Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Mark Twain, pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens

American Writer, Humorist

"I'm the only person who has ever found the right way to build an autobiography."

"Imagination is always the fabric of social life and the dynamic of history. The influence of real needs and compulsions, of real interests and materials, is indirect because the crowd is never conscious of it."

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"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."

"In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country ? hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of. Only when a republic's life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is in the wrong. There is no other time. This Republic's life is not in peril. The nation has sold its honor for a phrase. It has swung itself loose from its safe anchorage and is drifting, its helm is in pirate hands."

"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 another moment he was flying down the street with his pail and a tingling rear, Tom was whitewashing with vigor, and Aunt Polly was retiring from the field with a slipper in her hand and triumph in her eye."

"In asking me to contribute a mite to the memorial to Gutenberg you give me pleasure and do me honor. The world concedes without hesitation or dispute that Gutenberg?s invention is incomparably the mightiest event that has ever happened in profane history. It created a new and wonderful earth, and along with it a new hell. It has added new details, new developments and new marvels to both in every year during five centuries. It found Truth walking, and gave it a pair of wings; it found Falsehood trotting, and gave it two pair. It found Science hiding in corners and hunted; it has given it the freedom of the and, the seas and the skies, and made it the world?s welcome quest. It found the arts and occupations few, it multiplies them every year. It found the inventor shunned and despised, it has made him great and given him the globe for his estate. It found religion a master and an oppression, it has made it man?s friend and benefactor. It found War comparatively cheap but inefficient, it has made it dear but competent. It has set peoples free, and other peoples it has enslaved; it is the father and protector of human liberty, and it has made despotisms possible where they were not possible before. Whatever the world is, today, good and bad together, that is what Gutenberg?s invention has made it: for from that source it has all come. But he has our homage; for what he said to the reproaching angel in his dream has come true, and the evil wrought through his mighty invention is immeasurably outbalanced by the good it has brought to the race of men."

"In Boston they ask, ''How much does he know?'' In New York, ''How much is he worth?'' In Philadelphia, ''Who were his parents?"

"In both instances [a car coming out of the Himalayas and tobogganning] the sensation was pleasurable--intensely so; it was a sudden and immense exaltation, a mixed ecstasy of deadly fright and unimaginable joy. I believe that this combination makes the perfection of human delight."

"In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer."

"In discarding the monkey and substituting man, our Father in Heaven did the monkey an undeserved injustice."

"In estimating worldly values the Jew is not shallow, but deep. With precocious wisdom he found out in the morning of time that some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, and that over these ideals they dispute and cannot unite--but that they all worship money; so he made it the end and aim of his life to get it. The cost to him has been heavy; his success has made the whole human race his enemy..."

"In God We Trust. It is the choicest compliment that has ever been paid us, and the most gratifying to our feelings. It is simple, direct, gracefully phrased: it always sounds well ? In God We Trust. I don't believe it would sound any better if it were true. And in a measure it is true ? half the nation trusts in Him. That half has decided it."

"In his private heart no man much respects himself."

"In India they crush stream rocks with clothes."

"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 my age, as in my youth, night brings me many a deep remorse. I realize that from the cradle up I have been like the rest of the race - never quite sane in the night."

"In my experience, only third-rate intelligence is sent to Legislatures to make laws, because the first-rate article will not leave important private interests go unwatched to go and serve the public for a beggarly four or five dollars a day."

"In my experience, previously counted chickens never do hatch."

"In Nevada, for a time, the lawyer, the editor, the banker, the chief desperado, the chief gambler, and the saloon-keeper occupied the same level of society, and it was the highest."

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

"In other localities certain places in the streams are much better than others, but at Niagara one place is just as good as another, for the reason that the fish do not bite anywhere."

"In our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either."

"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."

"In prayer we call ourselves 'worms of the dust', but it is only on a sort of tacit understanding that the remark shall not be taken at par."

"In religion, India is the only millionaire - the One land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined."

"In statesmanship get the formalities right, never mind about the moralities."

"In the afternoon the ship's company assembled aft, on deck, under the awnings; the flute, the asthmatic meodeon, and the consumptive clarinet crippled the Star Spangled Banner, the choir chased it to cover, and George came in with a peculiarly lacerating screech on the final note and slaughtered it. Nobody mourned. We carried out the corpse on three cheers (that joke was not intentional and I do not endorse it)."

"In the ancient city of London, on a certain autumn day in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, a boy was born to a poor family of the name of Canty, who did not want him."

"In the common walks of life, with what delightful emotions does the youthful mind look forward to some anticipated scene of festivity! Imagination is busy sketching rose-tinted pictures of joy. In fancy, the voluptuous votary of fashion sees herself amid the festive throng, 'the observed of all observers.' Her graceful form, arrayed in snowy robes, is whirling through the mazes of the joyous dance; her eye is brightest, her step is lightest in the gay assembly. In such delicious fancies time quickly glides by, and the welcome hour arrives for her entrance into the Elysian world, of which she has had such bright dreams. How fairy-like does everything appear to her enchanted vision! Each new scene is more charming than the last. But after a while she finds that beneath this goodly exterior, all is vanity, the flattery which once charmed her soul, now grates harshly upon her ear; the ball-room has lost its charms; and with wasted health and embittered heart, she turns away with the conviction that earthly pleasures cannot satisfy the longings of the soul!"

"In the cotton States, after the war...the Jew came down in force, set up shop on the plantation, supplied all the negro's wants on credit, and at the end of the season was proprietor of the negro's share of the present crop and of part of his share of the next one. Before long, the whites detested the Jew, and it is doubtful if the negro loved him."

"In the country neighbor?hood thereabouts, along the dusty roads, one found at intervals the prettiest little cottage homes, snug and cozy, and so cobwebbed with vines snowed thick with roses that the doors and windows were wholly hidden from sight-sign that these were deserted homes, forsaken years ago by defeated and disap?pointed families who could neither sell them nor give them away."

"In the first place God made idiots. This 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 one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours."

"In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours."

"In this connection I call to mind Genesis, chapter xlvii...the pathetic story of the years of plenty and the years of famine in Egypt, and how Joseph, with that opportunity, made a corner in broken hearts, and the crusts of the poor, and human liberty--a corner whereby he took a nation's money all away, to the last penny...then took the nation itself, buying it for bread, man by man, woman by woman, child by child, till all were slaves...and it was a disaster so crushing that its effects have not wholly disappeared from Egypt to-day... Was Joseph establishing a character for his race which would survive long in Egypt? and in time would his name come to be familiarly used to express that character--like Shylock's? It is hardly to be doubted. Let us remember that this was centuries before the Crucifixion."

"In this same library we saw some drawings by Michael Angelo (these Italians call him Mickel Angelo,) and Leonardo da Vinci. (They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vinchy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce.)"

"In truth I care little about any party's politics?the man behind it is the important thing."

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

"Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity - these are strictly confined to man; he invented them. Among the higher animals there is no trace of them. They hide nothing. They are not ashamed."

"Independence is loyalty to one's best self and principles, and this is often disloyalty to the general idols and fetishes."

"India had the start of the whole world in the beginning of things. She had the first civilization; she had the first accumulation of material wealth; she was populous with deep thinkers and subtle intellects; she had mines, and woods, and a fruitful soul."

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

"India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."

"Inh the morning we went up to the village and bought a wire rat-trap and fetched it down, and unstopped the best rat-hole, and in about an hour we had fifteen of the bulliest kind of ones; and then we took it and put it in a safe place under Aunt Sally's bed. But while we was gone for spiders little Thomas Franklin Benjamin Jefferson Elexander Phelps found it there, and opened the door of it to see if the rats would come out, and they did; and Aunt Sally she come in, and when we got back she was a- standing on top of the bed raising Cain, and the rats was doing what they could to keep off the dull times for her. So she took and dusted us both with the hickry, and we was as much as two hours catching another fifteen or sixteen, drat that meddlesome cub, and they warn't the likeliest, nuther, because the first haul was the pick of the flock. I never see a likelier lot of rats than what that first haul was."

"Inherently, each one of us has the substance within to achieve whatever our goals and dreams define. What is missing from each of us is the training, education, knowledge and insight to utilize what we already have."

"Inherited ideas are a curious thing, and interesting to observe and examine."

"Intellectual 'work' is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation, and is its own highest reward. The poorest paid architect, engineer, general, author, sculptor, painter, lecturer, advocate, legislator, actor, preacher, singer, is constructively in heaven when he is at work; and as for the magician with the fiddle-bow in his hand, who sits in the midst of a great orchestra with the ebbing and flowing tides of divine sound washing over him - why, certainly he is at work, if you wish to call it that, but lord, it's a sarcasm just the same. The law of work does seem utterly unfair - but there it is, and nothing can change it: the higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shall be his pay in cash also."