The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

by

Mark Twain

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Edward Richards Character Analysis

Edward Richards is the cashier at Hadleyburg’s local bank. Edward is one of the town’s well-respected nineteen citizens, though—like the other Nineteeners—he is dishonest and easily corruptible. His wife, Mary Richards, is the one who first meets the stranger who comes to destroy Hadleyburg’s reputation. Edward is overjoyed to discover that somebody has entrusted him and his wife with a sack of gold, quickly suggesting that they bury it in the yard. Despite this initial reaction, he decides to follow the stranger’s instructions by publicizing news of the event. Edward eventually regrets not having kept the gold for himself and tries unsuccessfully to stop the story from running in the newspaper. His attempt to keep the money for himself is a testament to his lacking moral integrity, a trait that follows him throughout the story. Indeed, he later lies in order to try to win the sack of gold. Although all of the other Nineteeners (who have also lied) are caught red-handed in their immoral dealings, Edward finds himself saved from public humiliation. Reverend Burgess—who mistakenly thinks Edward once helped him—saved him by not reading his name out while revealing all of the other disgraced Nineteeners. As a result, the entire town celebrates Edward as the only respectable and honest citizen in Hadleyburg, but this throws him into a state of overwhelming guilt. Eventually, this guilt turns to paranoia, and Edward begins to suspect that Burgess will tell everybody that he isn’t actually an honest man. Unable to take the pressure of his own shame, Edward confesses in front of several witnesses that Reverend Burgess saved him by not revealing that he, like the others, lied in order to get the sack of gold. With this, he dies, not realizing that unburdening himself has only hurt poor Burgess.

Edward Richards Quotes in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

The The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg quotes below are all either spoken by Edward Richards or refer to Edward Richards. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Vanity and Virtue Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam edition of The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg published in 2005.
Section 1 Quotes

Very well, what shall we do—make the inquiry private? No, not that; it would spoil the romance. The public method is better. Think what a noise it will make! And it will make all the other towns jealous; for no stranger would trust such a thing to any town but Hadleyburg, and they know it. It’s a great card for us.

Related Symbols: The Sack of Gold
Page Number: 424
Explanation and Analysis:

Oh, I know it, I know it—it’s been one everlasting training and training and training in honesty—honesty shielded, from the very cradle, against every possible temptation, and so it’s artificial honesty, and weak as water when temptation comes, as we have seen this night. God knows I never had shade nor shadow of a doubt of my petrified and indestructible honesty until now—and now, under the very first big and real temptation, I—Edward, it is my belief that this town’s honesty is as rotten as mine is; as rotten as yours is. It is a mean town, a hard, stingy town, and hasn’t a virtue in the world but this honesty it is so celebrated for and so conceited about; and so help me, I do believe that if ever the day comes that its honesty falls under great temptation, its grand reputation will go to ruin like a house of cards. There, now, I’ve made confessions, and I feel better.

Related Characters: Mary Richards (speaker), Edward Richards
Related Symbols: The Sack of Gold
Page Number: 430
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 2 Quotes

Had he rendered that service? Well, here was Goodson’s own evidence as reported in Stephenson’s letter; there could be no better evidence than that—it was even proof that he had rendered it. Of course. So that point was settled…. No, not quite. He recalled with a wince that this unknown Mr. Stephenson was just a trifle unsure as to whether the performer of it was Richards or some other—and, oh dear, he had put Richards on his honor!

[…] Further reflection. How did it happen that Richards’s name remained in Stephenson’s mind as indicating the right man, and not some other man’s name? That looked good. Yes, that looked very good. In fact, it went on looking better and better, straight along—until by and by it grew into positive proof. And then Richards put the matter at once out of his mind, for he had a private instinct that a proof once established is better left so.

Related Symbols: The Sack of Gold
Page Number: 436
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 4 Quotes

If those beautiful words were deserved, Mary—and God knows I believed I deserved them once—I think I could give the forty thousand dollars for them. And I would put that paper away, as representing more than gold and jewels, and keep it always. But now—We could not live in the shadow of its accusing presence, Mary.

Page Number: 465
Explanation and Analysis:

Within twenty-four hours after the Richardses had received their checks their consciences were quieting down, discouraged; the old couple were learning to reconcile themselves to the sin which they had committed. But they were to learn, now, that a sin takes on new and real terrors when there seems a chance that it is going to be found out. This gives it a fresh and most substantial and important aspect. At church the morning sermon was the usual pattern; it was the same old things said in the same old way; they had heard them a thousand times and found them innocuous, next to meaningless, and easy to sleep under; but now it was different: the sermon seemed to bristle with accusations; it seemed aimed straight and specially at people who were concealing deadly sins.

Page Number: 466
Explanation and Analysis:
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Edward Richards Character Timeline in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

The timeline below shows where the character Edward Richards appears in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
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...night, the stranger returns to Hadleyburg and goes to the elderly bank cashier’s house. This man—Edward Richards—is one of the nineteen most prominent and well-respected citizens of Hadleyburg, a group known... (full context)
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...or publicly (with Mr. Richards taking this note to the newspaper to be published). If Edward Richards decides to conduct this inquiry privately, any claimant should deliver to him a written... (full context)
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If Mr. Richards decides to conduct this inquiry publicly, the stranger writes, then he should follow these instructions:... (full context)
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...that she couldn’t possibly “touch it,” since it represents the “wages of sin.” Before long, Edward comes home and reads the note affixed to the sack, exclaiming that 160 pounds of... (full context)
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“The public method is better,” Edward asserts. “Think what a noise it will make! And it will make all the other... (full context)
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...congregation here,” she says. “[Poor] as the town is, it knows how to estimate him. Edward, doesn’t it seem odd that the stranger should appoint Burgess to deliver the money?” After... (full context)
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Mary and Edward both start thinking again about the sack of gold, growing increasingly irritated as they ponder... (full context)
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Just when Edward and Mr. Cox decide to intercept the message they’ve already delivered to the printing-offices, a... (full context)
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...moral character until tonight, when the first temptation to arise completely unwound her ethical integrity. “Edward,” she says, “it is my belief that this town’s honesty is as rotten as mine... (full context)
Section 2
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...finally they find themselves replying with: “Oh, if we could only guess!” Within three weeks, Edward and Mary Richards have stopped reading or chatting before bed. Instead, they both try to... (full context)
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...fellow townspeople, berating most of them. However, he spoke “favorably” about several citizens, including—according to Stephenson—Edward Richards. (full context)
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Edward and Mary continue studying Stephenson’s letter, which reads: “I remember [Goodson] saying he did not... (full context)
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Edward and Mary rejoice at the good news, but Edward suddenly realizes that he can’t remember... (full context)
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That night, Mary happily fantasizes about what she will do with the $40,000. Edward, for his part, lies awake trying to think of a scenario in which he deserves... (full context)
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The idea of being put “on his honor” daunts Edward, but the mere fact that Stephenson remembered his (Edward’s) name stands out to him as... (full context)
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Having comforted himself with the idea that “a proof once established is better left so,” Edward turns his mind toward identifying what, exactly, he did to earn Goodson’s gratitude. He goes... (full context)
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Finally, Edward remembers that Goodson—who died a bachelor—was once set to marry a woman named Nancy Hewitt.... (full context)
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What Edward and Mary don’t know is that the postman delivered the same letter to all of... (full context)
Section 3
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As the Nineteeners endure public humiliation one by one, Edward and Mary Richards sit in terrible anticipation, waiting for Edward’s name to be called. Unable... (full context)
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“Be ready,” Mary says to Edward after a while. “Your name comes now; he has read eighteen.” As the crowd chants... (full context)
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...sack of “gilt” becomes something of a commodity, the proceeds of which will go to Edward and Mary Richards. The crowd loves this idea, and immediately starts bidding for the sack.... (full context)
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...says. “They must pay a heavy price, too—some of them are rich.” He also commends Edward for being an “honest man,” saying, “He saw my deuces and with a straight flush,... (full context)
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...says. “Grant me that approval, and I will give part of my gains to your Mr. Richards , whose invulnerable probity you have so justly and so cordially recognized to-night; his share... (full context)
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...sack for me until to-morrow,” he says, “and to hand these three five-hundred-dollar notes to Mr. Richards .” He then says that he will fetch the sack at nine the next morning... (full context)
Section 4
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After the town hall meeting, Edward and Mary Richards have to “endure congratulations and compliments until midnight.” When they’re finally alone,... (full context)
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...next morning, Harkness meets the stranger and gives him $40,000. The stranger then goes to Edward and Mary’s house to deliver the money (they already have the $1,500 he gave them... (full context)
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Edward and Mary open the envelope, expecting to find $8,500 worth of checks signed by Stephenson.... (full context)
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Edward tells Mary that he feels as if Stephenson’s final letter is “written with fire,” its... (full context)
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Eventually, Edward convinces himself that Burgess’s letter to him was accusatory, quoting it with new emphasis: “‘At... (full context)
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Edward tells his nurses that they will never again see the checks, which “came from Satan.”... (full context)
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At this point, Burgess interjects, trying to get Edward to stop speaking. Nonetheless, Edward forges on, saying, “My servant betrayed my secret to [Burgess…]... (full context)
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In the aftermath of Mary and Edward’s deaths, the town of Hadleyburg petitions to change its name. It also decides to leave... (full context)