Mark Twain was thoroughly agitated one day when he was trapped on a slow, late train. When the conductor made his rounds, asking for the fare, Twain handed him half the required amount-a child's rate.

"Are you a child?" the conductor asked, facetiously.

"No, not any more," Twain responded with a glare. "But I was when I got on your damn train."

Model Boys

The Model Boy of my time–we never had but the one–was perfect: perfect in manners, perfect in dress, perfect in conduct, perfect in filial piety, perfect in exterior godliness; but at bottom he was a prig; and as for the contents of his skull, they could have changed place with the contents of a pie and nobody would have been the worse off for it but the pie. This fellow's reproachlessness was a standing reproach to every lad in the village. He was the admiration of all the mothers, and the detestation of all their sons. I was told what became of him, but as it was a disappointment to me, I will not enter into details. He succeeded in life. 

Mark Twain
(from Life on the Mississippi, 1883, chapter 54)



Never handle firearms carelessly. The sorrow and suffering that have been caused through the innocent but heedless handling of firearms by the young! Only four days ago, right in the next farmhouse to the one where I am spending the summer, a grandmother, old and gray and sweet, one of the loveliest spirits in the land, was sitting at her work, when her young grandson crept in and got down an old, battered, rusty gun which had not been touched for many years and was supposed not to be loaded, and pointed it at her, laughing and threatening to shoot. In her fright she ran screaming and pleading toward the door on the other side of the room; but as she passed him he placed the gun almost against her very breast and pulled the trigger! He had supposed it was not loaded. And he was right–it wasn't. So there wasn't any harm done. It is the only case of that kind I ever heard of.



Always obey your parents, when they are present. This is the best policy in the long run, because if you don't they will make you. Most parents think they know better than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.


  When I was well grown, at last, I was sold and taken away, and I never saw her again. She was broken-hearted, and so was I, and we cried; but she comforted me as well as she could, and said we were sent into this world for a wise and good purpose, and must do our duties without repining, take our life as we might find it, live it for the best good of others, and never mind about the results; they were not our affair. She said men who did like this would have a noble and beautiful reward by and by in another world, and although we animals would not go there, to do well and right without reward would give to our brief lives a worthiness and dignity which in itself would be a reward.



Mysterious Stranger

……."Strange! that you should not have suspected years ago–centuries, ages, eons, ago!–for you have existed, companionless, through all the eternities. Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane–like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell–mouths mercy and invented hell–mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him! . . . 

Mark Twain

Mysterious Stranger



To an Unidentified Person

 Hartford, September 29, 1883.

Dear Sirs:

You have a contract with Mr. Will Gillette; and I am aware that you are trying (as usual with you) to sneak out of the performance of its conditions. I am personally interested in the matter; therefore I suggest to you couple of piety-mouthing, hypocritical thieves and liars that you change your customary policy this time.


Yours Truly ,

S. L. Clemens



To the Editor of the New York Times

October 4, 1907.


 I would like to know what kind of a goddam govment this is that discriminates between two common carriers and makes a goddam railroad charge everybody equal and lets a goddam man charge any goddam price be wants to for his goddam opera box.


 Howells it is an outrage the way the govment is acting so I sent this complaint to N. Y. Times with your name signed because it would have more weight.




To the Gas Company

Hartford, February 12, 1891.

 Dear Sirs:

Some day you will move me almost to the verge of irritation by your chuckle-headed Goddamned fashion of shutting your Goddamned gas off without giving any notice to your Goddamned parishioners. Several times you have come within an ace of smothering half of this household in their beds and blowing up the other half by this idiotic, not to say criminal, custom of yours. And it has happened again today. Haven’t you a telephone?


                                        S L Clemens  (Mark Twain)



Advice for Good Little Girls


Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for every trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted to under peculiarly aggravating circumstances.

If you have nothing but a rag-doll stuffed with saw-dust, while one of your more fortunate little playmates has a costly china one, you should treat her with a show of kindness nevertheless. And you ought not to attempt to make a forcible swap with her unless your conscience would justify you in it, and you know you are able to do it.

You ought never to take your little brother's "chawing gum" away from him by main force–it is better to rope him in with the promise of the first two dollars and a half you find floating down the river on a grindstone. In the artless simplicity natural to his time of life, he will regard it as a perfectly fair transaction. In all ages of the world this eminently plausible fiction has lured the obtuse infant to financial ruin and disaster.

If at any time you find it necessary to correct your brother, do not correct him with mud–never, on any account, throw mud at him, because it will spoil his clothes. It is better to scald him a little, for then you obtain desirable results–you secure his immediate attention to the lesson you are inculcating, and at the same time your hot water will have a tendency to move impurities from his person–and possibly the skin also, in spots.

If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won't. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterwards act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your better judgment.

You should ever bear in mind that it is to your kind parents that you are indebted for your food, and your nice bed, and for your beautiful clothes, and for the privilege of staying home from school when you let on that you are sick. Therefore you ought to respect their little prejudices, and humor their little whims and put up with their little foibles, until they get to crowding you too much.

Good little girls always show marked deference for the aged. You ought never to "sass" old people–unless they "sass" you first.

Mark Twain

California Youth's Companion, June 24, 1865




This letter contains my all time favorite insulting phrase-when one thinks of the meaning of the words, they fit wonderfully- DCC


To William Dean Howells

Riverdale, February 13, 1903

 Dear Howells:

 I am infinitely sorry. I was lying awake at the time and felt sure I heard voices; so sure that I put on a dressing gown and went down to inquire into the matter but you were already gone. I encountered Sam coming up as I turned the lower comer of the house and he said it was a stranger, who insisted on seeing me —"a stumpy little gray man with furtive ways and an evil face."

"What did he say his name was?"

"He didn’t say. He offered his card but I didn’t take it."

"That was stupid. Describe him again-and more in detail."

He did it.

"I can’t seem to locate him–I wish you had taken his card. Why didn’t you?"

"I didn’t like his manners."

"Why? What did he do?"

"He called me a quadrilateral astronomical incandescent son of a bitch."

"Oh, that was Howells. Is that what annoyed you. What is the matter with it? Is that a thing to distort into an offense, when you couldn’t possibly know but that he meant it as a compliment? And it is a compliment, too."

"I don’t think so, it only just sounds so. I am not finding any fault with the main phrase, which is hallowed to me by memories of childhood’s happy days, now vanished never to return, on account of its being my sainted mother’s diminutive for me, but I did not like those adverbs. I have an aversion for adverbs. I will not take adverbs from a stranger,"

"Very well," I said coldly. "Such being your theology, you can get your money after breakfast and seek another place. I know you are honest, I know you are competent, and I am sorry to part with you; you are the best gardener I have ever had but in matters of grammar you are morbid and this makes you over-sensitive and altogether too god dam particular."

I am sorry and ashamed, Howells, and so is Clara, who is helping write this letter, with expressions she got of her mother, but the like will not happen again on this place, I can assure you.


Yrs Ever,



P.S.-This page had to be re-written and made parlor-mentory, because I found Mrs. Clemens had given orders that the letter be brought under her blue pencil before mailing. But I knew 2 of the pages would pass.

M. T.

 "Very well," I said, coldly. ‘Such being your theology, you can get your money after breakfast and seek another place. I know you are honest, I know you are competent, and I am sorry to part with you; you are the best gardener I have ever had, but in matters of grammar you are morbid, and this makes you over-sensitive and altogether too amsterdam particular."

I am sorry and ashamed, Howells, and so are Clara and Mrs. Clemens, who blame me for allowing it to happen, but the like will not happen again on this place, I can assure you.

Ys Ever,