Mark Twain

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  • 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.
  • A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
  • A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.
  • A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.
  • A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.
  • A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.
  • A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.
  • A round man cannot be expected to fit in a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape.
  • Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.
  • Adam and Eve had many advantages but the principal one was that they escaped teething.
  • Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
  • Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.
  • Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
  • All generalizations are false, including this one.
  • All say, “How hard it is that we have to die” – a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
  • All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.
  • All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.
  • Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more.
  • Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
  • 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.
  • Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.
  • Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
  • Be careless in your dress if you will, but keep a tidy soul.
  • Better a broken promise than none at all.
  • Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography of the man himself cannot be written.
  • But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?
  • By trying we can easily endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.
  • Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.
  • Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.
  • ‘Classic.’ A book which people praise and don’t read.
  • Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.
  • Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
  • Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
  • Deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie – I found that out.
  • Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
  • Do something everyday that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.
  • Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
  • Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.
  • Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
  • Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.
  • Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.
  • Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.
  • Don’t tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.
  • ‘Don’t you worry, and don’t you hurry.’ I know that phrase by heart, and if all other music should perish out of the world it would still sing to me.
  • Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.
  • 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.
  • Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let me label you as they may.
  • Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.
  • Everything has its limit – iron ore cannot be educated into gold.
  • Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
  • Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.
  • Familiarity breeds contempt – and children.
  • Familiarity breeds contempt. How accurate that is. The reason we hold truth in such respect is because we have so little opportunity to get familiar with it.
  • Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.
  • Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.
  • Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it.
  • From his cradle to his grave a man never does a single thing which has any first and foremost object but one – to secure peace of mind, spiritual comfort, for himself.
  • George Washington, as a boy, was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie.
  • Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.
  • Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.
  • Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.
  • God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board.
  • Going to law is losing a cow for the sake of a cat.
  • Golf is a good walk spoiled.
  • Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.
  • Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
  • Grief can take care if itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.
  • Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else; this is not advice, it is merely custom.
  • He is now rising from affluence to poverty.
  • He is useless on top of the ground; he ought to be under it, inspiring the cabbages.
  • Heaven is by favor; if it were by merit your dog would go in and you would stay out. Of all the creatures ever made man is the most detestable. Of the entire brood, he is the only one that possesses malice. He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain.
  • Honesty is the best policy – when there is money in it.
  • Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.
  • Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritation and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.
  • I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
  • I am different from Washington. I have a higher, grander standard of principle. Washington could not lie. I can lie, but I won’t.
  • I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t… The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.
  • I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.
  • I can live for two months on a good compliment.
  • I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.
  • I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.
  • I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.
  • I don’t like to commit myself about heaven and hell – you see, I have friends in both places.
  • I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough.
  • 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 result humiliating to me.
  • I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.
  • I have made it a rule never to smoke more that one cigar at a time.
  • I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
  • I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting.
  • I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse.
  • I make it a rule never to smoke while I’m sleeping.
  • I must have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes to make it up.
  • I never let schooling interfere with my education.
  • I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying ‘flee at once – all is discovered.’ They all left town immediately.
  • I think a compliment ought to always precede a complaint, where one is possible, because it softens resentment and insures for the complaint a courteous and gentle reception.
  • I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.
  • I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.
  • I’ve never let my school interfere with my education.
  • Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own.
  • If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.
  • If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.
  • If to be interesting is to be uncommonplace, it is becoming a question, with me, if there are any commonplace people.
  • If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
  • If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. That is the difference between dog and man.
  • If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
  • Ignorant people think it is the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it is the sickening grammar that they use.
  • In a museum in Havana there are two skulls of Christopher Columbus, “one when he was a boy and one when he was a man.”
  • In Boston they ask, how much does he know? In New York, how much is he worth? In Philadelphia, who were his parents?
  • In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer.
  • In India, “cold weather” is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy.
  • In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language.
  • In statesmanship get the formalities right, never mind about the moralities.
  • In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.
  • In the real world, nothing happens at the right place at the right time. It is the job of journalists and historians to correct that.
  • In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.
  • India has 2,000,000 gods, and worships them all. In religion, other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.
  • It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.
  • 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.
  • It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress.
  • It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.
  • It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
  • It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.
  • 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.
  • It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.
  • It is easier to stay out than get out.
  • It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago-she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.
  • It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.
  • It is not best that we should all think alike; it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races.
  • It used to take me all vacation to grow a new hide in place of the one they flogged off me during school term.
  • It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
  • It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it.
  • It’s good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.
  • It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.
  • It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
  • 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.
  • Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
  • Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.
  • Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
  • Last week I stated that this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister and now wish to withdraw that statement.
  • Laws control the lesser man… Right conduct controls the greater one.
  • Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.
  • Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.
  • Let us not be too particular; it is better to have old secondhand diamonds than none at all.”
  • Life should begin with age and its privileges and accumulations, and end with youth and its capacity to splendidly enjoy such advantages.
  • Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.
  • Lord save us all from a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.
  • Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.
  • Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul.
  • Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.
  • Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.
  • Man – a creature made at the end of the week’s work when God was tired.
  • Man is the only animal that blushes – or needs to.
  • Man was made at the end of the week’s work when God was tired.
  • Man will do many things to get himself loved, he will do all things to get himself envied.
  • Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.
  • Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins.
  • Morals are an acquirement – like music, like a foreign language, like piety, poker, paralysis – no man is born with them.
  • Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.
  • My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. (Fortunately) everybody drinks water.
  • My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.
  • Name the greatest of all inventors. Accident.
  • Names are not always what they seem. The common Welsh name BZJXXLLWCP is pronounced Jackson.
  • Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.
  • Necessity is the mother of taking chances.
  • Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.
  • No sinner is ever saved after the first twenty minutes of a sermon.
  • Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid.
  • Not until you become a stranger to yourself will you be able to make acquaintance with the Friend.
  • Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.
  • October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks in. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February.
  • Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.
  • Once you’ve put one of his [Henry James] books down, you simply can’t pick it up again.
  • One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.
  • 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.
  • Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial “we.”
  • Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.
  • Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
  • Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.
  • Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. By Order of the Author.
  • Principles have no real force except when one is well-fed.
  • Prophesy is a good line of business, but it is full of risks.
  • Prosperity is the best protector of principle.
  • Prosperity is the surest breeder of insolence I know.
  • Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
  • Repartee is something we think of twenty-four hours too late.
  • She was not quite what you would call refined. She was not quite what you would call unrefined. She was the kind of person that keeps a parrot.
  • Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run.
  • Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough.
  • 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.
  • Such is the human race, often it seems a pity that Noah… didn’t miss the boat.
  • Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.
  • The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.
  • The Christian’s Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same, but the medical practice changes.
  • The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
  • The educated Southerner has no use for an ‘R’, except at the beginning of a word.
  • The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.
  • The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
  • The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity.
  • The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.
  • The holy passion of friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.
  • The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.
  • The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner.
  • The kingly office is entitled to no respect. It was originally procured by the highwayman’s methods; it remains a perpetuated crime, can never be anything but the symbol of a crime. It is no more entitled to respect than is the flag of a pirate.
  • The main difference between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives.
  • The man that sets out to carry a cat by it’s tail learns something that will always be useful and which will never grow dim or doubtful.
  • The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
  • The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little.
  • The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance under the prompting of a brave, determined spirit.
  • The older we grow the greater becomes our wonder at how much ignorance one can contain without bursting one’s clothes.
  • The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d druther not.
  • The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are right.
  • The Public is merely a multiplied “me.”
  • The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all.
  • 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.
  • The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
  • The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.
  • The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
  • The secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow; there is no humor in Heaven.
  • 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 you really want to say.
  • The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.
  • The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they don’t dare to assert themselves.
  • The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
  • The wit knows that his place is at the tail of a procession.
  • There are lies, damned lies and statistics.
  • There are many humorous things in the world: among them the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages.
  • There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one – keep from telling their happiness to the unhappy.
  • 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.
  • There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.
  • There are times when one would like to hang the whole human race, and finish the farce.
  • There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.
  • There is an old-time toast which is golden for its beauty. “When you ascend the hill of prosperity may you not meet a friend.
  • There is more real pleasure to be gotten out of a malicious act, where your heart is in it, than out of thirty acts of a nobler sort.
  • There is no distinctly American criminal class – except Congress.
  • There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist.
  • There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
  • 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.
  • Therein lies the defect of revenge: it’s all in the anticipation; the thing itself is a pain, not a pleasure; at least the pain is the biggest end of it.
  • Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered – either by themselves or by others.
  • Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.
  • To be good is noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble.
  • To refuse awards is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal.
  • To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.
  • Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.
  • Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to except for heaven and hell, and I have only a vague curiosity as concerns one of those.
  • Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it ain’t so.
  • Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.
  • Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.
  • 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.
  • Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
  • Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.
  • Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.
  • We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles.
  • We Americans are the lavishest and showiest and most luxury-loving people on the earth; and at our masthead we fly one true and honest symbol, the gaudiest flag the world has ever seen.
  • We Americans… bear the ark of liberties of the world.
  • We are all alike, on the inside.
  • We are called the nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we invented, which was human liberty.
  • We are chameleons, and our partialities and prejudices change place with an easy and blessed facility, and we are soon wonted to the change and happy in it.
  • We consider that any man who can fiddle all through one of those Virginia Reels without losing his grip, may be depended upon in any kind of musica
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