American Writer, Humorist
Mark Twain, pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens
American Writer, Humorist
I know your race. It is made up of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong; but no matter, the crowd follows it. The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they don't dare to assert themselves. Think of it! One kind-hearted creature spies upon another, and sees to it that he loyally helps in iniquities which revolt both of them. Speaking as an expert, I know that ninety- nine out of a hundred of your race were strongly against the killing of witches when that foolishness was first agitated by a handful of pious lunatics in the long ago. And I know that even to-day, after ages of transmitted prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a witch. And yet apparently everybody hates witches and wants them killed. Someday a handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise--perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice and a determined front will do it--and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-hunting will come to a sudden end. Monarchies, aristocracies, and religions are all based upon that large defect in your race--the individual's distrust of his neighbor, and his desire, for safety's or comfort's sake, to stand well in his neighbor's eye. These institutions will always remain, and always flourish, and always oppress you, affront you, and degrade you, because you will always be and remain slaves of minorities. There was never a country where the majority of the people were in their secret hearts loyal to any of these institutions.
I pray thee of thy grace believe me, I did but speak the truth, most dread lord; for I am the meanest among thy subjects, being a pauper born, and 'tis by a sore mischance and accident I am here, albeit I was therein nothing blameful. I am but young to die, and thou canst save me with one little word. Oh speak it, sir!
I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead--and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead, and then they would be honest so much earlier.
I was sorry to have my name mentioned as one of the great authors, because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, Spencer is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I?m not feeling so well myself.
Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own.
I learned long ago never to say the obvious thing, but leave the obvious thing to commonplace and inexperienced people to say.
I prefer milk because I am a Prohibitionist, but I do not go to it for inspiration.
I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.
I was standing in our dining-room thinking of nothing in particular, when a cablegram was put into my hand. It said, 'Susy was peacefully released today.'
I could not really complain, because he had only given me his word of honor as security; I ought to have required of him something substantial.
I don't know anything that mars a good literature so completely as too much truth. Facts contain a great deal of poetry, but you can't use too many of them without damaging your literature.
I have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes to make it up.
I have no special regard for Satan; but, I can at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show. All religions issue bibles against him, and say the most injurious things about him, but we never hear his side. We have none but the evidence for the prosecution, and yet we have rendered the verdict. To my mind, this is irregular. It is un-English, it is un-American; it is French.
I am willing to be a literary thief if it has so been ordained; I am even willing to be caught robbing the ancient dead alongside of Hopkinson Smith, for he is my friend and a good fellow, and I think would be as honest as any one if he could do it without occasioning remark; but I am not willing to antedate his crimes by fifteen hundred years. I must ask you to knock off part of that.
I couldn't bear to think about it; and yet, somehow, I couldn't think about nothing else.
I don't know of a single foreign product that enters this country untaxed, except the answer to prayer.
I have attended operas, whenever I could not help it, for fourteen years now; I am sure I know of no agony comparable to the listening to an unfamiliar opera.
I have not a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming vices.
I asked tom if countries always apologize when they had done wrong, and he says, 'Yes, the little one does.'
I deal with temptation by yielding to it.
I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell - you see, I have friends in both places.
I have been an author for 20 years and an ass for 55.
I have replaced his tin life with a silver-gilt fiction.
I believe I have no prejudices whatsoever. All I need to know is that a man is a member of the human race. That?s bad enough for me.
I deserve it all. Let the cold world do its worst; one thing I know--there's a grave somewhere for me. The world may go on just as its always done, and take everything from me--loved ones, property, everything--but it can't take that. Someday I'll lie down in it and forget it all, and my poor broken heart will be at rest.