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Quotes About Twain

Day Dreams

Education & Training...

I never let schooling interfere with my education.

Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.

The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

All generalizations are false, including this one.

Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else.

Plain question and plain answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.

Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.

My land, the power of training! Of influence! Of education! It can bring a body up to believe anything.

[T]he conscience — the unerring monitor — can be trained to approve any wild thing.

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.

There is nothing training cannot do. Nothing is above its reach. It can turn bad morals to good; it can destroy bad principles and recreate good ones; it can lift men to angelship.

Everything has its limit — iron ore cannot be educated into gold.

If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed; if you do, you are misinformed.

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Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation.

Humor is tragedy plus time.

Humor is the soft edge of truth.

Humor is mankind's greatest blessing.

Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a sneeze of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom.

Humor must not professedly teach and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever.

Humor? It is nature's effort to harmonize conditions. The further the pendulum swings out over woe the further it is bound to swing back over mirth.

The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.

The quality of humor is not a personal or a national monopoly. It's as free as salvation, and, I am afraid, far more widely distributed.

The hard and sordid things of life are too hard and too sordid and too cruel for us to know and touch them year after year without some mitigating influence, some kindly veil to draw over them, from time to time, to blur the craggy outlines, and make the thorns less sharp and the cruelties less malignant.

Everything human is pathetic. The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.

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Age & Health...

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it’s a sure sign you’re getting old.

The heart is the real fountain of youth.

I wonder if a person ever really ceases to feel young — I mean, for a whole day at a time.

Lord save us all from old age, broken health and a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.

Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.

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Mark TwainMark Twain 2Mark TwainMark Twain 2

Human Nature...

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.* 

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.

It is not best that we should all think alike; it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races.

If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the results humiliating to me.

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.

A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.

Be virtuous and you will be eccentric.

There's a good spot tucked away somewhere in everybody. You'll be a long time finding it, sometimes.

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.

Man will do many things to get himself loved; he will do all things to get himself envied.

Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, and over these ideals they dispute and cannot unite — but they all worship money.

The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.

The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.

What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself.

There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.

Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Virtue has never been as respectable as money.

In those old slave-holding days the whole community was agreed as to one thing… to help steal a horse or a cow was a low crime, but to help a hunted slave… was a much baser crime, and carried with it a stain, a moral smirch which nothing could wipe away.

Each race determines for itself what indecencies are. Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them

One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than a hundred teaching it.

Our heroes are men who do things which we recognize, with regret, and sometimes with a secret shame, that we cannot do. We find not much in ourselves to admire, we are always privately wanting to be like somebody else. If everybody was satisfied with himself, there would be no heroes.

Oh Death where is thy sting! It has none. But life has.

When people do not respect us we are sharply offended; yet deep down in his private heart no man much respects himself.

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.

There are people who accomplish things and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.

The thug is aware that loudness convinces sixty persons where reasoning convinces but one.

Noise proves nothing, often a hen that has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.

There are no standards of taste in wine, cigars, poetry, prose, etc. Each man's own taste is the standard and a majority vote cannot decide for him or in any slightest degree affect the supremacy of his own standard.

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.

If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it at election time.

It is a blessed provision of nature that… as soon as a man’s mercury has got down to a certain point there comes a revulsion, and he rallies. Hope springs up, and cheerfulness along with it, and then he is in good shape to do something for himself, if anything can be done.

Human pride is not worthwhile; there is always something lying in wait to take the wind out of it.

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.

A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.

There's a breed of humility which is itself a species of showing off.

Fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

Wisdom teaches us that none but birds should go out early, and that not even birds should do it unless they are out of worms.

Grief can take care of itself; but to get the full value of a joy you must have someone to divide it with.

By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.

We can secure other people's approval, if we do it right and try hard; but our own is worth a hundred of it.

There are times when one would like to hang the whole human race, and finish the farce.

Can any plausible excuse be furnished for the crime of creating the human race?

The work that is really a man’s own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man’s work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world.

A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.

It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you: the one to slander you, and the other to get the news to you.

Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.

Good breeding consists of concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.

The human being always looks down when he is examining another person's standard; he never finds one that he has to examine by looking up.

All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.

The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner.

Let us consider that we are all partially insane. It will explain us to each other; it will unriddle many riddles; it will make clear and simplify many things which are involved in haunting and harassing difficulties and obscurities now.

Duties are not performed for duty's sake, but because their neglect would make the man uncomfortable. A man performs but one duty — the duty of contenting his spirit, the duty of making himself agreeable to himself.

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man's character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.

It is my conviction that the human race is no proper target for harsh words and bitter criticisms, and that the only justifiable feeling toward it is compassion, it did not invent itself, and it had nothing to do with the planning of its weak and foolish character.

The weakest of all weak things is a virtue which has not been tested in the fire.

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Mark Twain in Italy

Truth & Falsehood...

Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.

If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.

The truth is not hard to kill but a lie well told lives forever.

A man's private thoughts can never be a lie; what he thinks is to him the truth, always.

Barring that natural expression of villainy which we all have, the man looked honest enough.

Truth is tough. It will not break like a bubble, at a touch; nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.

I shall always confine myself to the truth, except when it is attended with inconvenience.

When a person cannot deceive himself the chances are against his being able to deceive other people.

Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it ain’t so.

I never could tell a lie that anyone would doubt, nor a truth that anybody would believe.

I have a higher and grander standard of principle than George Washington. He could not lie; I can, but I won't.

A lie can travel halfway around the globe, before the truth can get its shoes on.

The history of our race, and each individual’s experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.

An injurious truth has no merit over an injurious lie. Neither should ever be uttered. The man who speaks an injurious truth, lest his soul be not saved if he do otherwise, should reflect that that sort of a soul is not strictly worth saving.

It is often the case that a man who can’t tell a lie thinks that he is the best judge of one.

There are people who think that honesty is always the best policy. This is a superstition. There are times when the appearance of it is worth six of it.

The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying.

You take the lies out of him, and he'll shrink to the size of your hat.

Many people use statistics in the same manner in which a drunk uses a lamp post; for support, rather than for illumination.

Yes, even I am dishonest. Not in many ways, but in some. Forty-one, I think it is.

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Samuel L. Clemens


You can find in a text whatever you bring, if you will stand between it and the mirror of your imagination.

When the [Tom Sawyer] manuscript had lain in a pigeonhole two years I took it out one day and read the last chapter that I had written. It was then that I made the great discovery that when the tank runs dry you’ve only to leave it alone and it will fill up again in time... while you are unaware that this unconscious and profitable cerebration is going on. There was plenty of material now and the book went on and finished itself without any trouble.

Damn the subjunctive. It brings all our writers to shame.

A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words...the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt.

The habit of writing down my dreams of all sorts while they were fresh in my mind, and then studying them and rehearsing them and trying to find out what the source of dreams is... has given me a good dream-memory — a thing which is not usual with people, for few drill the dream-memory, and no memory can be kept strong without that.

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.

Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, and I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray.

The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.

Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.

We hate the critic and think him brutally and maliciously unjust, but he could retort with overwhelming truth: “You will feel just as I do about your book if you will take it up and read it ten years hence."

I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.

Great books are weighed and measured by their style and matter and not by the trimmings and shadings of their grammar.

In early times some sufferer had to sit up with a toothache, and he put in the time inventing the German language.

Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of the Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.

In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.

When a word is so near the right one that a body can't quite tell whether it is or isn't, it's good politics to strike it out and go for the Thesaurus.

Just the omission of Jane Austen's books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it.

A successful book is not made of what is in it, but of what is left out of it.

[On an author's experience —] It’s the thing that puts the muscle, breath and warm blood into the book.

Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.

There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself.

You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic.*

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter — it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.

Hicks had no imagination, I had a double supply. He was born calm, I was born excited. No vision could start a rapture in him and he was constipated as to language, anyway, but if I saw a vision I emptied the dictionary onto it and lost the remnant of my mind into the bargain.

Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.

When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them — then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself... The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.

Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial “we.”

There has never been a time in the past thirty-five years when my literary shipyard hadn’t two or more half-finished ships on the ways, neglected and baking in the sun; generally there have been three or four; at present there are five...

As to the Adjective: When in doubt, strike it out.

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very.’ Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.

Anybody can have ideas — the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.

It is so unsatisfactory to read a noble passage and have no one you love at hand to share the happiness with you. And it is unsatisfactory to read to one's self anyhow — for the uttered voice so heightens the expression.

(On autobiography) I have thought of fifteen hundred or two thousand incidents in my life which I am ashamed of, but I have not gotten one of them to consent to go on paper yet.

My books are water; those of great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water.

As long as a book would write itself I was a faithful and interested amanuensis and my industry did not flag, but the minute that book tried to shift to my head the labor of contriving its situations, inventing its adventures and conducting its conversations, I put it away and dropped it out of my mind.

I have always been able to gain my living without doing any work; for the writing of books and magazine matter was always play, not work. I enjoyed it; it was merely billiards to me.

The kernel, the soul — let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterance — is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources…

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Equator Tour with Livy

There are two classes of travel: first class, and with children.

Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs.

Three months at Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor. I do not mean the oldest and driest mummies, of course, but the fresher ones.

Rural England is too absolutely beautiful to be left out doors — ought to be under a glass case.

New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.

You never saw a bigoted, opinionated, stubborn, narrow-minded, self-conceited, almighty mean man in your life but he had stuck in one place ever since he was born and thought God made the world and dyspepsia and bile for his especial comfort and satisfaction.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.

[Los Angeles] is the only place in the world where the pavements consist exclusively of holes with asphalt around them. And they are the most economical in the world, because holes never get out of repair.

It is an awful trial on a man's religion to waltz it through the Holy Land.

The human imagination is much more capable than it gets credit for. This is why Niagara is always a disappointment when one sees it for the first time.

I have found out there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.

A man accustomed to American food and American domestic cookery would not starve to death suddenly in Europe; but I think he would gradually waste away, and eventually die.

(When Touring Italy)
I do not want Michael Angelo for breakfast — for luncheon — for dinner — for tea — for supper — for between meals... Lump the whole thing! say that the Creator made Italy from a design by Michael Angelo!

I have seen all the foreign countries I want to except heaven and hell and I have only a vague curiosity about one of those.

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Carew Breakfast

Laws & Morals...

Laws control the lesser man; right conduct controls the greater one.

Morals consist of political morals, commercial morals, ecclesiastical morals, and morals.

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.

If we should deal out justice only, in this world, who would escape? No, it is better to be generous and in the end more profitable, for it gains gratitude for us, and love.

Man has made laws for himself. He has fenced himself round with them, mainly with the idea of keeping communities together, and gain for the strongest.

The Moral Sense teaches us what is right, and how to avoid it — when unpopular.

We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding twelve men every day who don't know anything and can't read.

Nothing incites to money-crimes like great poverty or great wealth.

Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.

It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.

Prosperity is the best protector of principle.

In all the ages, three-fourths of the support of the great charities has been conscience money.

The lack of money is the root of all evil.

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House of Lords July 1907

Government & Politics...

No man's life, liberty or property are safe when the legislature is in session.

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

No party holds the privilege of dictating to me how I shall vote. If loyalty to party is a form of patriotism, I am no patriot.

No country can be well governed unless its citizens as a body keep religiously before their minds that they are the guardians of the law, and that the law officers are only the machinery for its execution, nothing more.

I hate to hear people say this Judge will vote so and so, because he is a Democrat — and this one so and so because he is a Republican. It is shameful. The Judges have the Constitution for their guidance; they have no right to any politics save the politics of rigid right and justice when they are sitting in judgment upon the great matters that come before them.

There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember the second.

We have the best government that money can buy.

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

Vast power and wealth corrupt a nation. It incites dangerous ambitions and can bring the republic down. It can pack the Supreme Court with members friendly to its purposes, run down the Congress and crush the people’s voice.

The government of my country snubs honest simplicity, but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two.

The master minds of all nations, in all ages, have sprung, in affluent multitude, from the mass of the nation, and from the mass of the nation only — not from its privileged classes.

Only when a republic's life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is wrong. There is no other time.

A blight has fallen upon us. And the monarchy of the rich and the powerful are the author of it. I had not expected the monarchy to come so soon, but it is here, and it is sitting on the throne.

The lottery is a government institution & the poor its best patrons.

Certainly a man's first duty is to his own conscience and honor — the party or the country come second to that, and never first.

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress.

Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.

To lodge all power in one party and keep it there is to insure bad government and the sure and gradual deterioration of the public morals.

Men think they think upon the great political questions, and they do; but they think with their party, not independently; they read its literature, but not that of the other side.

If you would work the multiplication table into the Democratic platform, the Republicans will vote it down at the election.

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.

(W)hen you are in politics you are in a wasp’s nest with a short shirttail.

Why waste your money looking up your family tree? Just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you.

My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death.

Only a government that is rich and safe can afford to be a democracy, for democracy is the most expensive and nefarious kind of government ever heard of on earth.

No public interest is anything other or nobler than a massed accumulation of private interests.

I have seen a number of Legislatures, and there was a comfortable majority in each of them that knew just about enough to come in when it rained, and that was all.

Few men of first class ability can afford to let their affairs go to ruin while they fool away their time in Legislatures for months on a stretch.

(Two decades before women could vote, Twain wrote...)
I know that since the women started out on their crusade they have scored in every project they undertook against unjust laws. I would like to see them help make the laws and those who are to enforce them. I would like to see the whiplash in women’s hands.

The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter — they are an entire banquet.

In God We Trust. I don't believe it would sound any better if it were true. (And) The motto stated a lie. If this nation has ever trusted in God, that time has gone by; for nearly half a century almost its entire trust has been in the Republican party and the dollar — mainly the dollar.

The candidates re-arrange the facts to suit themselves and keep the lies and half-truths spinning in the air while the great gullible public cheers and shouts and stomps its approval the way they always do when a politician has just said something they don't understand.

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.

Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can.

The mania for giving the government power to meddle with the private affairs of... citizens is likely to cause endless trouble... there is great danger that our people will lose our independence of thought and action... and sink into the helplessness of (one) who expects his government to feed him when hungry, clothe him when naked, to prescribe when his child may be born and when he may die... to regulate every act of humanity from the cradle to the tomb.

History has tried hard to teach us that we can't have good government under politicians. Now, to go and stick one at the very head of the government couldn't be wise.

To lodge all power in one party and keep it there is to insure bad government and the sure and gradual deterioration of the public morals.

An honest man in politics shines more there than he would elsewhere.

All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity.

There isn’t a foot of land in the world which doesn’t represent the ousting and re-ousting of a long line of successive “owners,” who each in turn, as “patriots,” with proud swelling hearts defended it against the next gang of “robbers” who came to steal it and did — and became swelling-hearted patriots in their turn.

There are laws to protect the freedom of the press's speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press.

For in a Republic, who is “the country”? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant — merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.

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Letters From the Earth Illustration


Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.

It isn't those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

The truth is that when a library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me.

God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board.

In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination.

The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.

Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.

It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.

Faith is believing what you know ain't so.

Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.

I never can think of Judas Iscariot without losing my temper. To my mind, Judas Iscariot was nothing but a low, mean, premature, Congressman.

God, so atrocious in the Old Testament, so attractive in the New — the Jekyll and Hyde of sacred romance.

There has been only one Christian. They caught him and crucified him — early.

All gods are better than their reputation.

Jewish persecution is not a religious passion, it is a business passion.

It is best to read the weather forecast before we pray for rain.

Since the beginning of the world there have been 225,000,000,000 savages born and damned and 28,000 saved by missionary effort.

I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.

The gods offer no rewards for intellect. There was never one yet that showed any interest in it.

There is nothing more awe-inspiring than a miracle except the credulity that can take it at par.

When a man arrives at great prosperity God did it; when he falls into disaster he did it himself.

If the Ten Commandments were not written by Moses, then they were written by another fellow of the same name.

(Our forefathers fled their homeland and came to America) to enjoy their religion and, at the same time, prevent other folks from enjoying theirs.

India has two million gods, and worships them all. In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.

Man is a religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them.

[Man] is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven...

The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.

No god and no religion can survive ridicule. No church, no nobility, no royalty or other fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field and live.

Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.

Monarchies, aristocracies, and religions... there was never a country where the majority of the people were in their secret hearts loyal to any of these institutions.

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

When these (Hawaiian) islands were discovered the population was about 400,000, but the white man came and brought various complicated diseases, and education, and civilization, and all sorts of calamities, and consequently the population began to drop off with commendable activity. Forty years ago they were reduced to 200,000, and the educational and civilizing facilities being increased they dwindled down to 55,000, and it is proposed to send a few more missionaries and finish them.

I cannot call to mind a single instance where I have ever been irreverent, except toward the things which were sacred to other people.

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MT at work in bed

Vices & Habits...

Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough. A man is lined with copper, and beer corrodes it. But whiskey polishes the copper and is the saving of him.

Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.

Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.

The more things are forbidden, the more popular they become.

Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.

A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.

Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment.

Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.

If I cannot swear in Heaven I shall not stay there.

When angry, count four; when very angry, swear.

Revenge is wicked, and unchristian and in every way unbecoming. But it is powerful sweet anyway.

Do something every day that you don't want to do. This is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain...

I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time.

I have never bought cigars with life-belts around them. I early found that those were too expensive for me.

I have always bought cheap cigars — reasonably cheap, at any rate… I often have smoking-parties at my house; but the people that come have always just taken the pledge. I wonder why that is?

Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.

When the others drink I like to help, otherwise I remain dry, by habit and preference.

New Year's Day… is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

New Year is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.

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Adages, Insults & Sayings...

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.

Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.

He is a man who has a vast cargo of ignorance.

He said he changed his mind, which was a gilded figure of speech, because we all knew he hadn't any.

Don't interrupt a fool when he's making your point.

An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.

All good things arrive unto them that wait — and don't die in the meantime.

Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like its heaven on earth.

When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain.

Let your secret sympathies and your compassion be always with the under dog in the fight — this is magnanimity; but bet on the other one — this is business.

Never refuse to do a kindness unless the act would work great injury to yourself, and never refuse to take a drink — under any circumstances.

What a talker he is. He could persuade a fish to come out and take a walk with him.

An honest impulse is always forgivable.

It's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.

Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.

The two great branches of French thought are science and adultery.

[T]o one in sympathy with nature, each season, in its turn, seems the loveliest.

Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we’d all have frozen to death.

We had a fumigator so strong that it took all the brass off the doorknobs and all the tune out of the piano.

Drag your thoughts away from your troubles — by the ears, by the heels, or any other way, so you manage it.

A man's history is his own property until the grave extinguishes his ownership in it.

The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little.

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.

Reputation is a hall-mark: it can remove doubt from pure silver, and it can also make the plated article pass for pure.

That kind of so-called housekeeping where they have six Bibles and no corkscrew.

Prosperity is the surest breeder of insolence I know of.

Buildings are not insentient matter — they have a heart and a soul, and eyes to see with…buildings with soul light up and speak out in eloquent welcome and we cannot enter them unmoved.

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

Familiarity breeds contempt — and children.

A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.

A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.

The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are in the wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are in the right.

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.

Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else; this is not advice, it is merely custom.

To kill time, a committee meeting is the perfect weapon.

An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.

The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again... Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.

Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get.

[O]ne of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it.

Its not true that men forget they're married when they see a pretty woman. Just the opposite, that's when they're most painfully reminded of it.

One is apt to overestimate beauty when it is rare.

In Boston they ask, how much does he know? In New York, how much is he worth? In Philadelphia, who were his parents?

A man's character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.

He was of no use on this earth. He ought to be underneath it inspiring the cabbages.

Your skull was not made to put ideas in, it was made to throw potatoes at.

Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?

Think of the paralysis of intellect that gave that idea birth.

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Mark Twain Views the Future

Progress & Change...

Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.

If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there 10 years later.

I do not own a motor-car but I recommend them to all my friends and advise them to buy a car – so that they will come around and take me out in it. Somehow or other, riding in a motor-wagon jolts certain parts of my torso that need to be jolted.

The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.

Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals.

Monarchy? Why is it out of date? It belongs to the state of culture that admires a ring in your nose, a head full of feathers and your belly painted blue.

Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.

There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

To stand still is to fall behind.

Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.

How solemn and beautiful is the thought that the earliest pioneer of civilization is never the railroad, never the newspaper, never the missionary, but whiskey.

The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession — what there is of it.

Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.

We all can treat one another with dignity and respect, provide opportunities to grow toward our fullest lives and help one another discover and develop our unique gifts. We each deserve this and we all can extend it to others.

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Mark Twain

Twain Himself...

I am a border-ruffian from the State of Missouri. I am a Connecticut Yankee by adoption. In me, you have Missouri morals, Connecticut culture; this, gentlemen, is the combination which makes the perfect man.

I do not insist upon the special supremacy of rag money or hard money. The great fundamental principle of my life is to take any kind I can get.

I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.

I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting.

I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.

When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade without further introduction.

I must have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up.

The... periodical and sudden changes of mood in me, from deep melancholy to half-insane tempests and cyclones of humor, are among the curiosities of my life.

It takes me a long time to lose my temper, but once lost I could not find it with a dog.

I believe I would rather ride a donkey than any beast in the world. He goes briskly, he puts on no airs, he is docile, though opinionated. Satan himself could not scare him, and he is convenient — very convenient. When you are tired riding you can rest your feet on the ground and let him gallop from under you.

People seem to think they are citizens of the Republican Party and that that is patriotism and sufficiently good patriotism. I prefer to be a citizen of the United States.

I am more concerned about the return of my money than the return on my money.

I was only sea-sick once… It was on a little ship on which there were two hundred other passengers. I — was — sick. I was so sick there wasn’t any left for the other passengers.

I’ve been accused of exaggeration but I just remember big.

I have seen slower people than I am — and more deliberate people than I am — and even quieter, and more listless, and lazier people than I am. But they were dead.

In the manner of diet — I have been persistently strict in sticking to the things which didn't agree with me until one or the other of us got the best of it.

I am a moralist in disguise; it gets me into heaps of trouble when I go thrashing around in political questions.

I take my rest faithfully, and prepare myself to do my duty by my audience. My cast iron duty is to my audience — it leaves me no liberty and no option.

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.

Ignorance, intolerance, egotism, self-assertion, opaque perception, dense and pitiful chuckleheadedness — and an almost pathetic unconsciousness of it all, that is what I was at 19 and 20....

I can live for two months on a good compliment.

I am disposed to allow [burglars] credit for whatever good qualities they possess… The only one I just now think of is their great care while doing their business to avoid disturbing people’s sleep. Noiseless as they may be, however, the effect of their visitation is to murder sleep later on.

I never mount a horse without experiencing a sort of dread that I may be setting out on that last mysterious journey which all of us must take sooner or later, and I never come back in safety from a horseback trip without thinking of my latter end for two or three days afterward.

After I have joined the dead I shall follow the customs of those people — but until that time shall come I shall be a doubtful quantity like the rest of our race.

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.

My description is as follows: Born 1835; 5 ft. 8 1/2 inches tall; weight about 145 pounds, dark brown hair and red moustache, full face with very high ears and light gray beautiful beaming eyes and a damned good moral character.

I was an exception, you understand — my kind don't turn up every day. We are very rare. We are a sort of human century plant, and we don't blossom in everybody's front yard.

I came in with Halley’s comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s comet. The Almighty said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’

* = Attributed to Twain but not Authenticated

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Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Alva Edison
An average American loves his family. If he has any love left over for some other person, he generally selects Mark Twain.
Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
To my mind Mark Twain was beyond question the largest man of his time, both in the direct outcome of his work and more important still, if possible, in his indirect influence as a protesting force in an age of iron philistinism.
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There is nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.
Clara Clemens
Clara Clemens
He was never attracted to subjects which demanded a knowledge of deeper mathematics, for his natural inclination was always stronger toward more poetic and mystic subjects; although I remember his saying that mathematics did not lack poetry either.
Maxim Gorky
Maxim Gorky
He has always impressed me as a blacksmith who stands at his anvil with the fire burning and strikes hard and hits the mark every time.
San Francisco Clergyman
Son of the devil, Mark Twain.
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
Mark Twain and I are in very much the same position. We have to put things in such a way as to make people who would otherwise hang us, believe that we are joking.
H. L. Mencken
H. L. Mencken
The true father of our national literature.
William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Emerson, Longfellow, Lowell, Holmes — I knew them all and the rest of our sages, poets, seers, critics, humorists; they were like one another and like other literary men; but Clemens was sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of our literature.
Kurt Vonegut, Jr.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Twain was so good with crowds that he became... one of the most popular performers of his time. It is so unusual... that I can think of only two similar cases — Homer's, perhaps, and Moliere's.
Albert Bigelow Paine
Albert Bigelow Paine
For me, of course, nothing can ever be like it again in this world. One is not likely to associate twice with a being from another star.
Jane Lampton Clemens
Jane Clemens
He is a wellspring of truth, but you can't bring up the whole well with one bucket.

I take his average, therefore he never deceives me. I discount him thirty percent for embroidery, and what is left is perfect and priceless truth, without a flaw in it anywhere.
Jean Clemens
Jean Clemens
A contrary cuss and difficult to keep out of deadly indiscretions.
Katy Leary
Katy Leary
Of course his swearing never seemed really bad to me. It was sort of funny, and a part of him, somehow. Sort of amusing it was — and gay — not like real swearing, 'cause he swore like an angel.
Helen Keller
Helen Keller
He talked delightfully, audaciously, brilliantly... his talk fragrant with tobacco and flamboyant with profanity. He seemed to have absorbed all America into himself.
Isabel Lyon
Isabel Lyon
(Personal Secretary)
Hours and hours and hours he sits writing with a wonderful light in his eyes. The flush of a girl in his cheeks, and oh the luster of his hair. It is too terribly perishably beautiful.
Bret Harte
Bret Harte
He had the curly hair, the aquiline nose and even the aquiline eye — an eye so eagle-like that a second lid would not have surprised me — of an unusual and dominant nature.
Robert Underwood Johnson
Robert Underwood
That a man coming from humble and unliterary surroundings... could have risen even by the most gradual stages to his preeminence as a world figure has no parallel in literary history.
Willa Cather
Willa Cather
Mark Twain’s... laugh is the gruff “haw-haw” of the backwoodsman. He is still the rough, awkward, good-natured boy who swore at the deck hands on the river steamer and chewed uncured tobacco when he was three years old. Thoroughly likeable as a good fellow, but impossible as a man of letters.
 Ron Powers, Writer & Biographer
Ron Powers
Writer & Biographer

    [Mark Twain] really did stride through the 19th century and manage to be at almost every single moment and every single place when America changed, when it moved forward....

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