The following quotations are taken from the “Directory of Mark Twain’s maxims, quotations, and various opinions.”
Jane Austen and cat get twice as many lines as the rest because I like Jane Austen and cats. Twain liked cats but despised Jane Austen. I think his writing and Jane Austen’s have something in common, and if here were here, I would tell him so and explain why. He might not like Austen any better, but he would acknowledge that I have a point.
A – Jane Austen
Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.
I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
B – Bicycle
Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live.
C – Cat
A home without a cat — and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat — may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?
I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one. They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.
You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does — but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you’ll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use.
D – Diplomacy
I asked Tom if countries always apologized when they had done wrong, and he says–“Yes; the little ones does.”
E – Economy
It isn’t the sum you get, it’s how much you can buy with it, that’s the important thing; and it’s that that tells whether your wages are high in fact or only high in name.
F – Flea
Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a congressman can.
G – Grammar
No one can write perfect English and keep it up through a stretch of ten chapters. It has never been done.
H – Heroine & Hero
Girl in a book who is saved from drowning by a hero and marries him next week, but if it was to be over again ten years later it is likely she would rather have a life-belt and he would rather have her have it.
Person in a book who does things which he can’t and girl marries him for it.
I – Imagination
Now, isn’t imagination a precious thing? It peoples the earth with all manner of wonders, strange beasts and birds, angels, cherubim and seraphim. And it has to be exercised. No child should be permitted to grow up without exercise for imagination. It enriches life for him. It makes things wonderful and beautiful.
J – Journal
If you wish to inflict a heartless and malignant punishment upon a young person, pledge him to keep a journal a year.
K – Knowledge
We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that the savage has, because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we gained by prying into that matter
L – Laughter
Laughter which cannot be suppressed is catching. Sooner or later it washes away our defences, and undermines our dignity, and we join in it — ashamed of our weakness, and embittered against the cause of its exposure, but no matter, we have to join in, there is no help for it.
M – Music
We often feel sad in the presence of music without words; and often more than that in the presence of music without music.
N – Name
…when a teacher calls a boy by his entire name it means trouble.
O – Opera
Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.
P – Prose
What a lumbering poor vehicle prose is for the conveying of a great thought! …Prose wanders around with a lantern & laboriously schedules & verifies the details & particulars of a valley & its frame of crags & peaks, then Poetry comes, & lays bare the whole landscape with a single splendid flash.
Q – Quotation
It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with confidence, stands a good chance to deceive.
R – Reading
It is so unsatisfactory to read a noble passage and have no one you love at hand to share the happiness with you. And it is unsatisfactory to read to one’s self anyhow — for the uttered voice so heightens the expression.
S – School
Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.
T – Teaching
To be good is noble, but to teach others how to be good is nobler–and less trouble.
U – Unhappiness
There is no unhappiness like the misery of sighting land (and work) again after a cheerful, careless voyage.
V – Vanity
Forty years ago I was not so good-looking. A looking glass then lasted me three months. Now I can wear it out in two days.
W – Watermelon
It is the chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented.
Y – Youth
The heart is the real Fountain of Youth. While that remains young the Waterbury of Time must stand still.
Z – Zug
Strictly speaking, Zug means Pull, Tug, Draught, Procession, March, Progress, Flight, Direction, Expedition, Train, Caravan, Passage, Stroke, Touch, Line, Flourish, Trait of Character, Feature, Lineament, Chess-move, Organ-stop, Team, Whiff, Bias, Drawer, Propensity, Inhalation, Disposition: but that thing which it does not mean,–when all its legitimate pendants have been hung on, has not been discovered yet.
Unfortunately, the record displays no X quotation from Twain. There surely is one, but whoever went looking for it is still out there.
Zug comes from A Tramp Abroad, Appendix D: The Awful German Language. It’s written from the point of view of a middle-aged man trying to master German. If you want to laugh, click the link and read.