The first person that is nice to the eponymous protagonist in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is a page he meets at Camelot. The main character immediately starts off by addressing the teen as "Clarence":

“Now, Clarence, my boy—if that might happen to be your name—I’ll get you to post me up a little if you don’t mind....”

Quickly, with some assistance from Clarence, the protagonist takes control of Arthur's kingdom, and Clarence becomes his confidant and right-hand man.

Only once, about a third of the way through the novel, is Clarence's real name, Amyas le Poulet, mentioned. (Twain apparently based the name on that of Amias Paulet, who was governor of the island of Jersey in the sixteenth century—modifying the name for extra silliness with the change to poulet, French for "chicken.") Le Poulet even refers to himself as "Clarence" in the postscript to the novel.

Of course, the Yankee protagonist is hardly named in the novel either. His first name, Hank, only appears twice, and his last name of Morgan only once. The rest of the time, everyone else simply refers to him as "the Boss" or "Sir Boss." Obviously, Morgan (in universe) and Twain (out of universe) chose "Boss" to be meaningful. However, I cannot figure out for what reason, in universe or out, Twain would have his main character call the boy he meets Clarence.

It seems like there is joke or reference here that I am not getting. Is there some significance to that name, apart from Duke of Clarence being a title that was granted several times the younger sons of British monarchs?

  • 2
    He thought it was funny? Dec 31, 2020 at 2:26
  • 1
    A boss's typical control tactic of deliberately getting a subordinate's name wrong.
    – Spencer
    Jan 1, 2021 at 0:14
  • I suspect that just as some names today that are atypical or old-fashioned can end up being nicknames, same thing in the 19th century, just different names. I was reading a autobio in which the author's first name, "Dan", is not used but rather "Ralph" because the woman he just met is jokingly teasing him. What's funny about "Ralph"? Slang for "vomit" but I think it is more than it was in the mid 20th century as today not common.
    – releseabe
    Feb 21 at 20:14


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