Mark Twain quotes
Birthdate: 30. November 1835
Date of death: 21. April 1910
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. Among his novels are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , the latter often called "The Great American Novel".
Twain was raised in Hannibal, Missouri, which later provided the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He served an apprenticeship with a printer and then worked as a typesetter, contributing articles to the newspaper of his older brother Orion Clemens. He later became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River before heading west to join Orion in Nevada. He referred humorously to his lack of success at mining, turning to journalism for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. His humorous story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", was published in 1865, based on a story that he heard at Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California where he had spent some time as a miner. The short story brought international attention and was even translated into French. His wit and satire, in prose and in speech, earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.
Twain earned a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, but he invested in ventures that lost most of it—notably the Paige Compositor, a mechanical typesetter that failed because of its complexity and imprecision. He filed for bankruptcy in the wake of these financial setbacks, but he eventually overcame his financial troubles with the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers. He chose to pay all his pre-bankruptcy creditors in full, even after he had no legal responsibility to do so.
Twain was born shortly after an appearance of Halley's Comet, and he predicted that he would "go out with it" as well; he died the day after the comet returned. He was lauded as the "greatest humorist this country has produced", and William Faulkner called him "the father of American literature".
Quotes Mark Twain
Notebook entry, January or February 1894, Mark Twain's Notebook, ed. Albert Bigelow Paine (1935), p. 240 http://books.google.com/books?id=DjBVlb7cBSIC&pg=PA240
Variant: If you tell the truth you do not need a good memory!
Source: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Alternate (also Twain's): Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
Variant: Never let your schooling interfere with your education.
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„Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.“
Draft manuscript (c.1881), quoted by Albert Bigelow Paine in Mark Twain: A Biography (1912), p. 724 http://books.google.com/books?id=2UYLAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA724#v=onepage&q&f=false
Variant: Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.
Variant: I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying that I approved of it.
„The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.“
— Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain
Letter to George Bainton, 15 October 1888, solicited for and printed in George Bainton, The Art of Authorship: Literary Reminiscences, Methods of Work, and Advice to Young Beginners (1890), pp. 87–88 http://books.google.com/books?id=XjBjzRN71_IC&pg=PA87.
Twain repeated the lightning bug/lightning comparison in several contexts, and credited Josh Billings for the idea:
Josh Billings defined the difference between humor and wit as that between the lightning bug and the lightning.
Speech at the 145th annual dinner of St. Andrew's Society, New York, 30 November 1901, Mark Twain Speaking (1976), ed. Paul Fatout, p. 424
Billings' original wording was characteristically affected:
Don't mistake vivacity for wit, thare iz about az mutch difference az thare iz between lightning and a lightning bug.
Josh Billings' Old Farmer's Allminax, "January 1871" http://books.google.com/books?id=sUI1AAAAMAAJ&pg=PT30. Also in Everybody's Friend, or; Josh Billing's Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor (1874), p. 304 http://books.google.com/books?id=7rA8AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA304
Source: The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain