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Mark Twain quotations

In two of my blogs last year – April and May 2015 on Literary invective – I covered Mark Twain’s thoughts, firstly on Jane Austen as an author, then on various other authors: Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Walter Scott, and James Fennimore Cooper. Here I will quote from Mark Twain’s own humorous writings. He sounds like the kind of man I would like to have known personally.

Mark Twain was the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835–1910, who was a printer, river-boat pilot, US writer and journalist.


From Following the Equator:

Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.

Get your facts first, and then you can distort ‘em as you please. [Sounds like a politician!]

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.

Ethical man – a Christian holding four aces.

‘Classic.’ A book which people praise and don’t read.

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

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


From The Innocents Abroad:

Make money and the whole world will conspire to call you a gentleman.

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she has laid an asteroid.

I can live for two months on a good compliment.

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


From Notebooks:

Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person. [He could have been in the diplomatic corps if he had not been an author!]

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

In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.


From The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:

There was things that he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.

Put all thine eggs in one basket and – watch that basket.

Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man – the biography of the man himself cannot be written.


From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

In order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.

From Pudd’nhead Wilson:

When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

Richard Wagner, a musician who wrote music which is better than it sounds.

Tomorrow night I appear for the first time before a Boston audience – 4000 critics.




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Stephen York is a freelance proofreader with over 25 years' experience in book and journal publishing offering proofreading services to publishers, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, academics, students, and authors. He regularly proofreads in digital format a wide variety of media in an extensive range of specialist subject areas, including business, finance, economics, education, marketing, and real estate.

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