Blog

The 100 Greatest Quotes by Mark Twain

Last updated on Dec 22nd, 2020

The 100 Greatest Quotes by Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known as Mark Twain, was an American author and one of the world’s greatest humorist.

In rich and extensive life work, he achieved a high degree of feelings and thoughts, which ranged from the full joy of life to complete hopelessness. After an early childhood spent in Hannibal, Missouri, Twain worked as a typesetter and printer, was a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River and miner in California, and after that traveled around Europe and the Middle East. His life, full of adventure, glory and joy overthrows the death of his wife and children, causing severe despair and pessimism in his last works.

Mark Twain’s most known heroes are Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn from his famous works The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Read on and learn the fantastic backstories of 100 greatest Mark Twain quotes.

1

Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.Autobiography with letters by William Lyon Phelps (1939)

2

Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.Chapter 6. Swimming in Glory, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

3

The lack of money is the root of all evil.Chapter 8. George'Diary - Continued, The Refuge of the Derelicts (1905)

A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar. - Mark Twain Quotes
4

A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.Mark Twain and I by Opie Read (1940)

5

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.Chapter LXI, Following the Equator (1897)

6

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.Chapter VI. Instinct and Thought, What Is Man? (1906)

7

Praise is well, compliment is well, but affection – that is the last and final and most precious reward that any man can win, whether by character or achievement.Affection speech (London, June 25, 1907)

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. - Mark Twain Quotes
8

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)

9

One is apt to overestimate beauty when it is rare.Chapter LI, The Innocents Abroad (1869)

10

Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.Chapter 9. Tom Practices Sycophancy, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

11

Man is the Only Animal that Blushes. Or needs to.Chapter XXVII, Following the Equator (1897)

I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey. - Mark Twain Quotes
12

I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey.Autobiographical Dictation (November 24, 1906)

13

A successful book is not made of what is in it, but of what is left out of it.Letter to Henry Huttleston Rogers (April 26-28, 1897)

14

To believe yourself brave is to be brave; it is the one only essential thing.Book II. In Court and Camp, Chapter 11. The War March Is Begun, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)

15

There are two times in a man’s life when he should not speculate: when he can’t afford it, and when he can.Chapter LVI, Following the Equator (1897)

Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. It is a trait that is not known to the higher animals. - Mark Twain Quotes
16

Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing itThe Lowest Animal (1896)

17

Prosperity is the best protector of principle.Chapter XXXVIII, Following the Equator (1897)

18

One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.Chapter 7. The Unknown Nymph, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

19

The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up.Chapter XXVII. England, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

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. - Mark Twain (Pudd'nhead Wilson Quotes)
20

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.Chapter 16. Sold Down the River, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

21

Circumstances make man, not man circumstances.Chapter XXXIII. Back in America, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

22

Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)

23

There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice.Chapter XXXVI, Following the Equator (1897)

Modesty died when clothes were born. - Mark Twain Quotes
24

Modesty died when clothes were born.Chapter CCLXXXII. Personal Memoranda, Mark Twain, a Biography: The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens by Albert Bigelow Paine (1912)

25

Only one thing is impossible for God: to find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.Chapter XXXIII. Back in America, Mark Twain's Notebook (1902-1903)

26

We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)

27

Man was made at the end of the week’s work, when God was tired.Chapter XXXIII. Back in America, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

"Classic." A book which people praise and don't read. - Mark Twain (Following the Equator Quotes)
28

“Classic.” A book which people praise and don’t read.Chapter XXV, Following the Equator (1897)

29

Nothing incites to money-crimes like great poverty or great wealth.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)

30

The only very marked difference between the average civilized man and the average savage is that the one is gilded and the other painted.Chapter XXXV. Closing Years, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

31

A crime persevered in a thousand centuries ceases to be a crime, and becomes a virtue. This is the law of custom, and custom supersedes all other forms of law.Chapter LXIII, Following the Equator (1897)

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform - (or pause and reflect). - Mark Twain Quotes
32

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform – (or pause and reflect).Chapter XXXV. Closing Years, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

33

Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is, knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our race. He brought death into the world.Chapter 3. Roxy Plays a Shrewd Trick, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

34

Pity is for the living, envy is for the dead.Chapter XIX, Following the Equator (1897)

35

Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.Chapter XXXI. In Vienna, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

If we would learn what the human race really is, at bottom, we need only observe it in election times. - Mark Twain Quotes
36

If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election times.The Character of Man (1885)

37

A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.Chapter XIV, Following the Equator (1897)

38

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.Chapter 19. The Prophesy Realized, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

39

A thing long expected takes the shape of the unexpected when at last it comes.Chapter XXI. European Residence, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

Every one is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody. - Mark Twain (Following the Equator Quotes)
40

Every one is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.Chapter LXVI, Following the Equator (1897)

41

How empty is theory in presence of fact!Chapter XLIII. The Battle of the Sand Belt, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)

42

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.Chapter XXXVII. An Interview with Mark Twain, From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches, Letters of Travel by Rudyard Kipling (1899)

43

Man will do many things to get himself loved, he will do all things to get himself envied.Chapter XXI, Following the Equator (1897)

Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion. - Mark Twain Quotes
44

Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.Chapter X. Egypt and Home, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

45

Nothing is made in vain, but the fly came near it.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)

46

Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.Chapter XII, Following the Equator (1897)

47

There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.Chapter XXIV. Ceylon and India, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't. - Mark Twain (Following the Equator Quotes)
48

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.Chapter XV, Following the Equator (1897)

49

The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)

50

Frankness is a jewel; only the young can afford it.Chapter CCLXXXV. A Wedding at Stormfield, Mark Twain, a Biography: The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens by Albert Bigelow Paine (1912)

51

Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.Chapter XXVIII, Following the Equator (1897)

The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money. - Mark Twain (Pudd'nhead Wilson Quotes)
52

The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money. Chapter 8. Marse Tom Tramples His Chance, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

53

It is a free press – a press that is more than free – a press which is licensed to say any infamous thing it chooses about a private or a public man, or advocate any outrageous doctrine it pleases. It is tied in no way. The public opinion which should hold it in bounds it has itself degraded to its own level. There are laws to protect the freedom of the press’s speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press.License of the Press speech (In a talk before the Monday Evening Club of Hartford, in March 31, 1873)

54

Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered – either by themselves or by others.Autobiographical Dictation (May 26, 1907)

55

Hunger is the handmaid of genius.Chapter XLIII, Following the Equator (1897)

None of us can be as great as God, but any of us can be as good. - Mark Twain Quotes
56

None of us can be as great as God, but any of us can be as good.Chapter XXXIII. Back in America, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

57

To be good is noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble.The author's prefatory remark attributed to the Pudd'nhead Maxims, Following the Equator (1897)

58

There’s a good spot tucked away somewhere in everybody. You’ll be a long time finding it, sometimes.Chapter 10. Diary - Continued, The Refuge of the Derelicts (1905)

59

The gods offer no rewards for intellect. There was never one yet that showed any interest in it.Chapter XXXIII. Back in America, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one! keep from telling their happinesses to the unhappy. - Mark Twain (Following the Equator Quotes)
60

There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one: keep from telling their happinesses to the unhappy.Chapter XXVI, Following the Equator (1897)

61

To some people it is fatal to be recognized by greatness.The Approaching Epidemic (1870)

62

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.Chapter 15. The Robber Robbed, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

63

Be good and you will be lonesome.Caption for the author's photograph on shipboard. Following the Equator (1897)

Both marriage and death ought to be welcome: the one promises happiness, doubtless the other assures it. - Mark Twain Quotes
64

Both marriage and death ought to be welcome: the one promises happiness, doubtless the other assures it.Letter to Will Bowen (November 4, 1888)

65

Happiness ain’t a thing in itself – it’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant.Chapter I, Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven (1909)

66

Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.Chapter 10, The Mysterious Stranger (1916, posthumous)

67

Civilizations proceed from the heart rather than from the head.Letter to Alvert Sonnichsen (March 18, 1901)

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd druther not. - Mark Twain (Following the Equator Quotes)
68

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d druther not.Chapter XLIX, Following the Equator (1897)

69

The heart is the real fountain of youth.Chapter XXXI. In Vienna, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

70

You can’t reason with your heart; it has its own laws, and thumps about things which the intellect scorns.Chapter XX. The Ogre's Castle, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)

71

One learns peoples through the heart, not the eyes or the intellect.What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us, Essays On Paul Bourget (1895)

No sane man can be happy, for to him life is real, and he sees what a fearful thing it is. Only the mad can be happy, and not many of those. - Mark Twain (The Mysterious Stranger Quotes)
72

No sane man can be happy, for to him life is real, and he sees what a fearful thing it is. Only the mad can be happy, and not many of those.Chapter 10, The Mysterious Stranger (1916, posthumous)

73

We find not much in ourselves to admire, we are always privately wanting to be like somebody else. If everybody was satisfied with himself there would be no heroes.Correspondence with Henry Huttleston Rogers, Mark Twain's Autobiography (1925)

74

Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.Chapter CCXC. The Return to Bermuda, Mark Twain a Biography by Albert Bigelow Paine (1912)

75

Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.Chapter 10, The Mysterious Stranger (1916, posthumous)

Honesty is the best policy - when there is money in it. - Mark Twain Quotes
76

Honesty is the best policy – when there is money in it.Business speech (March 30, 1901)

77

Name the greatest of all the inventors: Accident.Chapter XXXIII. Back in America, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

78

The man with a new idea is a Crank until the idea succeeds.Chapter XXXII, Following the Equator (1897)

79

Necessity is the mother of “taking chances.”Chapter XLII, Roughing It (1872)

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life. - Mark Twain Quotes
80

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.Chapter XXXI. In Vienna, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

81

Hunger is pride’s master.Chapter XVIII. The Prince with the Tramps, The Prince and the Pauper (1881)

82

We take a natural interest in novelties, but it is against nature to take an interest in familiar things.Chapter XVIII, Following the Equator (1897)

83

When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.Chapter XXXI. In Vienna, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

The lottery is a government institution and the poor its best patrons. - Mark Twain Quotes
84

The lottery is a government institution & the poor its best patrons.October 1878 - February 1879, Mark Twain's Notebooks & Journals, Volume II (1877-1883)

85

All good things arrive unto them that wait – and don’t die in the meantime.Letter to Orion and Jane Clemens (April 3, 1889)

86

When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain.Chapter XXXI. In Vienna, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

87

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.Chapter XXII, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)

Love is a madness; if thwarted it develops fast. - Mark Twain Quotes
88

Love is a madness; if thwarted it develops fast.'The Memorable Assassination', What Is Man? (1906)

89

Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist but you have ceased to live.Chapter LIX, Following the Equator (1897)

90

Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins.Chapter XXXIII. Back in America, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

91

Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest.Note to the Young People's Society, Greenpoint Presbyterian Church (1901)

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. - Mark Twain Quotes
92

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.Advance Magazine by Dorothy Quick (February 1940)

93

There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist.Chapter XXXIV. Italy Again, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

94

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.Chapter LII, Following the Equator (1897)

95

The unspoken word is capital. We can invest it or we can squander it.Chapter XXXI. In Vienna, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure. - Mark Twain Quotes
96

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure.Letter to Cordelia Welsh Foote of Cincinnati (December 2, 1887)

97

There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it.Chapter XXXI. In Vienna, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)

98

Plain question and plain answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.Chapter 31. A Thumb-print and What Came of It, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

99

The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.Chapter V, Christian Science (1907)

If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything. - Mark Twain Quotes
100

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.Chapter XXI. European Residence, Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)