The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

by

Mark Twain

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Reverend Burgess is a reverend in Hadleyburg who, for reasons Twain doesn’t disclose, has been disgraced by the townspeople. Edward Richards reveals to Mary early in the story that Burgess has a soft spot for their family because of something that happened during the scandal that originally put the reverend’s name to shame. Apparently, Edward was the sole person in Hadleyburg who could have proved Burgess’s innocence, but he was too afraid to get involved. Because he chose to remain silent, Edward felt guilty, so he secretly helped Burgess by sneaking over to his house and warning him to go into hiding because a group of angry citizens were planning to attack him and run him out of town. Because of this, Burgess wants to repay Edward, especially since he doesn’t know that Edward could have actually cleared his name entirely. When the stranger comes to town with the sack of gold, his instructions state that Reverend Burgess should be the person to collect the submissions from anybody who thinks he or she deserves the monetary reward. Burgess assumes that he will perhaps receive one submission (at most), so he’s surprised when he actually receives nineteen. At the town hall meeting, he reads the submissions aloud, revealing each Nineteener as dishonest—until, that is, he reaches Edward Richards’s name. Because he wants to thank Edward for warning him about the angry mob, he doesn’t read his name aloud to the crowd, thereby causing the townspeople to think that Edward is the only Nineteener who has resisted the temptation of greed. Of course, this decision only ends up further destroying Reverend Burgess’s name, since Edward eventually confesses on his deathbed that Burgess lied in order to save him—a confession that harms Burgess, since it frames him as dishonest.

Reverend Burgess Quotes in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

The The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg quotes below are all either spoken by Reverend Burgess or refer to Reverend Burgess. 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 3 Quotes

The house was in a roaring humor now, and ready to get all the fun out of the occasion that might be in it. Several Nineteeners, looking pale and distressed, got up and began to work their way toward the aisles, but a score of shouts went up;

“The doors, the doors—close the doors; no Incorruptible shall leave this place! Sit down, everyone!”

Related Characters: Reverend Burgess
Related Symbols: The Sack of Gold
Page Number: 451
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

I wanted to damage every man in the place, and every woman—and not in their bodies or in their estate, but in their vanity—the place where feeble and foolish people are most vulnerable. So I disguised myself and came back and studied you. You were easy game. You had an old and lofty reputation for honesty, and naturally you were proud of it—it was your treasure of treasures, the very apple of your eye. As soon as I found out that you carefully and vigilantly kept yourselves and your children out of temptation, I knew how to proceed. Why, you simple creatures, the weakest of all weak things is a virtue which has not been tested in the fire.

Related Characters: The Stranger (Howard Stephenson) (speaker), Reverend Burgess
Page Number: 457
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Section 4 Quotes

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Reverend Burgess Character Timeline in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

The timeline below shows where the character Reverend Burgess appears in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
Vanity and Virtue Theme Icon
Revenge and Redemption Theme Icon
...the evening (Friday), and hand his remark, in a sealed envelope, to the Rev. Mr. Burgess (if he will be kind enough to act); and let Mr. Burgess there and then... (full context)
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...also resented him; “I reckon he was the best-hated man among us, except the Reverend Burgess,” Edward says. (full context)
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Mary says that Reverend Burgess deserves the townspeople’s scorn. “He will never get another congregation here,” she says. “[Poor] as... (full context)
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Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...a response because she’s shocked to hear that her husband didn’t come forward to save Burgess from public humiliation. After a moment, though, she tells him she’s glad he kept quiet,... (full context)
Section 2
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...recklessly begin to spend money they don’t yet have. When Friday finally comes around, Reverend Burgess is astonished to receive nineteen envelopes, all from people trying to claim ownership of the... (full context)
Section 3
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...table for all to see. Addressing his fellow townspeople—along with a number of out-of-town reporters—Reverend Burgess delivers a speech about Hadleyburg’s “old and well-earned reputation for spotless honesty.” When he concludes... (full context)
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...is an impudent falsity! I wrote it myself.” This dumbfounds everybody in the hall, until Burgess clarifies that the note’s signature reads “John Wharton Billson.” Because Wilson wrote the same thing... (full context)
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...the same, since Billson’s note contains the word “very,” whereas Wilson’s does not. As such, Burgess reaches into the sack to determine the exact wording of the real phrase. Inside, he... (full context)
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Burgess continues reading the stranger’s note, which upholds that the rightful claimant must quote the final... (full context)
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As the town-hall celebrates Wilson’s victory, Burgess brings them to order once more, reminding them that they must reed the rest of... (full context)
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...our lives, and I think you have liked us and respected us—” At this point, Burgess interrupts him, saying, “We know your good heart, Mr. Richards, but this is not a... (full context)
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...while. “Your name comes now; he has read eighteen.” As the crowd chants for more, Burgess reaches into his pocket, fumbles around, and says, “I find I have read them all.”... (full context)
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...Nineteeners, a twist of bitter irony that pleases the rest of the crowd. Nonetheless, Reverend Burgess pushes on, reading the stranger’s final note, which says: “If no claimant shall appear I... (full context)
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Studying the stranger’s final note, Burgess notices a postscript revealing that there was never “any pauper stranger, nor any twenty dollar... (full context)
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...the sack and summon the Committee on Propagation and Preservation of the Hadleyburg Reputation.” When Burgess opens the sack, he discovers that the so-called “gold” is nothing but a pile of... (full context)
Section 4
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...the letter into the flames. Just then, a new letter arrives, this one from Reverend Burgess, who writes: “You saved me, in a difficult time. I saved you last night. It... (full context)
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...“bristle[s] with accusations” pointed directly at them. Then, on their way home, they pass Reverend Burgess, who walks by without acknowledging their nod—an event that throws them into worry. “Was it... (full context)
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Eventually, Edward convinces himself that Burgess’s letter to him was accusatory, quoting it with new emphasis: “‘At bottom you cannot respect... (full context)
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...dying, people start coming to the house. On the verge of death, Edward addresses Reverend Burgess in front of a group of spectators, saying he wants people to witness his confession... (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... (full context)