so.
I recommend it for any reader, but especially for American ones.
Buy The American Claimant by Mark Twain At The Lowest Price!