The Gilded Age (Modern Library Classics) and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Qty:1
  • List Price: $16.00
  • Save: $2.42 (15%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 4 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
The Gilded Age: A Tale of... has been added to your Cart
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Packed and shipped by Amazon 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 1, 2001

Book 2 of 7 in the Gilded Age Series

See all 76 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Paperback, September 1, 2001
$13.58
$8.71 $6.65
Unknown Binding
"Please retry"
$15.00

Best Books of the Year
See the Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
$13.58 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 4 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (Penguin Classics) + A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Dover Thrift Editions) + The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Dover Thrift Editions)
Price for all three: $22.63

Some of these items ship sooner than the others.

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and died at Redding, Connecticut in 1910. In his person and in his pursuits he was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at twelve when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing but toward the end of his life he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimentaland also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. His nostalgia helped produce some of his best books. He lives in American letters as a great artist, the writer whom William Dean Howells called “the Lincoln of our literature.”

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1 Nibiwa win o-dibendan aki.1

Eng. A gallant tract

Of land it is!

Meercraft. ’Twill yield a pound an acre:

We must let cheap ever at first. But, sir,

This looks too large for you, I see.

June, 18—. Squire Hawkins sat upon the pyramid of large blocks, called the “stile,” in front of his house, contemplating the morning.

The locality was Obedstown, East Tennessee. You would not know that Obedstown stood on the top of a mountain, for there was nothing about the landscape to indicate it—but it did: a mountain that stretched abroad over whole counties, and rose very gradually. The district was called the “Knobs of East Tennessee,” and had a reputation like Nazareth,2 as far as turning out any good thing was concerned.

The Squire’s house was a double log cabin, in a state of decay; two or three gaunt hounds lay asleep about the threshold, and lifted their heads sadly whenever Mrs. Hawkins or the children stepped in and out over their bodies. Rubbish was scattered about the grassless yard; a bench stood near the door with a tin wash basin on it and a pail of water and a gourd; a cat had begun to drink from the pail, but the exertion was overtaxing her energies, and she had stopped to rest. There was an ash-hopper by the fence, and an iron pot, for soft-soap-boiling, near it.

This dwelling constituted one-fifteenth of Obedstown; the other fourteen houses were scattered about among the tall pine trees and among the corn-fields in such a way that a man might stand in the midst of the city and not know but that he was in the country if he only depended on his eyes for information.

“Squire” Hawkins got his title from being postmaster of Obedstown—not that the title properly belonged to the office, but because in those regions the chief citizens always must have titles of some sort, and so the usual courtesy had been extended to Hawkins. The mail was monthly, and sometimes amounted to as much as three or four letters at a single delivery. Even a rush like this did not fill up the postmaster’s whole month, though, and therefore he “kept store” in the intervals.

The Squire was contemplating the morning. It was balmy and tranquil, the vagrant breezes were laden with the odor of flowers, the murmur of bees was in the air, there was everywhere that suggestion of repose that summer woodlands bring to the senses, and the vague, pleasurable melancholy that such a time and such surroundings inspire.

Presently the United States mail arrived, on horseback. There was but one letter, and it was for the postmaster. The long-legged youth who carried the mail tarried an hour to talk, for there was no hurry; and in a little while the male population of the village had assembled to help. As a general thing, they were dressed in homespun “jeans,” blue or yellow—there were no other varieties of it; all wore one suspender and sometimes two—yarn ones knitted at home,—some wore vests, but few wore coats. Such coats and vests as did appear, however, were rather picturesque than otherwise, for they were made of tolerably fanciful patterns of calico—a fashion which prevails there to this day among those of the community who have tastes above the common level and are able to afford style. Every individual arrived with his hands in his pockets; a hand came out occasionally for a purpose, but it always went back again after service; and if it was the head that was served, just the cant that the dilapidated straw hat got by being uplifted and rooted under, was retained until the next call altered the inclination; many hats were present, but none were erect and no two were canted just alike. We are speaking impartially of men, youths and boys. And we are also speaking of these three estates when we say that every individual was either chewing natural leaf tobacco prepared on his own premises, or smoking the same in a corn-cob pipe. Few of the men wore whiskers; none wore moustaches; some had a thick jungle of hair under the chin and hiding the throat—the only pattern recognized there as being the correct thing in whiskers; but no part of any individual’s face had seen a razor for a week.

These neighbors stood a few moments looking at the mail carrier reflectively while he talked; but fatigue soon began to show itself, and one after another they climbed up and occupied the top rail of the fence, hump-shouldered and grave, like a company of buzzards assembled for supper and listening for the death-rattle. Old Damrell said:

“Tha hain’t no news ’bout the jedge, hit ain’t likely?”

“Cain’t tell for sartin; some thinks he’s gwyne to be ’long toreckly, and some thinks ’e hain’t. Russ Mosely he tole ole Hanks he mought git to Obeds tomorrer or nex’ day he reckoned.”

“Well, I wisht I knowed. I got a prime sow and pigs in the cote-house,3 and I hain’t got no place for to put ’em. If the jedge is a gwyne to hold cote, I got to roust ’em out, I reckon. But tomorrer’ll do, I ’spect.”

The speaker bunched his thick lips together like the stem-end of a tomato and shot a bumble-bee dead that had lit on a weed seven feet away. One after another the several chewers expressed a charge of tobacco juice and delivered it at the deceased with steady aim and faultless accuracy.

“What’s a stirrin’, down ’bout the Forks?” continued Old Damrell.

“Well, I dunno, skasely. Ole Drake Higgins he’s ben down to Shelby las’ week. Tuck his crap down; couldn’t git shet o’ the most uv it; hit warn’t no time for to sell, he say, so he fotch it back agin, ’lowin’ to wait tell fall. Talks ’bout goin’ to Mozouri—lots uv ’ems talkin’ that-away down thar, Ole Higgins say. Cain’t make a livin’ here no mo’, sich times as these. Si Higgins he’s ben over to Kaintuck n’ married a high-toned gal thar, outen the fust families, an’ he’s come back to the Forks with jist a hell’s-mint o’ whoop-jamboree notions, folks says. He’s tuck an’ fixed up the ole house like they does in Kaintuck, he say, an’ tha’s ben folks come cler from Turpentine for to see it. He’s tuck an’ gawmed it all over on the inside with plarsterin’.”

“What’s plarsterin’?”

“I dono. Hit’s what he calls it. Ole Mam Higgins, she tole me. She say she warn’t gwyne to hang out in no sich a dern hole like a hog. Says it’s mud, or some sich kind o’ nastness that sticks on n’ kivers up everything. Plarsterin’, Si calls it.”

This marvel was discussed at considerable length; and almost with animation. But presently there was a dog-fight over in the neighborhood of the blacksmith shop, and the visitors slid off their perch like so many turtles and strode to the battle-field with an interest bordering on eagerness. The Squire remained, and read his letter. Then he sighed, and sat long in meditation. At intervals he said:

“Missouri. Missouri. Well, well, well, everything is so uncertain.”

At last he said:

“I believe I’ll do it.—A man will just rot, here. My house, my yard, everything around me, in fact, shows that I am becoming one of these cattle—and I used to be thrifty in other times.”

He was not more than thirty-five, but he had a worn look that made him seem older. He left the stile, entered that part of his house which was the store, traded a quart of thick molasses for a coonskin and a cake of beeswax to an old dame in linsey-woolsey,4 put his letter away, and went into the kitchen. His wife was there, constructing some dried apple pies; a slovenly urchin of ten was dreaming over a rude weather-vane of his own contriving; his small sister, close upon four years of age, was sopping corn-bread in some gravy left in the bottom of a frying-pan and trying hard not to sop over a finger-mark that divided the pan through the middle—for the other side belonged to the brother, whose musings made him forget his stomach for the moment; a negro woman was busy cooking, at a vast fire-place. Shiftlessness and poverty reigned in the place.

“Nancy, I’ve made up my mind. The world is done with me, and perhaps I ought to be done with it. But no matter—I can wait. I am going to Missouri. I won’t stay in this dead country and decay with it. I’ve had it on my mind some time. I’m going to sell out here for whatever I can get, and buy a wagon and team and put you and the children in it and start.”

“Anywhere that suits you, suits me, Si. And the children can’t be any worse off in Missouri than they are here, I reckon.”

Motioning his wife to a private conference in their own room, Hawkins said: “No, they’ll be better off. I’ve looked out for them, Nancy,” and his face lighted. “Do you see these papers? Well, they are evidence that I have taken up Seventy-five Thousand Acres of Land in this county—think what an enormous fortune it will be some day! Why, Nancy, enormous don’t express it—the word’s too tame! I tell you, Nancy———”

“For goodness sake, Si———”

“Wait, Nancy, wait—let me finish—I’ve been secretly boiling and fuming with this grand inspiration for weeks, and I must talk or I’ll burst! I haven’t whispered to a soul—not a word—have had my countenance under lock and key, for fear it might drop something that would tell even these animals here how to discern the gold mine that’s glaring under their noses. Now all that is necessary to hold this land and keep it in the family is to pay the trifling taxes on it yearly—five or ten dollars—the whole tract would not sell for over a third of a cent an acre now, but some day people will be glad to get it for twenty dollars, fifty dollars, a hundred dollars an acre! What should you say to” [here he dropped his voice to a whisper and looked anxiously around to see that there were no eavesdroppers,] “a thousand dollars an acre!

“Well you may open your eyes and stare! But it’s so. You and I may not see the day, but they’ll see it. Mind I tell you, they’ll see it. Nancy, you’ve heard of steamboats, and may be you believed in them—of course you did. You’ve heard these cattle here scoff at them and call them lies and humbugs,—but they’re not lies and humbugs, they’re a reality and they’re going to be a more wonderful thing some day than they are now. They’re going to make a revolution in this world’s affairs that will make men dizzy to contemplate. I’ve been watching—I’ve been watching while some people slept, and I know what’s coming.

“Even you and I will see the day that steamboats will come up that little Turkey river to within twenty miles of this land of ours—and in high water they’ll come right to it! And this is not all, Nancy—it isn’t even half! There’s a bigger wonder—the railroad! These worms here have never even heard of it—and when they do they’ll not believe in it. But it’s another fact. Coaches that fly over the ground twenty miles an hour—heavens and earth, think of that, Nancy! Twenty miles an hour. It makes a man’s brain whirl. Some day, when you and I are in our graves, there’ll be a railroad stretching hundreds of miles—all the way down from the cities of the Northern States to New Orleans—and its got to run within thirty miles of this land—may be even touch a corner of it. Well, do you know, they’ve quit burning wood in some places in the Eastern States? And what do you suppose they burn? Coal!” [He bent over and whispered again:] “There’s whole worlds of it on this land! You know that black stuff that crops out of the bank of the branch?—well, that’s it. You’ve taken it for rocks; so has every body here; and they’ve built little dams and such things with it. One man was going to build a chimney out of it. Nancy I expect I turned as white as a sheet! Why, it might have caught fire and told everything. I showed him it was too crumbly. Then he was going to build it of copper ore—splendid yellow forty-per-cent. ore! There’s fortunes upon fortunes of copper ore on our land! It scared me to death, the idea of this fool starting a smelting furnace in his house without knowing it, and getting his dull eyes opened. And then he was going to build it of iron ore! There’s mountains of iron ore here, Nancy—whole mountains of it. I wouldn’t take any chances. I just stuck by him—I haunted him—I never let him alone till he built it of mud and sticks like all the rest of the chimneys in this dismal country. Pine forests, wheat land, corn land, iron, copper, coal—wait till the railroads come, and the steamboats! We’ll never see the day, Nancy—never in the world—never, never, never, child. We’ve got to drag along, drag along, and eat crusts in toil and poverty, all hopeless and forlorn—but they’ll ride in coaches, Nancy! They’ll live like the princes of the earth; they’ll be courted and worshiped; their names will be known from ocean to ocean! Ah, well-a-day! Will they ever come back here, on the railroad and the steamboat, and say ‘This one little spot shall not be touched—this hovel shall be sacred—for here our father and our mother suffered for us, thought for us, laid the foundations of our future as solid as the hills!’ ”

“You are a great, good, noble soul, Si Hawkins, and I am an honored woman to be the wife of such a man”—and the tears stood in her eyes when she said it. “We will go to Missouri. You are out of your place, here, among these groping dumb creatures. We will find a higher place, where you can walk with your own kind, and be understood when you speak—not stared at as if you were talking some foreign tongue. I would go anywhere, anywhere in the wide world with you. I would rather my body should starve and die than your mind should hunger and wither away in this lonely land.”

“Spoken like yourself, my child! But we’ll not starve, Nancy. Far from it. I have a letter from Eschol Sellers—just came this day. A letter that—I’ll read you a line from it!”

He flew out of the room. A shadow blurred the sunlight in Nancy’s face—there was uneasiness in it, and disappointment. A procession of disturbing thoughts began to troop through her mind. Saying nothing aloud, she sat with her hands in her lap; now and then she clasped them, then unclasped them, then tapped the ends of the fingers together; sighed, nodded, smiled—occasionally paused, shook her head. This pantomime was the elocutionary expression of an unspoken soliloquy which had something of this shape:
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $1.99 (Save 33%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.


Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014043920X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140439205
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Twain (1835-1910) was an American humorist, satirist, social critic, lecturer and novelist. He is mostly remembered for his classic novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

(What's this?)

Customer Reviews

Select "Go to..." 3. Select "Table of Contents" [Notes is not an option.] 4.
Read-Only
The second half the book is missing, and what is there has so many printing glitches that it is hard to read.
D. Horvath
Social commentary aside, like Twain's other work, The Gilded Age is terribly funny.
S. Zayas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Brant Day on February 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book, written by Twain and Warner, pokes fun at American society during what they called "the guilded age". This term has stuck and is often used by historians to describe the period 1877-1914. Twain and Warner see this time as one where men care only for money. These men will not work hard, but merely scheme and plot in order to strike it rich. The dialogue in the book is very snappy, the best being when Laura Hawkins arrives in Washington, DC and meets with the other high society ladies. I would recommend this book to anybody interested in United States History, or just those who want to read a good novel. The book can drag at times, but overall is very engrossing.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jason Rhodes on August 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
Several people here are saying this is just a scanned copy of the book and that it contains only
30-some of what should be 63 chapters. That's not the case with this edition of the book, the Penguin Classics
edition. Apparently they're talking about this edition: The Gilded Age which is a scanned, print
on demand photocopy.

You can use the "look inside this book" feature to see that all 63 chapters are here. Anyone familiar with the Penguin
Classics series knows that they are not scanned photocopies, filled with typos, or missing significant sections of the book.

Just thought I'd let you know that you can disregard the "don't buy this edition!" posts here, because this is not the edition they're actually talking about.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By IRA Ross on February 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
The post-Civil War years were a time of rapid industrialization in America, aided and abetted by burgeoning plans to build a transcontinental railroad. Many people saw an opportunity to get a piece of the action, to speculate with family savings, the little that there were, in hopes of making millions of dollars in return. Investing in coal mining was one example. It is against this background that _The Gilded Age_ takes place.
Many in Congress saw an opportunity to support various projects that were supposedly for the public good, e.g. building a university for the newly freed slaves upon land, located in Tenneesee, bequeathed by a family patriarch to his children. These schemes were also meant to line many people's pockets. The novel's Senator Dilworthy supports various liberal causes and "family values," i.e. Sunday school education, but is also thoroughly corrupt.
_The Gilded Age_ is meant to be a morality tale where everyone receives his just deserts: the evil or those just plain greedy are punished, including a vengence seeking young woman deeply wronged by her married lover, and the good and the conscientious are rewarded. While the book occasionally gets bogged down in the scandalous details of this young woman's love life, _The Gilded Age_ is often an interesting, lively and educational glance into the manners of 1870s America.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Format: Paperback
Literary legend has it that Twain and Warner's wives had prompted these two authors to work together on The Gilded Age. Some versions of the story have it a dinner party challenge-- where the two men were dared to work together in order to produce a novel better than the popular fiction that their wives were reading. Whatever the true cause, it is an interesting experiment. The Gilded Age is a book worth reading, particularly if you are interested in the history or the popular novels of the 1870s.

The story follows the fortune of the good but silly Hawkins family and their children, both biological and adopted. The Hawkins family is chiefly concerned with the idea of making their fortune, and invest a huge amount of hope and trust in their twin poles of "the Tennesee Land" and the schemes of their family friend, Colonel Beriah Sellers.

The plot is extremely melodramatic, much in keeping with popular fiction of the day. Hidden identities, lost parents, ruined women and handsome cads populate the storyline. Mixed in with this is the classic Twain "pen warmed up in Hell"-- he takes on the corruption of the era, pointing his venom at Congress, the railroad, and at the "reconstruction efforts" theoretically designed to improve conditions in the south while actually being little more then efforts to line pockets, thinly disguised.

It is occasionally an uneven ride. The melodramatic plot and characters are often a very odd fit with the vicious,dry and funny commentary that is made about corruption and public morals. I think it is more enjoyable if you have had exposure to contemporary writers such as Mary Jane Holmes. I kept thinking of this as The English Orphans on crack to try to keep the context in mind.

Despite the uneven quality, I really enjoyed the book.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Horvath on February 11, 2010
Verified Purchase
The second half the book is missing, and what is there has so many printing glitches that it is hard to read. I was disappointed that I could even buy this from Amazon.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By N. S. White on January 20, 2010
Verified Purchase
This edition was scanned from the original using Optical Character Recognition software to keep the cost down, therefore, there are typos that resulted from smudged or worn pages. While this information is disclosed in the book as well as in the product description from Amazon, the typos can be distracting while reading. Also if you need to read the entirety of the novel, do not waste your time with this edition as it only covers chapters 1-31. There are many more than that (63 I believe). Overall, I would not recommend this edition to anyone. Do not waste your money on it!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (Penguin Classics)
This item: The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (Penguin Classics)
Price: $16.00 $13.58
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?