One of Mark Twain's lesser-known stories, The American Claimant will delight fans of the beloved American humorist. This 1892 tale contrasting English nobility with the American pursuit of freedom comes to life with a lively narration from Richard Henzel, a film and TV actor whose voice became famous as a radio announcer in the movie Groundhog Day. Henzel's wry, resonant voice enhances Twain's natural humor, giving some of the book's more amusing features, such as the appendix containing all the story's descriptions of weather, a quirky appeal. Listeners will be surprised that this complex and entertaining story hasn't achieved wider public appeal.
Young Lord Berkeley has discovered that his family's title and wealth was fraudulently obtained by previous generations, and announces to his his father, Lord Rossmore, that he intends to travel to America, there to return the Earldom of Rossmore to the rightful heir, along with all of its wealth, titles, and privilege, and to begin his life over again—"begin it right—begin it on the level of mere manhood, unassisted by factitious aids, and succeed or fail by pure merit or the want of it." As it happens, "The Rightful Earl" is an imaginative and enterprising attorney/inventor/office-seeker known as Colonel Mulberry Sellers.
While less familiar to Mark Twain fans than Tom Sawyer, Connecticut Yankee, or Huckleberry Finn, The American Claimant is a delightful tale, told with Mark Twain's trademark American humor, his biting social satire, and his well-drawn characters.
Narrated by American actor and Mark Twain interpreter Richard Henzel, whose "Mark Twain In Person" has been seen over a thousand times in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain.
Public Domain (P)2010 Richard Henzel
This is a sequel (of sorts) to Twain's novel "The Gilded Age." Colonel Sellers shows up again with another series of idiotic schemes, any one of which (he's convinced) will "make millions - millions!" - or even, if he's lucky, "billions - billions!" Among other things, he believes he's the rightful Earl of Rossmore, and he threatens the current occupant of that title with a lawsuit. But it's not really his story; despite the high jinks, the novel is really a short and sweet love story, with Sellers' daughter and the (bogus?) Earl's son as the protagonists. The Earl's son has shed his identity and moved to America to try to make it on his own merits. The novel is closer in tone and content to Twain's short story "The Million Pound Bank Note" than "The Gilded Age."
Still, Sellers and his impossible inventions and schemes are what keep the novel moving, as it constantly teeters on the brink of a belly-laugh (and often plunges in gloriously and hilariously). Richard Henzel, who has provided excellent narration for a number of Twain novels and stories, does an outstanding job here as well. The characters are all given distinctive voices. The Earl's son has a somewhat shaky English accent, a bit like the King in "Huckleberry Finn" pretending to be Harvey Wilks; but Henzel is so good with the other voices that I'm inclined to think the shakiness is deliberate.
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