Best Mark Twain speeches, poems and writings

THOSE EXTRAORDINARY TWINS, by Mark Twain [MT#46][mtext10.txt]3185

A man who is born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of
it when he tries to build a novel. I know this from experience. He has
no clear idea of his story; in fact he has no story. He merely has some
people in his mind, and an incident or two, also a locality. He knows
these people, he knows the selected locality, and he trusts that he can
plunge those people into those incidents with interesting results. So he
goes to work. To write a novel? No–that is a thought which comes
later; in the beginning he is only proposing to tell a little tale; a
very little tale; a six-page tale. But as it is a tale which he is not
acquainted with, and can only find out what it is by listening as it goes
along telling itself, it is more than apt to go on and on and on till it
spreads itself into a book. I know about this, because it has happened
to me so many times.

I didn’t know what to do with her. I was as sorry for her as anybody
could be, but the campaign was over, the book was finished, she was
sidetracked, and there was no possible way of crowding her in, anywhere.
I could not leave her there, of course; it would not do. After spreading
her out so, and making such a to-do over her affairs, it would be
absolutely necessary to account to the reader for her. I thought and
thought and studied and studied; but I arrived at nothing. I finally saw
plainly that there was really no way but one–I must simply give her the
grand bounce. It grieved me to do it, for after associating with her so
much I had come to kind of like her after a fashion, notwithstanding she
was such an ass and said such stupid irritating things and was so
nauseatingly sentimental. Still it had to be done. So, at the top of
Chapter XVII, I put in a “Calendar” remark concerning July Fourth, and
began the chapter with this statistic: “Rowena went out in the back yard
after supper to see the fireworks and fell down the well and got
drowned.” It seemed abrupt, but I thought maybe the reader wouldn’t
notice it, because I changed the subject right away to something else.

THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER, by Mark Twain [MT#47][mtmst10.txt]3186

It was in 1590–winter. Austria was far away from the world, and asleep;
it was still the Middle Ages in Austria, and promised to remain so
forever. Some even set it away back centuries upon centuries and said
that by the mental and spiritual clock it was still the Age of Belief in
Austria. But they meant it as a compliment, not a slur, and it was so
taken, and we were all proud of it. I remember it well, although I was
only a boy; and I remember, too, the pleasure it gave me.

When we were finishing our house, we found we had a little cash left
over, on account of the plumber not knowing it.

I will explain that whenever I want a thing, and Mrs. McWilliams wants
another thing, and we decide upon the thing that Mrs. McWilliams wants–
as we always do–she calls that a compromise.

What an ass you are!” he said. “Are you so unobservant as not to have
found out that sanity and happiness are an impossible combination? 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. Of course, no man is entirely in his right mind
at any time, but I have been referring to the extreme cases.

“Now there is the history of that burglar alarm–everything just as it
happened; nothing extenuated, and naught set down in malice. Yes, sir,–
and when I had slept nine years with burglars, and maintained an
expensive burglar alarm the whole time, for their protection, not mine,
and at my sole cost–for not a d—d cent could I ever get THEM to
contribute–I just said to Mrs. McWilliams that I had had enough of that
kind of pie; so with her full consent I took the whole thing out and
traded it off for a dog, and shot the dog.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE, by Mark Twain [MT#48][mtcsc10.txt]3187

This last summer, when I was on my way back to Vienna from the Appetite-
Cure in the mountains, I fell over a cliff in the twilight, and broke
some arms and legs and one thing or another, and by good luck was found
by some peasants who had lost an ass, and they carried me to the nearest
habitation, which was one of those large, low, thatch-roofed farm-houses,
with apartments in the garret for the family, and a cunning little porch
under the deep gable decorated with boxes of bright colored flowers and
cats; on the ground floor a large and light sitting-room, separated from
the milch-cattle apartment by a partition; and in the front yard rose
stately and fine the wealth and pride of the house, the manure-pile.
That sentence is Germanic, and shows that I am acquiring that sort of
mastery of the art and spirit of the language which enables a man to
travel all day in one sentence without changing cars.

“I do not understand it. I believe she has not diagnosed the case with
sufficient care. Did she look like a person who was theorizing, or did
she look like one who has fallen off precipices herself and brings to the
aid of abstract science the confirmations of personal experience?”–
“Bitte?” –It was too large a contract for the Stubenmadchen’s
vocabulary; she couldn’t call the hand. I allowed the subject to rest
there, and asked for something to eat and smoke, and something hot to
drink, and a basket to pile my legs in; but I could not have any of these

Does she seem to be in full and functionable possession of her
intellectual plant, such as it is?”–“Bitte?”–“Do they let her run at
large, or do they tie her up?”

MARK TWAIN’S SPEECHES, by Mark Twain [MT#49][mtmts10.txt]3188

A little pride always goes along with a teaspoonful of brains
Ain’t any real difference between triplets and an insurrection
Chastity, you can carry it too far
Classic: everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read
Don’t know anything and can’t do anything
Dwell on the particulars with senile rapture
Future great historian is lying–and doubtless will continue to
Head is full of history, and some of it is true, too
Humor enlivens and enlightens his morality
I shall never be as dead again as I was then
If can’t make seventy by any but an uncomfortable road: don’t go
Kill a lot of poets for writing about “Beautiful Spring”
Live upon the property of their heirs so long
Morality is all the better for his humor
Morals: rather teach them than practice them any day
Never been in jail, and the other is, I don’t know why
Never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake
Patriotism is usually the refuge of the scoundrel
Please state what figure you hold him at–and return the basket
Principles is another name for prejudices
She bears our children–ours as a general thing
Some civilized women would lose half their charm without dress
The Essex band done the best it could
Time-expired man, to use Kipling’s military phrase
To exaggerate is the only way I can approximate to the truth
Two kinds of Christian morals, one private and the other public
What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman?
When in doubt, tell the truth
Women always want to know what is going on

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