Tag Archives: Mark Twain

He Said That? 6/25/18

From Mark Twain (1835–1910), American humorist, novelist, writer, and lecturer, “What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us?” (1897):

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away and a sunny spirit takes their place.

He Said That? 2/6/18

From Mark Twain (1835–1910), American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer:

When red-headed people are above a certain social grade their hair is auburn

He Said That? 1/3/18

He may not have been much of an investor, but Mark Twain probably had more great quotes than any other American author. From Twain (1835–1910), American humorist, novelist, writer, and lecturer, “Consistency”, paper read at the Hartford Monday Evening Club on 5 December 1887:

When the doctrine of allegiance to party can utterly up-end a man’s moral constitution and make a temporary fool of him besides, what excuse are you going to offer for preaching it, teaching it, extending it, perpetuating it? Shall you say, the best good of the country demands allegiance to party? Shall you also say it demands that a man kick his truth and his conscience into the gutter, and become a mouthing lunatic, besides?

Simple wisdom from one of the most famous people to go broke, by Simon Black

Mark Twain was a great writer and a lousy investor. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

In the late 1800s towards the end of his life, Mark Twain wrote one of his greatest observations of humanity:

“When you remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.”

Twain’s quote was primarily a commentary on himself.

A lot of people don’t know this, but Mark Twain went bankrupt late in life.

His enormous fame as an author had brought him substantial wealth. But Twain squandered it all on countless business and investment blunders.

Twain’s publishing company, for example, racked up record sales of its 11 volume “Library of American Literature”.

The problem, however, was that the books cost him $25 to produce… but he only collected $3 up front from customers.

The more volumes he sold, the more money his company lost.

Twain started borrowing heavily to keep his business afloat, eventually mortgaging his home and taking substantial personal loans from wealthy friends.

But Twain was unable to indebt himself back into prosperity, and the company was run into the ground.

Simultaneously Twain made some hilariously boneheaded investments.

He chose NOT to invest in Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone (even though he boasted one of the country’s first telephones in his own home).

Instead Twain dumped more than $40,000 (nearly $1.5 million today) in a failed technology that went bust.

Twain invested in another technology that was supposed to revolutionize steam engines. Per the terms of the deal, Twain paid the inventor a stipend of $35 per week.

Twain wrote in his journal,

He visited me every few days to report progress and I early noticed by his breath and gain that he was spending 36 dollars a week on whisky, and I could never figure out where he got the other dollar.

Twain lost money in the stock market too, famously buying shares of Oregon Transcontinental Railroad at $78 per share, ignoring the stock bubble when it hit $98, and ultimately selling at $12.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with buying stocks or even making high-risk speculations.

But Twain had an extraordinary knack for massively overextending himself… betting way too much on deals with excessive risk.

To continue reading: Simple wisdom from one of the most famous people to go broke

He Said That? 8/29/16

From Mark Twain (1835–1910), American humorist, novelist, writer, and lecturer, Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings, ed. Bernard DeVoto, 1939. First published in 1962 when the author’s daughter, Clara Clemens, withdrew her objection:

Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object — robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused the change? Merely a politician’s trick — a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor — none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, “Our Country, right or wrong,” and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?

For in a republic, who is “the Country”? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant — merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is “the country?” Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Is it the school-superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn’t.

He Said That? 5/28/16

From Mark Twain (1835-1910), American humorist, novelist, writer, and lecturer, New York Herald, 10/15/1900:

It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people [the Filipinos] free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.

He Said That? 8/13/15

From Mark Twain, Sketches, Old and New, (1893):

I don’t want any of your statistics; I took your whole batch and lit my pipe with it.

I hate your kind of people. You are always ciphering out how much a man’s health is injured, and how much his intellect is impaired, and how many pitiful dollars and cents he wastes in the course of ninety-two years’ indulgence in the fatal practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal practice of drinking coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in taking a glass of wine at dinner, etc. etc. And you are always figuring out how many women have been burned to death because of the dangerous fashion of wearing expansive hoops, etc. etc. You never see more than one side of the question.

You are blind to the fact that most old men in America smoke and drink coffee, although, according to your theory, they ought to have died young; and that hearty old Englishmen drink wine and survive it, and portly old Dutchmen both drink and smoke freely, and yet grow older and fatter all the time. And you never try to find out how much solid comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment a man derives from smoking in the course of a lifetime (which is worth ten times the money he would save by letting it alone), nor the appalling aggregate of happiness lost in a lifetime by your kind of people from not smoking. Of course you can save money by denying yourself all those little vicious enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do with it? What use can you put it to? Money can’t save your infinitesimal soul. All the use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment where is the use of accumulating cash?

It won’t do for you to say that you can use it to better purpose in furnishing a good table, and in charities, and in supporting tract societies, because you know yourself that you people who have no petty vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you stint yourselves so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and hungry. And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor wretch, seeing you in a good humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you; and in church you are always down on your knees, with your ears buried in the cushion, when the contribution-box comes around; and you never give the revenue officers a full statement of your income.

Now you know all these things yourself, don’t you? Very well, then, what is the use of your stringing out your miserable lives to a lean and withered old age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless to you? In a word, why don’t you go off somewhere and die, and not be always trying to seduce people into becoming as ornery and unlovable as you are yourselves, by your villainous “moral statistics”?

Now, I don’t approve of dissipation, and I don’t indulge in it either; but I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices. And so I don’t want to hear from you any more. I think you are the very same man who read me a long lecture last week about the degrading vice of smoking cigars, and then came back, in my absence, with your reprehensible fire-proof gloves on, and carried off my beautiful parlor stove.