The Adventures of Tom Sawyer ENDNOTES


1 (p. 3) the West... thirty or forty years ago: What Twain calls “the West” is what we today would call the Midwest. His locating the time period of his story “thirty or forty years ago” places it in the 1840s.

Chapter 2

1 (p. 14) Cardiff Hill: The corresponding site in Hannibal, Missouri, where Mark Twain grew up, is Holliday’s Hill, to the north of the town.

2 (p. 14) Delectable Land: The reference is to the Delectable Mountains in The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), by English preacher and writer John Bunyan; the Celestial City can be seen from the summits of these fertile and beautiful mountains.

3 (p. 16) Big Missouri: The Missouri was built in 1845; it was the largest of several steamboats of that name running the Mississippi River during Twain’s youth in Hannibal.

4 (p. 16) “Get out that head-line!... out with your spring-line”: In tying up a boat, a rope called the head-line was used to secure the forward section (the bow), and the spring-line secured the rear of the boat (the stern).

5 (p. 16) gauge-cocks: These glass cylinders mounted on the steam engine’s boiler indicated the level of the water.

6 (p. 18) they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash: See Oliver Goldsmith’s 1770 poem “The Deserted Village”: “And fools, who came to scoff, remain’d to pray” (line 180).

7 (p. 18) spool-cannon: A spool-cannon was a miniature slingshot. Boys would wind elastic material around a wooden thread spool and fire a pencil or other narrow object from the hole.

Chapter 3

1 (p. 20) pleasant rearward apartment: This feature of Aunt Polly’s house suggests that it is modeled after the Clemens family home, still standing in Hannibal, Missouri, at 206 Hill Street.

2 (p. 21) house where Jeff Thatcher lived: This house also still stands, across the street from Twain’s boyhood home.

Chapter 4

1 (p. 26) “Blessed are the—a—a—”: Tom is trying to recall the Beatitudes (the Bible, Matthew 5:3-12), which begin Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.

2 (p. 27) “Barlow” knife: This single-blade pocketknife is named after the eighteenth-century knife-maker Russell Barlow.

3 (p. 28) a man and a brother, without distinction of color: The reference is to the motto—“Am I not a man and a brother!”—that appeared on a medallion produced in 1787 by English potter Josiah Wedgwood. The medallion depicted a black man in chains with his hands raised toward heaven; it was made famous by the antislavery poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who used the motto and image in the 1835 edition of his poem “My Countrymen in Chains!”

4 (p. 29) Doré Bible: The French artist Gustave Doré illustrated this deluxe edition of the Bible, first published in 1866.

5 (p. 30) banknote: Banknotes were a form of currency issued by state-chartered banks. Paper money printed by the federal government did not appear until 1861.

6 (p. 31) Constantinople: This is Twain’s fictional name for Palmyra, a Missouri town to the northwest of Hannibal.

Chapter 5

1 (p. 36) Shall I be car-ried... thro’ blood-y seas?: These lines are taken from a popular hymn known by various titles, including “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” and “Holy Fortitude,” written by English theologian Isaac Watts (1674-1748).

2 (p. 37) predestined elect: Predestination was an important part of Calvinist theology and a central aspect of religious doctrine in the American Presbyterian churches of Twain’s youth. Those who believed they were among the “elect” could expect union with God after death, rather the everlasting damnation reserved for everyone else.

Chapter 6

1 (p. 43) bladder that I got at the slaughter house: There were two slaughter-houses in Hannibal during Twain’s youth there, and during this period byproducts of the slaughtered animals, such as bladders and livers, were given away to those who asked for them.

2 (p. 49) got “turned down,” by a succession of mere baby words: In a school spelling bee like the one described in this passage, the winner of the previous contest would take the first position in the line, and remain in this position until he or she misspelled a word, at which point the student would fall back to the second position. Eventually, by successively misspelling more words, this student (in this case Tom Sawyer) would wind up at the end of the line.

3 (p. 49) pewter medal: Twain was a good speller and often won the spelling-bee medal in his boyhood; he later described it as a circular silver object the size of a large coin that one wore on a string around the neck.

Chapter 8

1 (p. 56) horse pistols: These were large pistols designed to be carried in a holster on the side of a saddle.

2 (p. 56) Black Avenger of the Spanish Main: The phrase refers to an adventure story titled The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main, or the Fiend of Blood (1847); written by the American writer Ned Buntline (pseudonym of Edward Zane Carroll Judson), it was popular among boys during Twain’s youth.

3 (p. 58) “by the book”: The “book” from which the boys have memorized their lines is Robin Hood and His Merry Foresters (1840), by Joseph Cundall.

Chapter 9

1 (p. 62) devil-fire: The phosphorescence referred to was produced by the combustion of decaying vegetation or other material; it was also called Saint Elmo’s fire and will-o‘-the-wisp.

Chapter 11

1 (p. 74) wound bled a little: See the biblical story of Cain and Abel, Genesis 4:10, for the origin of the belief that a murder victim’s renewed bleeding signals that the killer is nearby.

Chapter 12

1 (p. 76) “Health” periodicals and phrenological frauds: In the United States in the 1840s there were many health magazines, including journals devoted to phrenology—the popular pseudoscience of analyzing the shapes of people’s skulls for insights about their character.

2 (p. 77) pale horse... with “hell following after”: In the Bible, Revelations 6:8, Death is described as riding a pale horse with hell following him.

3 (p. 77) Painkiller: Twain recounted being forced in his boyhood to swallow patent medicine, referred to here as “Painkiller,” even though it was intended for application to bruises and other external afflictions.

Chapter 13

1 (p. 81) “two souls with but a single thought”: This phrase comes from the ending of a popular 1842 play, Ingomar the Barbarian, by the Austrian play-wright Baron von Munch-Bellinghausen.

2 (p. 82) Jackson’s Island: The corresponding island in the Mississippi River near Hannibal, Missouri, where Mark Twain grew up, is Glasscock’s Island.

3 (p. 82) Red-Handed: Tom’s source in his “favorite literature” for Huck’s title in this game may be Ned Buntline’s The Last Days of Callao (1847), which refers to a pirate ship belonging to “Rovers of the Bloody Hand.”

Chapter 14

1 (p. 91) “they shoot a cannon over the water”: The belief that shooting a cannon over the water would bring a corpse to the surface was based on the idea that the concussion would shatter the gall bladder, causing the body to float to the surface. There is a similar incident in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (chapter 8).

2 (p. 91) “put quicksilver in ’em”: According to a widely held belief, a hollowed loaf of bread with mercury (quicksilver) inside it would float to the location of a drowned carcass and stop there.

Chapter 16

1 (p. 98) “knucks” and “ringtaw” and “keeps”: These terms describe different types of marble games: Knucks requires shooting at the marbles while keeping one’s knuckles on the ground; the objective of ringtaw is to knock marbles out of a circle; “keeps” simply indicates that the winner keeps the marbles won in that game.

2 (p. 104) the Six Nations: The reference is to the Iroquois Confederacy (also known as the Iroquois League), which was formed during the eighteenth century by five Native American groups—Mohawk, Oneida, Onandaga, Cayuga, and Seneca; originally known as the Five Nations, it became the Six Nations when the Tuscarora tribe joined the Confederacy.

Chapter 21

1 (p. 125) “You’d scarce expect one of my age to speak in public on the stage,” etc.: This phrase comes from the 1791 poem “Lines Written for a School Declamation” (to be spoken by Ephraim H. Farrar, aged seven, New Ipswich, New Hampshire), by David Everett.

2 (p. 126) “The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck”followed; also “The Assyrian Came Down”: These titles of “declamatory gems” have their, sources in, respectively, the poems “Casablanca,” by Felicia D. Hemans (1793-1835), and “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” by George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824).

3 (p. 126) “extract from it”: See Twain’s note at the end of this chapter (p. 147), in which he indicates, accurately, that all the “compositions” in his “extract” are taken “without alteration” from an actual source. Scholars have identified the source as The Pastor’s Story and Other Pieces; or, Prose and Poetry (1871), by Mary Ann Harris Gay, an ardent Southern sympathizer during the Civil War.

4 (p. 128) My dearest friend... to my side“: These lines of verse derive from The Course of Time (1827), by Scottish poet Robert Pollock.

5 (p. 129) Daniel Webster: A New England statesman—congressman, senator, and secretary of state—Webster (1782-1852) was regarded as antebellum America’s greatest orator.

Chapter 22

1 (p. 130) Cadets of Temperance ... their ”regalia“: This was a youth organization against smoking and alcohol; young Samuel Clemens belonged to it—because, he later said, of the colorful sash (the ”regalia“) the cadets wore on holidays.

2 (p. 131) Mr. Benton: Thomas Hart Benton served as United States senator from Missouri for three decades (1821-1851).

Chapter 25

1 (p. 143) Still-House branch: This stream took its name from the fact that one of Hannibal’s several distilleries was located along it.

Chapter 26

1 (p. 148) on a Friday: The belief that Friday is an unlucky day for undertaking new ventures derives from Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday.

2 (p. 148) dreamt about rats: To dream about rats, according to the belief expressed here, meant that one had dangerous enemies.

3 (p. 151) Then for Texas!: Texas was known as a haven for outlaws in the mid-nineteenth century.

4 (p. 153) Murrel’s gang: The American desperado John A. Murrel (1804?-1850) led a band of outlaws whose violent acts were legendary in Missouri towns during Twain’s youth.

5 (p. 153) by the great Sachem: For Injun Joe to swear by the ”sachem,“ a generic term for a great Indian chief, would be for him to take a serious oath.

Chapter 28

1 (p. 159) Temperance Taverns: Unlike Hannibal’s other taverns of the 1840s, its ”temperance tavern“ did not (except covertly) serve alcohol.

2 (p. 160) Hooper Street: This is probably a reference to Hill Street, where Twain’s boyhood home was located.

3 (p. 160) good as wheat: This expression, which in this context means that Tom’s and Huck’s agreement is absolutely firm, derives from colonial times, when wheat could serve as payment for goods and services.

Chapter 29

1 (p. 161) ”hi-spy“ and ”gully-keeper“: ”I spy“ and ”goalie keeper“ are children’s games; both involve a player trying to reach ”home base“ before being tagged.

2 (p. 163) McDougal’s cave: This cave is drawn after McDowell’s cave, located along the Mississippi to the south of Hannibal. During Twain’s youth the cave was associated with its namesake, Doctor Joseph Nash McDowell, a physician given to mysterious activities.

Chapter 33

1 (p. 190) lucifer matches: The lucifer match, tipped with phosphorous and ignited by friction, was patented in the United States in the 1830s.