Skip to main content

Some Maxims Of Mark Twain

July 2024
2min read

“My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water."

Mark Twain in 1907.

Samuel Clemens, better known by his pseudonym 'Mark Twain', was an American author and humorist. He wrote such classics as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as many other essays and books. 


“If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.”

“More than one cigar at a time is excessive smoking.”

“My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water.”

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

“What a good thing Adam had—when he said a good thing he knew nobody had said it before.”

“Paige and I always meet on effusively affectionate terms, and yet he knows, perfectly well, that if I had him in a steel trap I would shut out all human succor and watch that trap, until he died.”

--Mark Twain’s Notebook


“It is likely that if more time had been taken, in the first place, the world would have been made right, and this ceaseless improving and repairing would not be necessary now. But if you hurry a world or a house, you are nearly sure to find out by and by, that you have left out a towhead, or a broom-closet, or some other little convenience, here and there, which has got to be supplied, no matter how much expense or vexation it may cost.”

--Life on the Mississippi


“Heaven for climate, and hell for society.”




“They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vinchy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce.”

--The Innocents Abroad


“To have nothing the matter with you and no habits is pretty tame, pretty colorless. It is just the way a saint feels, I reckon; it is at least the way he looks.”

--Europe and Elsewhere


“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

‘As to the Adjective: when in doubt, strike it out.”

“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.”

“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”

“All say, ‘How hard it is that we have to die’—a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.”

--The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson


“One thing at a time is my motto —and just play that thing for all it is worth, even if it’s only two pair and a jack.”

--A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


“There are two times in a man's life when he should not speculate: when he can’t afford it and when he can.”

“The man with a new idea is a Crank until the idea succeeds.”

“Every one is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”

“Few of us can stand prosperity. Another man's, I mean.”

“There isn’t a Parallel of Latitude but thinks it would have been the Equator if it had had its rights.”

“Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.”

--Following the Equator


“You can straighten a worm, but the crook is in him and only waiting.”

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

--More Maxims of Mark


“Susy died at the right time, the fortunate time of life, the happy age—twenty-four years. At twenty-four, such a girl has seen the best of life—life as a happy dream. After that age the risks begin; responsibility comes, and with it the cares, the sorrows, and the inevitable tragedy.”

--Mark Twain’s Autobiography


“Father … always drew a sigh of relief when the holidays were over. The reason was that they included social festivities that were sometimes a hurden to him, particularly if he happened to be in the mood of writing; and this mood, he was wont to declare, always attacked him when some ‘mentally dead people brought their corpses with them for a long visit.’”

--Clara Clemens, My Father, Mark Twain


“ADAM [at Eve’s grave]: Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.”

--Eve’s Diary

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.