Mark Twain Quotes and Sayings

Twain is esteemed by many. His writings provide an honest, sometimes cynical, often comical view of American life. His genius is sometimes most evident in his quips.

He was born Samuel L. Clemens but famously known by his pen name, Mark Twain. A topical understanding of the man, his views, and the social conditions of his time (and today) can be derived from his writings.

On the Library of Congress website (americaslibrary.gov), his popular work, Huckleberry Finn, is listed as the quintessential “great American novel.” During his life, Twain wrote scores of articles, novels, short stories, and non-fiction. Also a raconteur, his wild early life in the South contributed to colorful stories of escapades and adventure.

In Fred Kaplan’s The Singular Mark Twain, published by Doubleday in 2007, Twain is listed as having lived from 1835 to 1910. During his rich life he became a national and international celebrity, noted for his wit and poignant cynicism. His quips are too numerous to be listed in entirety, but one must appreciate his unique view on life when reading a mere excerpt of his most famous and repeated quotes.

Mark Twain quotes On Government, Politics, and Money

 

Twain was a social critic on abuses of power, but was often paradoxically labeled as both a pacifist and revolutionary.

In his own words, transcribed from editor Maxwell Geismar’s Mark Twain and the Three R’s, published in 1973: “I am said to be a revolutionist in my sympathies, by birth, by breeding and by principle. I am always on the side of the revolutionists, because there never was a revolution unless there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against which to revolt.”

He was also famously critical of bankers, politicians, and other professions he saw as corrupt.

“The lack of money is the root of all evil.” From More Maxims of Mark, by Merle Johnson (1927).

 

“A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.” There is some argument whether this is an actual Twain quote, but seems to be in keeping with his humor and style.

“The government of my country snubs honest simplicity, but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two, ” from Roughing It.

 

“That’s the difference between governments and individuals. Governments don’t care, individuals do.” From A Tramp Abroad.

 

History has tried hard to teach us that we can’t have good government under politicians. Now, to go and stick one at the very head of the government couldn’t be wise.” From the 26 August 1876 edition of the New York Herald.

 

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. ~Mark Twain

 

We have the best government that money can buy. ~Mark Twain

Loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it. ~Mark Twain

 

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself. ~Mark Twain

 

Principles have no real force except when one is well-fed. ~Mark Twain

 

Honesty is the best policy – when there is money in it. ~Mark Twain

 

We have the best government that money can buy. ~Mark Twain

 

Mark Twain quotes On War

 

“All war must be just the killing of strangers against whom you feel no personal animosity; strangers whom, in other circumstances, you would help if you found them in trouble, and who would help you if you needed it.” From The Private History of the Campaign That Failed.

 

“If we had less statesmanship, we would get along with fewer battleships,” from his diary circa 1905.

 

Mark Twain quotes On Religion and Society

Twain was a freemason and at times labeled as a Christian (he was raised Presbyterian), but often detested organized religion and injustices in the name of a church.

 

“Zeal and sincerity can carry a new religion further than any other missionary except fire and sword,” in Christian Science.

 

“Do not put off until tomorrow what can be put off till day-after-tomorrow just as well.” also quoted in Johnson’s Maxims.

“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.” From Mark Twain in Eruption, published in 1940 by Harper and authored by Bernard DeVoto.

“To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.” From Tom Sawyer.

“Man is kind enough when he is not excited by religion.” From A Horse’s Tale.

 

The finest clothing made is a person’s own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this. ~Mark Twain

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

 

Mark Twain quotes On Facts and Statistics

“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” As quoted by Rudyard Kipling in From Sea to Shining Sea.

 

“Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” from Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review.

“I never saw an author who was aware that there is any dimensional difference between a fact and a surmise.” As quoted by his daughter, Clara, in My Father Mark Twain.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable. ~Mark Twain

 

There are lies, damned lies and statistics. ~Mark Twain

Mark Twain quotes about education

 

Don’t let schooling interfere with your education. ~Mark Twain

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

 

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. ~Mark Twain

Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned. ~Mark Twain

 

Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run. ~Mark Twain

 

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

 

Mark Twain quotes about travel

 

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. ~Mark Twain

 

Mark Twain quotes about death

Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain. ~Mark Twain

 

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. ~Mark Twain

 

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

 

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. ~Mark Twain

 

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

 

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

 

Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered – either by themselves or by others. ~Mark Twain

 

Mark Twain quotes about happiness

 

There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one – keep from telling their happiness to the unhappy. ~Mark Twain

More inspirational Mark Twain quotes

Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today. ~Mark Twain

 

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow. ~Mark Twain

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. ~Mark Twain

 

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

 

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. ~Mark Twain

The main difference between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives. ~Mark Twain

 

Buy land, they’re not making it anymore. ~Mark Twain

 

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. ~Mark Twain

 

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

 

Work is a necessary evil to be avoided. ~Mark Twain

 

Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself. ~Mark Twain

 

Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul. ~Mark Twain

 

Cynicism aside, there’s no denying that Twain’s gift with language presented, and still presents, valuable insight into the American condition. Those wishing to learn more about Mark Twain or experience a piece of history can visit the Mark Twain House.

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