Maxims/Quotations by Mark Twain

Prosperity is the best protector of principle.

We do no benevolences whose first benefit is not for ourselves.

The calamity that comes is never the one we had prepared ourselves for.

There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless.

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

A man may plan as much as he wants to, but nothing of consequence is likely to come of until the magician circumstance steps in and takes the matter off his hands.

The only very marked difference between the average civilized man and the average savage is that the one is gilded and the other is painted.

Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.

["What distinguishes our culture from all previous cultures is its saturation in entertainment.” -- Jonathan Franzen]


The peoples furthest from civilization are the ones where equality between man and woman are furthest apart--and we consider this one of the signs of savagery. 

Civilization largely consists in hiding human nature. When the barbarian learns to hide it we account him enlightened.

A classic: something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read

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

Comedy keeps the heart sweet.

Our conscience takes no notice of pain inflicted on others until it reaches a point where it gives pain to us. In all cases without exception we are absolutely indifferent to another person's pain until his sufferings make us uncomfortable.

There are those who would misteach us that to stick in a rut is consistency -- and a virtue; and that to climb out of the rut is inconsistency -- and a vice.

The wronger a conspiracy is, the better it is.

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

Man was made at the end of the week's work when God was tired.

When a person cannot deceive himself the chances are against his being able to deceive other people.

A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.

Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more restful

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

Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person. 

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. 

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

["The more I see of men, the better I like my dog." -- Frederick the Great]


The one sole condition that makes spiritual happiness and preserves it is the absence of doubt.

Of the demonstrably wise there are but two: those who commit suicide, & those who keep their reasoning faculties atrophied with drink.

I never saw an author who was aware that there is any dimensional difference between a fact and a surmise.

Faith is believing what you know ain't so.

["FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel." --  Ambrose Bierce]


Arguments are unsafe with wives, because they examine them; but they do not examine compliments. One can pass upon a wife a compliment that is three-fourths base metal; she will not even bite it to see if it is good; all she notices is the size of it, not the quality.

That's the difference between governments and individuals. Governments don't care, individuals do.

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.

Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child's loss of a doll and a king's loss of a crown are events of the same size.

Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.

A most moving and pulse-stirring honor--the heartfelt grope of the hand, and the welcome that does not descend from the pale, gray matter of the brain but rushes up with the red blood of the heart.

Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.

The heart is the real fountain of youth.

You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.

There is Moral Sense, and there is an Immoral Sense. History shows us that the Moral Sense enables us to perceive morality and how to avoid it, and that the Immoral Sense enables up to perceive immorality and how to enjoy it.

Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen.

It is easier to decline 20 invitations than to accept one & then explain to the other nineteen.

Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.

Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand.

It's so hard to find men of a so high type of morals that they'll stay bought.

You cain't pray a lie.

Lie: an abomination before the Lord and an ever present help in time of trouble.

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

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.

Indeed, none but the Deity can tell what is good luck and what is bad before the returns are all in.

Of course, no man is entirely in his right mind at any time.

There is more real pleasure to be gotten out of a malicious act, where your heart is in it, than out of thirty acts of a nobler sort. 

Martyrdom is the luckiest fate that can befall some people.

Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.

What are the proper proportions of a maxim? A minimum of sound to a maximum of sense.

The difference between a Miracle and a Fact is exactly the difference between a mermaid and seal. It could not be expressed better.

The lack of money is the root of all evil.

There lies dormant in the souls of all men a penchant for some particular musical instrument.

It has always been a peculiarity of the human race that it keeps two sets of morals in stock-the private and the real, and the public and the artificial.

Morals consist of political morals, commercial morals, ecclesiastical morals, and morals.

Architects cannot teach nature anything.

It is good to obey all the rules when you're young, so you'll have the strength to break them when you're old.

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

Consider well the proportion of things. It is better to be a young June-bug than an old bird of paradise.

The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little.

To make a pledge of any kind is to declare war against nature; for a pledge is a chain that is always clanking and reminding the wearer of it that he is not a free man.

The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.

The more things are forbidden, the more popular they become.

It is better to read the weather forecast before we pray for rain.

You cannot have a theory without principles. Principles is another name for prejudices.

Hunger is pride's master.

Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.

Prosperity is the surest breeder of insolence I know.

Providence don't fire no blank cartridges.

The public is the only critic whose judgment is worth anything at all.

Man is kind enough when he is not excited by religion.

No people in the world ever did achieve their freedom by goody-goody talk and moral suasion: it being immutable law that all revolutions that will succeed must being in blood, whatever may answer afterward.

If all men were rich, all men would be poor.

No god and no religion can survive ridicule. No church, no nobility, no royalty or other fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field and live.

Man has not a single right which is the product of anything but might. Not a single right is indestructible: a new might can at any time abolish it, hence, man possesses not a single permanent right.

What do you call love, hate, charity, revenge, humanity, magnanimity, forgiveness? Different results of the one master impulse: the necessity of securing one's self-approval.

The unspoken word is capital. We can invest it or we can squander it.

Plain question and plain answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.

When we are young we generally estimate an opinion by the size of the person that holds it, but later we find that is an uncertain rule, for we realize that there are times when a hornet's opinion disturbs us more than an emperor's.

The lowest intellect, like the highest, possesses a skill of some kind and takes a keen pleasure in testing it, proving it, perfecting it.

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.

Human nature cannot be studied in cities except at a disadvantage--a village is the place. There you can know your man inside and out--in a city you but know his crust; and his crust is usually a lie.

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

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."

It is strange the way the ignorant and inexperienced so often and so undeservedly succeed when the informed and the experienced fail.

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

Eternal vigilance is the price of supremacy.

We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess, than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess.

What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin.

While you are asleep you are dead; and whether you stay dead an hour or a billion years the time to you is the same.

There is no unhappiness like the misery of sighting land (and work) again after a cheerful, careless voyage..

We live in a strange and unaccountable world; our birth is a mystery, our little life is a mystery and a trouble, we pass and are seen no more; all is mystery, mystery, mystery; we know not whence we came, nor why, we know not whither we go, nor why we go. 

We inflame wild beasts with the smell of blood, and then innocently wonder at the wave of brutal appetite that sweeps the land as a consequence.

Virtue has never been as respectable as money.

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

There are no people who are quite so vulgar as the over-refined.

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.

What is the chief end of man? -- to get rich. In what way? -- dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must. 

The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.

We ought never to do wrong when people are looking.

["Conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking." -- H.L. Mencken]


 The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty. 

Everything has its limit — iron ore cannot be educated into gold. 

If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed; if you do, you are misinformed. 

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

The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.