This classic Mark Twain tale is a witty commentary on poverty and wealth. There is much of Twain’s personal circumstance reflected in the story, as Twain had himself recently gone from riches to bankruptcy.
In 1891, after a long and prosperous career, Mark Twain was struggling financially and sold his home in Hartford CT and moved to Europe. It was during this challenging period that Twain penned a short story, The Million Pound Bank Note in 1893.
It’s the tale of a down on his luck American financier stranded without a cent to his name in London and an encounter with two wealthy brothers that changes his life forever.
The Million Pound Bank Note was the basis for the 1954 Gregory Peck Film, The Million Pound Note and was one of the stories that inspired the 1983 Eddie Murphy comedy, Trading Places.
What made Twain’s work popular both in the 19th century and today, is the approachable style of storytelling. It’s easy to slip into a comfortable Mark Twain story and get lost in his simple tales of relatable human experiences, no matter how far fetched the underlying concept. Shortly after writing The Million Pound Bank Note Twain both filed for bankruptcy and published his final novel, Puddinhead Wilson.
In 1895, Twain embarked on a global lecture tour to pay off debts and about a year later lost his eldest daughter to meningitis, an emotional blow from which he never fully recovered.
He died in 1920 at the age of 74.