Mark Twain is among my most favorite writers. His wisdom and wit shine a constant light on truth and reveal the absurdities in which we so often find ourselves.

Ken Burns (his documentary on Mark Twain, by the way, is superb and can be found on Netflix) said of him:

“He was the Lincoln of our Literature. He imprinted us with our own identity. He was the original stand-up comic in America. After he lost everything and everyone he held dear [his immediate family all died in his lifetime] he had to be funny. He inspired laughter from a font of sorrow. His work alters our consciousness of the world.”

Mark Twain (i.e. Samuel Clemens) was born on November 30, 1835 and died on April 21, 1910. We are all the richer because of him. Everything he wrote is worth reading over and again.

Here are a few of his words:

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

“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.”

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”

“A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”

“All generalizations are false, including this one.”

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

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

“Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.”

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

“Clothes make the man [woman]. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

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

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.”

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

“Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.”

“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

“Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

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

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”

“Go to Heaven for the climate; Hell for the company.”

“Golf is a good walk spoiled.”

“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”

“Humor is humankind’s greatest blessing.”

“I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough.”

“I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time.”

“I make it a rule never to smoke while I’m sleeping.”

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

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

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

“Before 70 we are respected at best and have to behave all the time; after 70 we are respected, esteemed, admired, revered and don’t have to behave unless we want to.”

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

“I was born modest, but it didn’t last.”

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

“It’s like a cow’s tail going down.” (On getting older)

“The report of my death has been greatly exaggerated.”