Mark Twain Quotations

Mark Twain

A great law of human action -- in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence -- and then success is sure.

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.

A man with a new idea is a crank -- until the idea succeeds.

An Englishman is a person who does things because they have been done before. An American is a person who does things because they haven't been done before.

An honest man in politics shines more than he would elsewhere.

[A] solemn, unsmiling, sanctimonious old iceberg who looked like he was waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity.

At fifty a man can be an ass without being an optimist but not an optimist without being an ass.

Behold, the fool saith, "Put not all thine eggs in the one basket"--which is but a manner of saying, "Scatter your money and your attention;" but the wise man saith, "Put all your eggs in the one basket and -- WATCH THAT BASKET.

By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.

Carlyle said, "A lie cannot live"; it shows he did not know how to tell them.

Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.

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

Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.

Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.

Familiarity breeds contempt -- and children.

Few things are harder to put up with than a good example.

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

France has neither winter, nor summer, nor morals. France is miserable because it is filled with Frenchmen, and Frenchmen are miserable because they live in France.

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.

Grief can take care of itself; but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.

Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.

He is useless on top of the ground -- he ought to be under it, inspiring the cabbages.

He would come in and say he changed his mind -- which was a gilded figure of speech, because he didn't have any.

History teaches us that whenever a weak and ignorant people possess a thing which a strong and enlightened people want, it must be yielded up peaceably.

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing after all. The minute it crops up all our hardnesses yield. All our irritations and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.

I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.

I can't do literary work for the rest of this year because I'm meditating another lawsuit and looking around for a defendant.

I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can't find anybody who can tell me what they want.

I could never learn to like her, except on a raft at sea with no other provisions in sight.

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

If you can't make 70 by a comfortable road...don't go.

If you have to swallow a frog, don't look at it too long.

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.

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

I have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes to make it up.

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

I have never taken any exercise...except sleeping, and resting. I could never see any benefit in being tired.

I like to instruct people. It is noble to teach oneself. It is still nobler to teach others, and less trouble.

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 certain desperate and trying circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer. So if I cannot swear in Heaven...I shall not stay there.

In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language.

In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man and brave, hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.

I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world.

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.

It is a worthy thing to fight for one's freedom; it is another sight finer to fight for another man's.

It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practise either of them.

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.

It is easier to stay out than get out.

It is not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that make horseraces.

It is often the case that the man who can't tell a lie thinks he is the best judge of one.

It may be called the Master Passion, the hunger for self-approval.

It's my opinion that every one I know has morals, though I wouldn't like to ask. I know I have. But I'd rather teach them than practice them any day. 'Give them to others' -- that's my motto.

It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart: the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.

It was wonderful to find America, put perhaps it would have been more wonderful to miss it.

I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn't know.

I would rather have my ignorance than another man's knowledge, because I have so much of it.

Just the omission of Jane Austen's books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.

Let us be thankful for the fools; but for them the rest of us could not succeed.

Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18.

Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.

Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.

Man will do many things to get himself loved; he will do all things to get himself envied.

Morals are an acquirement -- like music, like a foreign language, like piety, poker, paralysis -- no man is born with them.

Most writers regard truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.

My studies have convinced me that a truly gifted person can learn the German language in 30 years. Others will take longer.

Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.

October is one of the singularly most dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are November, December, January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August and September.

Scotch whisky ... I always take it at night as a preventive of toothache. I have never had the toothache; and what is more, I never intend to have it.

Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, and over these ideals they dispute, but they all worship money.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity.

The older we grow the greater becomes our wonder at how much ignorance one can contain without bursting one's clothes.

The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.

The principal difference between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives.

The principle of give and take is the principle of diplomacy -- give one and take ten.

There are many scapegoats for our sins, but the most popular one is Providence.

There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.

There are two times in a man's life when he should not speculate: when he can't afford it and when he can.

There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist.

There is nothing so annoying as to have two people talking when you're busy interrupting.

There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

The researches of many commentators have already thrown much darkness on this subject, and it is probable that if they continue we shall soon know nothing at all about it. (on pre-Columbian explorers of America)

There's plenty of pain here -- but it don't kill. There's plenty of suffering here, but it don't last. You see, happiness ain't a thing in itself -- it's only a contrast with something that ain't pleasant.

Those who do not read have no advantage over those who cannot.

To be good is noble, but to teach others how to be good is nobler -- and less trouble.

To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did, I ought to know because I've done it a thousand times.

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.

We are always hearing about people who are going around seeking after 'Truth'. I have never seen a permanent specimen. I have seen several entirely sincere people who THOUGHT they were permanent seekers after Truth. They sought diligently, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty -- until they believed, without doubt or question, they HAD found the Truth. That was the end of their search. They spent the rest of their lives hunting up roof shingles, to protect their Truth from the changing weather. From that day forth, with a soldering iron in one hand, and a bludgeon in the other, they tinkered its leaks, and reasoned with objectors. We all do no end of feeling, and mistake it for thinking. Do I seem to be preaching? It is not in my line...I only do it because the rest of the clergy seem to be on vacation.

We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove.

We ignore and never mention the Sole Impulse which dictates and compels a man's every act: the imperious necessity of securing his own approval... To it we owe all that we are.

We often feel sad in the presence of music without words; and often more than that in the presence of music without music.

When angry count four; when very angry, swear.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.

Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this as a sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.

You can tell German wine from vinegar by the label.