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The 100 Greatest Quotes by Mark Twain

Last updated on Apr 21st, 2015

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
A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.Mark Twain and I by Opie Read
2
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)
3
Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)
4
The lack of money is the root of all evil.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)
5
Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
6
The only reason why God created man is because he was disappointed with the monkey.Autobiographical Dictation (1906)
7
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.The Lowest Animal (1896)
8
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.Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
9
In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.Following the Equator (1897)
10
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.What Is Man? (1906)
11
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.Mark Twain's Essays, Letters, and Speeches
12
One is apt to overestimate beauty when it is rare.The Innocents Abroad (1869)
13
Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
14
Man is the Only Animal that Blushes. Or needs to.Following the Equator (1897)
15
“Classic.” A book which people praise and don’t read.Following the Equator (1897)
16
A successful book is not made of what is in it, but of what is left out of it.Mark Twain's Correspondence with Henry Huttleston Rogers (1893-1909)
17
To believe yourself brave is to be brave; it is the one only essential thing.Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte (1896)
18
There are two times in a man’s life when he should not speculate: when he can’t afford it, and when he can.Following the Equator (1897)
19
Prosperity is the best protector of principle.Following the Equator (1897)
20
One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
21
The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
22
Circumstances make man, not man circumstances.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
23
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.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
24
Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)
25
Modesty died when clothes were born.Paine's Biography of Mark Twain
26
Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
27
Only one thing is impossible for God: to find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.Mark Twain's Notebook (1902-1903)
28
There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.Following the Equator (1897)
29
We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)
30
Man was made at the end of the week’s work when God was tired.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
31
Nothing incites to money-crimes like great poverty or great wealth.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)
32
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.Following the Equator (1897)
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.Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
34
Pity is for the living, envy is for the deadFollowing the Equator (1897)
35
A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.Following the Equator (1897)
36
Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person. Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
37
If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election times.Mark Twain's Autobiography (1925)
38
Man will do many things to get himself loved, he will do all things to get himself envied.Following the Equator (1897)
39
Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.Following the Equator (1897)
40
Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
41
A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
42
How empty is theory in the presence of fact!A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)
43
Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.Rudyard Kipling, An Interview with Mark Twain, From sea to sea: letters of travel (1899)
44
Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.Following the Equator (1897)
45
Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
46
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.Following the Equator (1897)
47
Nothing is made in vain, but the fly came near it.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)
48
Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.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
There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
51
Frankness is a jewel; only the young can afford it.Mark Twain's Letters (1917)
52
It is a free press…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
53
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.Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
54
Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered – either by themselves or by others.Mark Twain's Autobiography (1925)
55
Hunger is the handmaid of genius.Following the Equator (1897)
56
The gods offer no rewards for intellect. There was never one yet that showed any interest in it…Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
57
None of us can be as great as God, but any of us can be as good.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
58
To be good is noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble.Following the Equator (1897)
59
Be good and you will be lonesome.Following the Equator (1897)
60
There’s a good spot tucked away somewhere in everybody. You’ll be a long time finding it, sometimes.Refuge of the Derelicts (1905)
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.Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
63
Happiness ain’t a thing in itself – it’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant.The Mysterious Stranger (1916, posthumous)
64
Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.The Mysterious Stranger (1916, posthumous)
65
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.The Mysterious Stranger (1916, posthumous)
66
There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one: keep from telling their happinesses to the unhappy.Following the Equator (1897)
67
Both marriage and death ought to be welcome: the one promises happiness, doubtless the other assures it.Letter to Will Bowen (November 4, 1888)
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.Following the Equator (1897)
69
Civilizations proceed from the heart rather than from the head.Letter to Alvert Sonnichsen (March 18, 1901)
70
You can’t reason with your heart; it has its own laws, and thumps about things which the intellect scorns.A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)
71
The heart is the real fountain of youth.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
72
One learns peoples through the heart, not the eyes or the intellect.What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us (1895)
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.Mark Twain's Autobiography (1925)
74
Honesty is the best policy – when there is money in it.Business speech (March 30, 1901)
75
Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.'The Chronicle of Young Satan', The Mysterious Stranger (1916, posthumous)
76
Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.Mark Twain's Autobiography (1925)
77
Hunger is pride’s master.The Prince and the Pauper (1881)
78
The man with a new idea is a Crank until the idea succeeds.Following the Equator (1897)
79
Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.Following the Equator (1897)
80
We take a natural interest in novelties, but it is against nature to take an interest in familiar things.Following the Equator (1897)
81
Name the greatest of all inventors. Accidents.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
82
Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
83
When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries of life disappear and life stands explained.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
84
The lottery is a government institution & the poor its best patrons.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
85
Love is a madness; if thwarted it develops fast.'The Memorable Assassination', What Is Man? (1906)
86
When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
87
Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
88
Necessity is the mother of taking chances.Roughing It (1872)
89
There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist.More Maxims of Mark by Merle Johnson (1927)
90
All good things arrive unto them that wait – and don’t die in the meantime.Letter to Orion and Jane Clemens (April 3, 1889)
91
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.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
92
Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest.'Note to the Young People's Society', Greenpoint Presbyterian Church (1901)
93
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)
94
The unspoken word is capital. We can invest it or we can squander it.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
95
Plain question and plain answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.Life on the Mississippi (1883)
96
Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.Following the Equator (1897)
97
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
98
There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)
99
The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.Christian Science (1907)
100
If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.Mark Twain's Notebook (1935, posthumous)