Just finished The Prince and the Pauper. It's the classical story of mistaken identities - a noble and a slum boy change their places, with all the shenanigans that ensue. The plot is not really a revolution, but it's Twain, and Twain is always worth a read. He is also known to break the fourth wall, and he does this in a way that makes me think that there's one thing that Mr. Clemens wasn't lacking: gigantic self-esteem as an author. He didn't only not write to suit the expectations of an audience, no. Quite the contrary - he challenges his readers, and sometimes, at least that's my impression, he makes fun of them. In this novel - and it's one of his earlier ones, published 1871 - there's a scene where the poor beggar boy who took the place of the crown prince endures for the first time the ceremony of getting out of bed in the morning. And I don't know how meticulous Twain was in his research about the life of 16th century British royalty, but this here must be pure bullshit - and I'm pretty sure he knew it. At this point, I envision Twain sitting at his desk, cackling maniacally and adding item after item to this list of honorific horrors, wondering if and when his readers will give up and start to skim. I also believe he was brimful of shit, because, without being an expert in 16th century British royal ceremony, I doubt that the Archbishop of Canterbury's and the Lord High Admiral of England's duty encompassed the clothing of the dauphin. I also doubt that Hereditary Grand Diaperer is a real title (or the Brits are even weirder than I ever thought). It would make an awesome band name, though. But Twain isn't done with his readership. With the vanishingly low possibility in mind that one or another stubborn reader may still be alert and actually read what he's written, word by word, he ups the ante. Something goes wrong with the hose! This is hilarious. Poor Head Keeper of the King's Hose, to get beheaded for a missing truss. I only learned now that "to hose" also means "to trick, to deceive". Go figure. I guess I would have skimmed as well over the whole passage if I hadn't listened to an audiobook. But as I was stuck in a traffic jam with nothing else to do, I actually paid attention - and it had me laughing loudly at the end. This cannot be meant to be taken seriously. Not even in Twain's time 150 years ago, when the capacity to suffer through endless, long-winding, detailed, over-the-top, expository, blatantly told-not-shown description was arguably one of the main qualifications of a reader. And I wonder - are there modern authors who have the chuzpe to test their readers that blatantly? How would you react if you got the feeling that your favourite author doesn't take you seriously? Would you dare to do it yourself? I mean, Twain was known to be a brat, even in his time, and I guess he easily got away with an attitude like that. But his situation is hardly comparable to the one of contemporary authors trying to find any readers at all.