“The report of my death was an exaggeration,” Mark Twain famously wrote in the New York Journal in June 1897, but die this incisive, humane, street-wise, pugnacious, politically radical, and immensely entertaining American writer and humorist finally did, thirteen years later, on April 21st 1910. To celebrate the centenary of this icon of American letters, here are twenty-five of my favourite Twain quotes:
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.
There’s nothing so annoying as to have two people go right on talking when you’re interrupting.
We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking.
April 1st. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four
If his modesty equaled his ignorance, he would make a violet seem stuck up.
You can’t depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.
The calamity that comes is never the one we had prepared ourselves for.
Intolerance is everything for oneself, and nothing for the other person.
Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is the lightning that does the work.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it.
I never let my schooling interfere with my education.
Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.
Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.
I looked as out of place as a Presbyterian in hell.
To the pure, all things are impure.
An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.
The altar cloth of one aeon is the doormat of the next.
The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.
There isn’t a Parallel of Latitude but thinks it would have been the Equator if it had its rights.
Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a sneeze of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom.
Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
One more - with the General Election in mind:
If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it at election times.