Programming note: On Sunday Mark will have a brand new audio edition of Steyn's Song of the Week on Serenade Radio in the UK at 5.30pm GMT - that's 12.30pm Eastern/9.30am Pacific in the Americas. You can listen from anywhere on the planet right here.
Meanwhile, welcome to Part Two of The Million-Pound Bank Note by Mark Twain, our latest audio adventure in Tales for Our Time. A Florida member of The Mark Steyn Club, John Marovich, says:
I'm expecting that our protagonist will encounter some bumps in the road. Looking forward to it. Some similarities to the 1983 Eddie Murphy film, Trading Places.
Sal Tessio, a New Jersey Steyn Clubber, agrees:
I had the same thought.
Actually, Trading Places is a kind of conflation of two Mark Twain works: The Million-Pound Bank Note meets The Prince and the Pauper. The point to remember about Hollywood film "development" - first draft, pitch, the rewrite guys, the committee, the twelve-year-old vice-president's input - is that it's no friend to originality; it's an adaptor's form that has reached its absolute nadir in Hollywood's current dependence on mid-twentieth-century comic-book superheroes whom the committee guys then turn gay or Hispanic.
In tonight's episode of The Million-Pound Bank Note our man about town makes a call on a compatriot:
About the tenth day of my fame I went to fulfil my duty to my flag by paying my respects to the American minister. He received me with the enthusiasm proper in my case, upbraided me for being so tardy in my duty, and said that there was only one way to get his forgiveness, and that was to take the seat at his dinner-party that night made vacant by the illness of one of his guests.
To hear me read the second episode of The Million-Pound Bank Note, please click here and log-in. If you missed Part One, you'll find that here.
The "American minister" is not a cabinet minister or a minister of the cloth, but a "minister plenipotentiary" - ie, a diplomat. In those days, only monarchs exchanged ambassadors and republics made do with the lesser rank of minister, as their chap represented a mere government rather than a sovereign. Likewise, the minister led a legation rather than an embassy. America's legation was rather more modest than the bloated excrescence passing itself off as an "embassy" on the south shore of the Thames these days - and, as our hero discovers, rather more accessible to its citizens, too.
Notwithstanding the distinction, after the fall of France's Second Empire in 1870, the Third Republic declined to downgrade from ambassador to minister and this did not pass without notice in Washington. So, in the very year Mark Twain published his account of dinner with the American minister, the US upgraded its man to ambassador and its legation to an embassy.
~If you seek a tale more obviously timely, do check out our brace of Orwellian adaptations - Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four - or even a contemporary inversion of a classic, retooled for our wretched times, by yours truly. Whatever your taste, we have plenty of other yarns in all genres over on our Tales for Our Time home page.
Tales for Our Time started as an experimental feature we introduced as a bonus for Mark Steyn Club members, and, as you know, I said if it was a total stinkeroo, we'd eighty-six the thing and speak no more of it. But I'm thrilled to say it's proved very popular, and and we now have quite an archive. If you're a Club member and you incline more to the stinkeroo side of things, give it your best in the Comments Section below.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club well over four-and-a-half years ago, and I'm truly grateful to all those members across the globe who've signed up to be a part of it - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Cook County to the Cook Islands, West Virginia to the West Midlands. If you've enjoyed our monthly Steyn Club audio adventures and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
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