Category: Mark Twain Quotes: The Best Quotations of Mark

A Collection of some of the best and most famous quotes, quips, one liners, stories and writings of Mark Twain.

Funny Jokes and Stories of Mark Twain


Against nature to take an interest in familiar things
Age after age, the barren and meaningless process
All life seems to be sacred except human life
But there are liars everywhere this year
Capacity must be shown (in other work); in the law, concealment of it will do
Christmas brings harassment and dread to many excellent people
Climate which nothing can stand except rocks
Creature which was everything in general and nothing in particular
Custom supersedes all other forms of law
Death in life; death without its privileges
Every one is a moon, and has a dark side
Exercise, for such as like that kind of work
Explain the inexplicable
Faith is believing what you know ain’t so
Forbids betting on a sure thing
Forgotten fact is news when it comes again
Get your formalities right–never mind about the moralities
Give thanks that Christmas comes but once a year
Good protections against temptations; but the surest is cowardice
Goody-goody puerilities and dreary moralities
Habit of assimilating incredibilities
Human pride is not worth while
Hunger is the handmaid of genius
If the man doesn’t believe as we do, we say he is a crank
Inherited prejudices in favor of hoary ignorances
It is easier to stay out than get out
Man is the only animal that blushes–or needs to
Meddling philanthropists
Melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy
Moral sense, and there is an Immoral Sense
Most satisfactory pet–never coming when he is called
Natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs
Neglected her habits, and hadn’t any
Never could tell a lie that anybody would doubt
No nation occupies a foot of land that was not stolen
No people who are quite so vulgar as the over-refined ones
Notion that he is less savage than the other savages
Only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want
Ostentatious of his modesty
Otherwise they would have thought I was afraid, which I was
Pity is for the living, Envy is for the dead
Prosperity is the best protector of principle
Received with a large silence that suggested doubt
Seventy is old enough–after that, there is too much risk
Silent lie and a spoken one
Sinking vessel, with no freight in her to throw over
Takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you
Thankfulness is not so general
The man with a new idea is a Crank until the idea succeeds
This is a poor old ship, and ought to be insured and sunk
To a delicate stomach even imaginary smoke can convey damage
Tourists showing how things ought to be managed
Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been

Famous Mark Twain Quotes


Appelles meets Zenobia, the helper of all who suffer, and tells her his
story, which moves her pity. By common report she is endowed with more
than earthly powers; and since he cannot have the boon of death, he
appeals to her to drown his memory in forgetfulness of his griefs–
forgetfulness ‘which is death’s equivalent’.

I do not remember my first lie, it is too far back; but I remember my
second one very well. I was nine days old at the time, and had noticed
that if a pin was sticking in me and I advertised it in the usual
fashion, I was lovingly petted and coddled and pitied in a most agreeable
way and got a ration between meals besides. It was human nature to want
to get these riches, and I fell. I lied about the pin–advertising one
when there wasn’t any. You would have done it; George Washington did it,
anybody would have done it. During the first half of my life I never
knew a child that was able to rise above that temptation and keep from
telling that lie.

This establishment’s name is Hochberghaus. It is in Bohemia, a short
day’s journey from Vienna, and being in the Austrian Empire is of course
a health resort. The empire is made up of health resorts; it distributes
health to the whole world. Its waters are all medicinal. They are
bottled and sent throughout the earth; the natives themselves drink beer.

But I think I have no such prejudice. A few years ago a Jew observed to
me that there was no uncourteous reference to his people in my books, and
asked how it happened. It happened because the disposition was lacking.
I am quite sure that (bar one) I have no race prejudices, and I think I
have no colour 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


There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind–the
humorous. I will talk mainly about that one. The humorous story is
American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The
humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the
comic story and the witty story upon the matter.

The humorous story is strictly a work of art–high and delicate art–and
only an artist can tell it; but no art is necessary in telling the comic
and the witty story; anybody can do it. The art of telling a humorous
story–understand, I mean by word of mouth, not print–was created in
America, and has remained at home.

DEFENCE OF HARRIET SHELLEY, by Mark Twain [MT#32][mtdhs10.txt]3171

I have committed sins, of course; but I have not committed enough of them
to entitle me to the punishment of reduction to the bread and water of
ordinary literature during six years when I might have been living on the
fat diet spread for the righteous in Professor Dowden’s Life of Shelley,
if I had been justly dealt with.

Yet he has been resting both for a month, with Italian, and tea, and
manna of sentiment, and late hours, and every restful thing a young
husband could need for the refreshment of weary limbs and a sore
conscience, and a nagging sense of shabbiness and treachery.

The biographer throws off that extraordinary remark without any
perceptible disturbance to his serenity; for he follows it with a
sentimental justification of Shelley’s conduct which has not a pang of
conscience in it, but is silky and smooth and undulating and pious–a
cake-walk with all the colored brethren at their best. There may be
people who can read that page and keep their temper, but it is doubtful.

FENIMORE COOPER OFFENCES, by Mark Twain [MT#33][mtfco10.txt]3172

It seems to me that it was far from right for the Professor of English
Literature in Yale, the Professor of English Literature in Columbia, and
Wilkie Collins to deliver opinions on Cooper’s literature without having
read some of it. It would have been much more decorous to keep silent
and let persons talk who have read Cooper.

Cooper’s art has some defects. In one place in ‘Deerslayer,’ and in the
restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offences
against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.

I may be mistaken, but it does seem to me that Deerslayer is not a work
of art in any sense; it does seem to me that it is destitute of every
detail that goes to the making of a work of art; in truth, it seems to me
that Deerslayer is just simply a literary delirium tremens.

Favorite writings of Mark Twain

ESSAYS ON PAUL BOURGET, by Mark Twain [MT#34][mtpbg10.txt]3173

Bret Harte got his California and his Californians by unconscious
absorption, and put both of them into his tales alive. But when he came
from the Pacific to the Atlantic and tried to do Newport life from study-
conscious observation–his failure was absolutely monumental. Newport is
a disastrous place for the unacclimated observer, evidently.

It is my belief that there are some “national” traits and things
scattered about the world that are mere superstitions, frauds that have
lived so long that they have the solid look of facts. One of them is the
dogma that the French are the only chaste people in the world. Ever
since I arrived in France this last time I have been accumulating doubts
about that.

It would be too immodest. Also too gratuitously generous. And a shade
too self-sufficient. No, he could not venture it. It would look too
much like anxiety to get in at a feast where no plate had been provided
for him.

A foreigner can photograph the exteriors of a nation, but I think that
that is as far as he can get. I think that no foreigner can report its
interior–its soul, its life, its speech, its thought. I think that a
knowledge of these things is acquirable in only one way; not two or four
or six [years]–absorption; years and years of unconscious absorption;
years and years of intercourse with the life concerned; of living it,
indeed; sharing personally in its shames and prides, its joys and griefs,
its loves and hates, its prosperities and reverses, its shows and
shabbinesses, its deep patriotisms, its whirlwinds of political passion,
its adorations–of flag, and heroic dead, and the glory of the national
name. Observation? Of what real value is it? One learns peoples
through the heart, not the eyes or the intellect.

One may say the type of practical joker, for these people are exactly
alike all over the world. Their equipment is always the same: a vulgar
mind, a puerile wit, a cruel disposition as a rule, and always the spirit
of treachery.

A DOG’S TALE, by Mark Twain [MT#35][mtdtl10.txt]3174

My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a
Presbyterian. This is what my mother told me, I do not know these nice
distinctions myself.

And it was the same with phrases. She would drag home a whole phrase, if
it had a grand sound, and play it six nights and two matinees, and
explain it a new way every time–which she had to, for all she cared for
was the phrase; she wasn’t interested in what it meant, and knew those
dogs hadn’t wit enough to catch her, anyway. Yes, she was a daisy! She
got so she wasn’t afraid of anything, she had such confidence in the
ignorance of those creatures.

By and by came my little puppy, and then my cup was full, my happiness
was perfect. It was the dearest little waddling thing, and so smooth and
soft and velvety, and had such cunning little awkward paws, and such
affectionate eyes, and such a sweet and innocent face; and it made me so
proud to see how the children and their mother adored it, and fondled it,
and exclaimed over every little wonderful thing it did. It did seem to
me that life was just too lovely to–

I have watched two whole weeks, and he doesn’t come up! This last week a
fright has been stealing upon me. I think there is something terrible
about this. I do not know what it is, but the fear makes me sick

A BURLESQUE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, by Mark Twain [MT#36][mtbbg10.txt]3175

Ours is a noble old house, and stretches a long way back into antiquity.
The earliest ancestor the Twains have any record of was a friend of the
family by the name of Higgins. This was in the eleventh century, when
our people were living in Aberdeen, county of Cork, England. Why it is
that our long line has ever since borne the maternal name (except when
one of them now and then took a playful refuge in an alias to avert
foolishness), instead of Higgins, is a mystery which none of us has ever
felt much desire to stir. It is a kind of vague, pretty romance, and we
leave it alone. All the old families do that way.

Then for the next two hundred years the family tree shows a succession of
soldiers–noble, high-spirited fellows, who always went into battle
singing; right behind the army, and always went out a-whooping, right
ahead of it.

Charles Henry Twain lived during the latter part of the seventeenth
century, and was a zealous and distinguished missionary. He converted
sixteen thousand South Sea islanders, and taught them that a dog-tooth
necklace and a pair of spectacles was not enough clothing to come to
divine service in. His poor flock loved him very, very dearly; and when
his funeral was over, they got up in a body (and came out of the
restaurant) with tears in their eyes, and saying, one to another, that he
was a good tender missionary, and they wished they had some more of him.