About Mark Twain (quotes)

Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. Among his novels are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Wikipaedia

References:   Encyclopaedia Britannica   |   Biography.com


Mark Twain (quotes)

Principles for living


Having principles

  • Prosperity is the best protector of principle.
  • Principles have no real force except when one is well-fed.
  • We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles.
  • I find that principles have no real force except when one is well fed.

Reality and fact

  • All generalizations are false, including this one.
  • Facts are stubborn things but statistics are more pliable.
  • Get your facts first and then you can distort them as much as you please.
  • How empty is theory in the presence of fact!
  • I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts.
  • Often the surest way to convey misinformation is to tell the strict truth.
  • Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.
  • There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
  • How empty is theory in the presence of fact!
  • One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
  • We do not deal much in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.


  • Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain’t so. 
  • Truth is more of a stranger than fiction.
  • Truth is the most valuable thing we have, so I try to conserve it.
  • Why shouldn’t truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.
  • Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.
  • It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.


  • When people do not respect us we are sharply offended; yet in his private heart no man much respects himself.
  • Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any.
  • I am a great and sublime fool. But then I am God’s fool, and all His works must be contemplated with respect.

Love what you do

  • The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.

Embrace life

  • 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.
  • Don’t look at the world with your hands in your pockets. To write about it you have to reach out and touch it.
  • The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
  • 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.


  • 20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
  • What is there that confers the noblest delight? What is that which swells a man’s breast with pride above that which any other experience can bring to him? Discovery! To know that you are walking where none others have walked.


  • Work is a necessary evil to be avoided.
  • Labor in loneliness is irksome.
  • My interest in my work dies a sudden and violent death when the work is done.


  • What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn’t have done it.
  • Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.


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

Borrowing ideas

  • The kernel, the soul — let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances — is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.

Thinking for yourself

  • Independence is loyalty to one’s best self and principles, and this is often disloyalty to the general idols and fetishes.
  • It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races.
  • Its name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God.
  • Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world — and never will.
  • Sacred cows make the best hamburger.
  • The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.
  • Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.


  • A cauliflower is a cabbage with a college education.
  • Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.
  • Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.
  • Education: that which reveals to the wise and conceals from the stupid the vast limits of their knowledge.
  • Education: the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.
  • Everything has its limit – iron ore cannot be educated into gold.
  • I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
  • Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre but they are more deadly in the long run.


  • Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.
  • There are those who imagine that the unlucky accidents of life—life’s “experiences”—are in some way useful to us. I wish I could find out how. I never know one of them to happen twice. They always change off and swap around and catch you on your inexperienced side.


  • A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.
  • All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence and then success is sure.
  • Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
  • To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.
  • Human nature is the same everywhere; it deifies success, it has nothing but scorn for defeat.


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


  • 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.
  • It is in the heart that the values lie. I wish I could make him understand that a loving heart is riches, and riches enough, and that without it intellect is poverty.  
  • 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.
  • When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain.


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


  • An enemy can partly ruin a man but it takes a good-natured injudicious friend to complete the thing and make it perfect.
  • Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
  • It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.
  • The holy passion of friendship is so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring in nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.


  • If we were meant to talk more than listen, we would have two mouths and one ear.


  • If you want love and abundance in your life, give it away.


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


  • Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
  • 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.


  • Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other.
  • Better a broken promise than none at all.
  • Courage is the foundation of integrity.
  • Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.


  • A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.
  • But when the time comes that a man has had his dinner, then the true man comes to the surface.


  • When one’s character begins to fall under suspicion and disfavor, how swift, then, is the work of disintegration and destruction.


  • Always acknowledge a fault frankly. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you opportunity to commit more.
  • Honesty is the best policy – when there is money in it.  
  • Honesty: The best of all the lost arts.
  • If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.
  • 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.
  • When in doubt tell the truth.


  • Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more restful.

Knowing what you want

  • 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.


  • Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.
  • Courage is the foundation of integrity.
  • Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.
  • It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.
  • To believe yourself to be brave is to be brave; it is the only essential thing.
  • Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?


  • Great people make you feel that you too can become great.
  • Our heroes are the men who do things which we recognize, with regret, and sometimes with a secret shame, that we cannot do.


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

Optimism and pessimism

  • Optimist: day dreamer more elegantly spelled.
  • Optimist: Person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.
  • Pessimist: The optimist who didn’t arrive.
  • The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it he knows too little.
  • There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist.


  • The best way to cheer yourself is to cheer somebody else up.


  • The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.


  • One of life’s most over-valued pleasures is sexual intercourse; one of life’s least appreciated pleasures is defecation.


  • Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.

Keeping silent

  • If you have nothing to say, say nothing.
  • It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
  • The pause-that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence, which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, howsoever felicitous, could accomplish it.
  • There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one – keep from telling their happiness to the unhappy.


  • It is by the goodness of god that in our country we have those 3 unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.
  • We Americans… bear the ark of liberties of the world.
  • We are strange beings, we seem to go free, but we go in chains – chains of training, custom, convention, association, environment – in a word, Circumstance – and against these bonds the strongest of us struggle in vain.


  • 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 rather not.


  • I am pushing sixty. That is enough exercise for me. 
  • I have never taken any exercise, except sleeping and resting, and I never intend to take any.


  • Peace by persuasion has a pleasant sound, but I think we should not be able to work it. We should have to tame the human race first, and history seems to show that that cannot be done.


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


  • Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered – either by themselves or by others.

Humor and laughter

  • Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
  • 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. 
  • Humor must not professedly teach and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever.
  • Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.
  • Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a sneeze of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom.
  • The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.
  • The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it.
  • When a humorist ventures upon the grave concerns of life he must do his job better than another man or he works harm to his cause.
  • Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.

Decision making

  • I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!
  • Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.


  • Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.
  • Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.
  • Nothing needs reforming so much as other people’s habits.


  • Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever flowing through one’s head.


  • What is the most rigorous law of our being? Growth. No smallest atom of our moral, mental, or physical structure can stand still a year. It grows — it must grow; nothing can prevent it.


  • Grief can take care if itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.
  • Let your joy be unconfined!
  • Some people bring joy wherever they go, and some people bring joy whenever they go.
  • What is joy without sorrow?


  • All emotion is involuntary when genuine.


  • A genuine expert can always foretell a thing that is 500 years away easier than he can a thing that’s only 500 seconds off.


  • Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.
  • You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.


  • I can live for two months on a good compliment.
  • I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough.
  • When you cannot get a compliment any other way, pay yourself one.

Morality and virtue

  • An ethical man is a Christian holding four aces.
  • Be good and you will be lonesome.
  • Be virtuous and you will be eccentric.
  • I have not a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming vices.
  • It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.
  • Let us endeavor so to live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.
  • Moralists and philosophers have adjudged those who throw temptation in the way of the erring, equally guilty with those who are thereby led into evil.
  • Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no business doing wrong when he ain’t ignorant and knows better.
  • To be good is noble but to teach others how to be good is nobler – and less trouble.  
  • Virtue has never been as respectable as money.
  • What’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?

Human challenges and shortcomings



  • All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence and then success is sure.
  • His ignorance covers the world like a blanket and there’s scarcely a hole in it anywhere.
  • I always did hate for anyone to know what my plans or hopes or prospects were—for, if I kept people in ignorance in these matters, no one could be disappointed but myself, if they were not realized.
  • I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.
  • I would rather have my ignorance than another man’s knowledge, because I have got so much more of it.
  • 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.
  • To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.


  • A sin takes on a new and real terror when there seems a chance that it is going to be found out.
  • Few sinners are saved after the first 20 minutes of a sermon.
  • Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins.
  • Adam was but human–this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.
  • There are many scapegoats for our sins, but the most popular is providence.

Fault finding

  • One mustn’t criticize other people on grounds where he can’t stand perpendicular himself.
  • No one is willing to acknowledge a fault in himself when a more agreeable motive can be found for the estrangement of his acquaintances.
  • Always acknowledge a fault frankly. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you opportunity to commit more.


  • He gossips habitually; he lacks the common wisdom to keep still that deadly enemy of man, his own tongue.


  • A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.
  • Conscience, man’s moral medicine chest.


  • Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.
  • Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.
  • Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.

Attachment to tradition

  • Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.
  • The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.


  • It is better to give than receive- especially advice.

Approval and disapproval

  • A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.
  • Each man is afraid of his neighbor’s disapproval – a thing which, to the general run of the human race, is more dreaded than wolves and death.
  • Self-approval is acquired mainly from the approval of other people.
  • The sole impulse which dictates and compels a man’s every act: the imperious necessity of securing his own approval, in every emergency and at all costs…. It is our only spur, our whip, our goad, our impelling power; we have no other.
  • We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess.
  • We can secure other people’s approval, if we do right and try hard; but our own is worth a hundred of it, and no way has been found out of securing that.


  • Do not put off till tomorrow what can be put off till day-after-tomorrow just as well.
  • I am as prompt as a clock, if I only know the day a thing is wanted—otherwise I am a natural procrastinaturalist.


  • Comparison is the death of joy.


  • Drag your thoughts away from your troubles — by the ears, by the heels, or any other way, so you manage it.
  • I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
  • I’m an old man and I’ve had many troubles, most of which never happened.


  • I’m quite sure that … I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed, I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being– that is enough for me he can’t be any worse.
  • The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
  • Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.


  • The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.
  • The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.


  • A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.
  • In order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.
  • There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.

The forbidden

  • There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.
  • To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.
  • The more things are forbidden, the more popular they become.


  • The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner.
  • There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.
  • We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles.


  • There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it.


  • A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
  • A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.
  • Deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie — I found that out.
  • George Washington, as a boy, was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie.
  • There are lies, damned lies and statistics.
  • There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.
  • 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.


  • 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.


  • By trying we can easily endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.

The shadow

  • Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.


  • Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.
  • Is not this insanity plea becoming rather common? Is it not so common that the reader confidently expects to see it offered in every criminal case that comes before the courts?… Really, what we want now, is not laws against crime, but a law against insanity.
  • 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 simple many things which are involved in haunting and harassing difficulties and obscurities now.
  • No sane man can be happy, for to him life is real, and he sees what a fearful thing it is. Only the mad can be happy, and not many of those. The few that imagine themselves kings or gods are happy, the rest are no happier than the sane.
  • The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.
  • The way it is now, the asylums can hold all the sane people but if we tried to shut up the insane we should run out of building materials.
  • When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.


  • Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.
  • It isn’t safe to sit in judgment upon another person’s illusion when you are not on the inside. While you are thinking it is a dream, he may be knowing it is a planet.


  • 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.


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


  • Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.


  • 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 old age and broken health and a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.
  • The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity.
  • When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.
  • When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it’s a sure sign you’re getting old.
  • Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.
  • Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.


  • I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.
  • 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.
  • I was sorry to have my name mentioned as one of the great authors, because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, Spencer is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I’m not feeling so well myself.
  • I would like to live in Manchester England; the transition between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable.
  • The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
  • The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.
  • Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is, knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our race. He brought death into the world.
  • Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.

Life’s simple joys



  • A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.
  • Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography of the man himself cannot be written.
  • I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.
  • I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. 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. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.
  • In ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had.
  • My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. (Fortunately) everybody drinks water.
  • Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we.’


  • The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.
  • A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words in a book or a newspaper the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt.
  • The right word may be effective but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.
  • Use the right word and not its second cousin.
  • Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.

Public Speaking

  • But I never could make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it.
  • It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
  • Eloquence is the essential thing in a speech, not information.
  • Lord, what an organ is human speech when it is played by a master!


  • ‘Classic.’ A book which people praise and don’t read.
  • A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.
  • Be careful about reading health books for you may die of a misprint.
  • A book which people praise and don’t read.
  • Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
  • Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own.
  • If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.
  • When I am king they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books, for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved.
  • 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.
  • Once you’ve put one of his books down you simply can’t pick it up again.


  • The true charm of pedestrianism does not lie in the walking, or in the scenery, but in the talking. The walking is good to time the movement of the tongue by, and to keep the blood and the brain stirred up and active; the scenery and the woodsy smells are good to bear in upon a man an unconscious and unobtrusive charm and solace to eye and soul and sense; but the supreme pleasure comes from the talk. 


  • I have witnessed and greatly enjoyed the first act of everything which Wagner created, but the effect on me has always been so powerful that one act was quite sufficient; whenever I have witnessed two acts I have gone away physically exhausted; and whenever I have ventured an entire opera the result has been the next thing to suicide.
  • Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.
  • A gentleman is someone who knows how to play the banjo and doesn’t.
  • There isn’t often anything in Wagner opera that one would call by such a violent name as acting; as a rule all you would see would be a couple of … people, one of them standing, the other catching flies.


  • Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
  • France had neither winter nor summer nor morals – apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country.
  • From the dome of St. Peter’s one can see every notable object in Rome… He can see a panorama that is varied, extensive, beautiful to the eye, and more illustrious in history than any other in Europe.
  • 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.
  • If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later.
  • In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.
  • O, Switzerland! the further it recedes into the enriching haze of time, the more intolerably delicious the charm of it and the cheer of it and the glory and majesty and solemnity and pathos of it grow. Those mountains had a soul; they thought; they spoke,—one couldn’t hear it with the ears of the body, but what a voice it was!—and how real. Deep down in my memory it is sounding yet.


  • I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter’s evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot, along with some sugar and a drench of cream… I know how the nuts taken in conjunction with winter apples, cider, and doughnuts, make old people’s tales and old jokes sound fresh and crisp and enchanting.
  • New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.
  • Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
  • When one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat.
  • You can tell German wine from vinegar by the label.


  • After a few months’ acquaintance with European ‘coffee’ one’s mind weakens, and his faith with it, and he begins to wonder if the rich beverage of home, with it’s clotted layer of yellow cream on top of it, is not a mere dream after all, and a thing which never existed.
  • Of all the unchristian beverages that ever passed my lips, Turkish coffee is the worst. The cup is small, it is smeared with grounds; the coffee is black, thick, unsavory of smell, and execrable in taste. The bottom of the cup has a muddy sediment in it half an inch deep. This goes down your throat, and portions of it lodge by the way, and produce a tickling aggravation that keeps you barking and coughing for an hour.


  • When angry, count four; when very angry, swear.
  • In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer.
  • 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.
  • Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.


  • A baby is an inestimable blessing and bother.
  • My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.


  • As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain from smoking when awake.
  • Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.
  • I make it a rule never to smoke while I’m sleeping.
  • I never smoke to excess – that is, I smoke in moderation, only one cigar at a time.

Cats and dogs

  • A home without a cat — and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat — may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?
  • A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.
  • 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 a cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.
  • 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. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.
  • If you shamefully misuse a cat once she will always maintain a dignified reserve toward you afterward. You will never get her full confidence again.
  • 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.
  • Of all God’s creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.
  • One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.
  • The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.

Rising late

  • Rise early. It is the early bird that catches the worm. Don’t be fooled by this absurd saw; I once knew a man who tried it. He got up at sunrise and a horse bit him.


  • One can enjoy a rainbow without necessarily forgetting the forces that made it.
  • We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that a savage has, because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we gained by prying into that matter.


  • It’s good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.
  • Golf is a good walk spoiled.

Thoughts on religion



  • What a man wants with religion in these breadless times, surpasses my comprehension.
  • It is best to read the weather forecast before praying for rain.
  • “In God We Trust.” I don’t believe it would sound any better if it were true.
  • A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows.
  • But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?
  • God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention.
  • God was left out of the Constitution but was furnished a front seat on the coins of the country.
  • God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board.
  • Has the trade of interpreting the Lord’s matters gone out, discouraged by the time-worn fact that nobody succeeds at it? No, it still flourishes; there was never a century nor a country that was short of experts who knew the Deity’s mind and were willing to reveal it.
  • I believe our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey.
  • I never made a success of a lecture delivered in a church yet. People are afraid to laugh in a church. They can’t be made to do it in any possible way.
  • I was afraid of a united Church; it makes a mighty power, the mightiest conceivable, and then when it by and by gets into selfish hands, as it is always bound to do, it means death to human liberty and paralysis to human thought.
  • In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second- hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.
  • India has 2,000,000 gods and worships them all. In religion, all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.
  • I have been born more times than anybody except Krishna.
  • Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion – several of them. He 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.
  • Religion consists in a set of things which the average man thinks he believes and wishes he was certain of.
  • The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.
  • Spiritual wants and instincts are as various in the human family as are physical appetites, complexions, and features, and a man is only at his best, morally, when he is equipped with the religious garment whose color and shape and size most nicely accomodate themselves to the spiritual complexion, angularities, and stature of the individual who wears it.

The bible

  • Our Bible reveals to us the character of our god with minute and remorseless exactness… It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere. It makes Nero an angel of light and leading by contrast.
  • It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.
  • The Bible has noble poetry in it… and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies.
  • The Christian’s Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same, but the medical practice changes.

Heaven and hell

  • Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company.
  • Heaven for climate, Hell for society.
  • Heaven goes by favor; for if it went by merit you would stay out and your dog would go in.
  • I don’t like to commit myself about heaven and hell – you see, I have friends in both places.
  • Man has imagined a heaven, and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights…sexual intercourse!…His heaven is like himself: strange, interesting, astonishing, grotesque. I give you my word, it has not a single feature in it that he actually values.
  • Most people cannot bear sitting in church for an hour on a Sunday. How are they supposed to live somewhere very similar to it for an eternity?
  • Of the delights of this world man cares most for sexual intercourse, yet he has left it out of his heaven.

Thoughts on …


Public opinion

  • The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all.
  • We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. And out of it we get an aggregation which we consider a boon. Its name is public opinion. It is held in reverence. Some think it the voice of God.
  • Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.


  • Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.
  • Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.
  • The finest clothing made is a person’s own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.
  • The Public is merely a multiplied ‘me.’


  • The elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one constrained shape long at a time.
  • There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist.
  • When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.

Wealth and money

  • A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain.
  • A gold mine is a hole in the ground with a liar on top.
  • Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.
  • Few of us can stand prosperity. Another man’s, I mean.
  • He is now fast rising from affluence to poverty.
  • Honesty is the best policy – when there is money in it.  
  • I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.
  • Invest in inflation; it’s the only thing going up.
  • It put our energies to sleep and made visionaries of us – dreamers and indolent… It is good to begin life poor; it is good to begin life rich – these are wholesome; but to begin it prospectively rich! The man who has not experienced it cannot imagine the curse of it.
  • Let us not be too particular; it is better to have old secondhand diamonds than none at all.
  • Nothing incites to money-crimes like great poverty or great wealth.
  • October: This is one of the particularly dangerous months to invest in stocks. Other dangerous months are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August and February.
  • Put all your eggs in one basket — and watch that basket!
  • The conviction of the rich that the poor are happier is no more foolish than the conviction of the poor that the rich are.
  • The lack of money is the root of all evil.
  • The offspring of riches: Pride, vanity, ostentation, arrogance, tyranny.
  • There are two times in a man’s life when he shouldn’t speculate: when he can afford to and when he can’t.
  • Unexpected money is a delight. The same sum is a bitterness when you expected more.
  • Virtue has never been as respectable as money.

Men and women

  • Men are easily dealt with—but when you get the women started, you are in for it, you know.
  • What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, sir, almighty scarce.


  • We are always too busy for our children; we never give them the time or interest they deserve. We lavish gifts upon them; but the most precious gift, our personal association, which means so much to them, we give grudgingly.
  • Familiarity breeds contempt – and children.
  • The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.

Animals …

  • I believe I am not interested to know whether Vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t. To know that the results are profitable to the race would not remove my hostility to it. The pains which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity towards it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.
  • 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.
  • It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.

… verse humans

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Of all the creatures, 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. The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.

Weather and the seasons

  • In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.
  • Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.
  • Don’t you know what that is? It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want–oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
  • Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
  • It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want — oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
  • The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.


  • Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.

Government and politics

  • 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.
  • If we had less statesmanship we could get along with fewer battleships.
  • If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election times.
  • In truth I care little about any party’s politics—the man behind it is the important thing.
  • Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.
  • My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to…its office holders.
  • No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.
  • No public interest is anything other or nobler than a massed accumulation of private interests.
  • Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress but I repeat myself.
  • There is no distinctly American criminal class – except Congress.
  • We have the best government that money can buy.
  • Why waste your time looking up your family tree? Just go into politics, and your opponents will do it for you.


  • Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.
  • Laws control the lesser man… Right conduct controls the greater one.
  • Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.
  • Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made.

Journalism and newspapers

  • Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
  • I am not the editor of a newspaper and shall always try to do right and be good so that God will not make me one.
  • In the real world, the right thing never happens in the right place and the right time. It is the job of journalists and historians to make it appear that it has.


  • 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.
  • Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.
  • Patriotism is merely a religion–love of country, worship of country, devotion to the country’s flag and honor and welfare.
  • Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.
  • In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.

Past and future

  • For the majority of us, the past is a regret, the future an experiment.

Final thoughts

  • The common eye sees only the outside of things, and judges by that, but the seeing eye pierces through and reads the heart and the soul, finding there capacities which the outside didn’t indicate or promise, and which the other kind couldn’t detect.
  • A circle is a round straight line with a hole in the middle.
  • A crowded police docket is the surest of all signs that trade is brisk and money plenty.
  • A new oath holds pretty well; but… when it is become old, and frayed out, and damaged by a dozen annual retryings of its remains, it ceases to be serviceable; any little strain will snap it.
  • A round man cannot be expected to fit in a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape.
  • A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.
  • All kings is mostly rapscallions.
  • 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.
  • Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.
  • Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
  • Describing her first day back in grade school after a long absence a teacher said it was like trying to hold 35 corks under water at the same time.
  • Distance lends enchantment to the view.
  • Do not go around saying that the world owes you a living; it owes you nothing; it was here first.
  • Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.
  • Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.
  • Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.
  • Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul.
  • Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep ’til noon.
  • Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.
  • H’aint we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?
  • He would come in and say he changed his mind which was a gilded figure of speech because he didn’t have any.  
  • How lucky Adam was. He knew when he said a good thing, nobody had said it before.
  • Human pride is not worthwhile; there is always something lying in wait to take the wind out of it.
  • I can always tell which is the front end of a horse, but beyond that, my art is not above the ordinary.
  • I thoroughly disapprove of duels; if a man would challenge me I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.
  • In my experience, previously counted chickens never do hatch.
  • It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.
  • It is better to have old second-hand diamonds than none at all.
  • It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.
  • It is easier to stay out than get out.
  • It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it.
  • It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.
  • Name the greatest of all inventors.  
  • Necessity is the mother of taking chances.
  • Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid.
  • Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought.
  • Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.
  • Often it does seem such a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.
  • People who always feel jolly, no matter where they are or what happens to them—who have the organ of hope preposterously developed—who are endowed with an uncongealable sanguine temperament—who never feel concerned about the price of corn—and who cannot, by any possibility, discover any but the bright side of a picture—are very apt to go to extremes, and exaggerate with 40-horse microscopic power.
  • Prophesy is a good line of business, but it is full of risks.
  • 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.
  • Take your mind out every now and then and dance on it. It is getting all caked up.
  • Temperate temperance is best; intemperate temperance injures the cause of temperance.
  • The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be? –it is the same the angels breathe.
  • The man who is ostentatious of his modesty is twin to the statue that wears a fig-leaf.
  • The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.
  • The poetry is all in the anticipation, for there is none in reality.
  • The rain is famous for falling on the just and unjust alike, but if I had the management of such affairs I would rain softly and sweetly on the just, but if I caught a sample of the unjust out doors I would drown him.
  • The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession.
  • The wit knows that his place is at the tail of a procession.
  • There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.
  • There are times when one would like to hang the whole human race, and finish the farce.
  • There is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a Dream, a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And You are but a Thought — a vagrant Thought, a useless Thought, a homeless Thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities.
  • Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.
  • Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not. Time takes it all, time bears it away, and in the end there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again. Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.
  • To create man was a fine and original idea; but to add the sheep was a tautology.
  • To refuse awards is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal.
  • To string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities, is the basis of the American art, if my position is correct.
  • Warm summer sun, shine kindly here. Warm southern wind, blow softly here. Green sod above, lie light, lie light. Good night, dear Heart, Good night, good night.
  • Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.
  • We are all alike, on the inside.
  • We chase phantoms half the days of our lives. It is well if we learn wisdom even then, and save the other half.
  • 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
  • What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin.
  • What you haven’t done is the price you paid for what you have done. Was it worth the price?
  • When red-haired people are above a certain social grade their hair is auburn.
  • Who would find out that I am a natural fool if I kept always cool and never let nature come to the surface? Nobody.
  • You cannot have all chiefs; you gotta have Indians too. Perfect love cannot be without equality. A friend to everybody and to nobody is the same thing. We are all alike, on the inside.