A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
(first published as A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court)
(New York: Charles L. Webster & Company, 1889)

‘[…] Confound a telephone, anyway. It is the very demon for conveying similarities of sound that are miracles of divergence from similarity of sense. But no matter, you know the name of the place now.  Call up Camelot.’ […]

It was good to hear my boy’s voice again. It was like being home. […] Slavery was dead and gone; all men were equal before the law; taxation had been equalized. The telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, the typewriter, the sewing-machine, and all the thousand willing and handy servants of steam and electricity were working their way into favor. […] I was getting ready to send out an expedition to discover America.

In Twain’s novel, Engineer Hank Morgan is transported back in time and space to the court of King Arthur, which he promptly (over a number of years; although sometimes these pass in a single sentence) modernises. In chapter ten, he sets up both a telegraph and telephone system but the telephone plays its most singular role in the novel when his wife, Sandy, names their child ‘Hello-Central’. Twain goes on: ‘She never found out her mistake. The first time she heard that form of salute used at the telephone she was surprised, and not pleased; but I told her I had given order for it: that henceforth and forever the telephone must always be invoked with that reverent formality, in perpetual honor and remembrance of my lost friend and her small namesake. This was not true. But it answered.’

by Don Sillence