Robert L. Peters

21 April 2010

A salute: Mark Twain (1835-1910)


Redding, Connecticut

Mark Twain, aka Samuel Langhome Clemens, passed on one hundred years ago today. The popular American author and humorist is noted (among a great number of other achievements) for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). A friend to presidents, European royalty, artists, and industrialists, and he was also very popular with the common man, and his keen wit and incisive satire earned praise from critics and peers. Upon his death, he was lauded as the “greatest American humorist of his age,” and William Faulkner called him “the father of American literature.”

I read many of Twain’s novels when I was young, and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Twain’s former home in Hartford, Connecticut (where he lived from 1874 to 1891 while writing some of his greatest works) when I was teaching at the Hartford School of Art a few years back—the classic old home has been turned into a museum well worth visiting.

Here are a few of the many bon mots and eloquent lines of advice, wit, and profundity the great Mark Twain left us to ponder:

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Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.

Age is an issue of mind over matter.

If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.

I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool
than to speak out and remove all doubt.

A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.

Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.

Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.
The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

Familiarity breeds contempt—and children.

Man is the only animal that blushes—or needs to.

There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist.

It is easier to stay out than get out.

We have the best government that money can buy.

Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.

Noise proves nothing.

Often a hen who has merely laid an egg
cackles as if she laid an asteroid.

Thunder is good, thunder is impressive;
but it is lightning that does the work.

Be careful about reading health books.
You may die of a misprint.

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

The most interesting information comes from children,
for they tell all they know and then stop.

What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce.

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

12 March 2015

Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.

—Mark Twain

5 March 2015

Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.

—Mark Twain

17 December 2014

Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.

—Mark Twain

22 October 2014

Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.

—Mark Twain

12 July 2014

There is probably no pleasure equal to the pleasure of climbing a dangerous Alp; but it is a pleasure which is confined strictly to the people who can find pleasure in it.

—Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad

21 March 2014

Comparison is the death of joy.

—Mark Twain

2 December 2013

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

—Mark Twain

1 October 2013

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then, I repeat myself.

—Mark Twain

26 July 2013

To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.

—Mark Twain

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