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Directory of Mark Twain's maxims, quotations, and various opinions:


Autographed photo
Clemens's means of getting compliments:
Playing "good cub" for jam.


We are unanimous in the pride we take in good and genuine compliments paid us, in distinctions conferred upon us, in attentions shown us. There is not one of us, from the emperor down, but is made like that. Do I mean attentions shown us by the great? No, I mean simply flattering attentions, let them come whence they may. We despise no source that can pay us a pleasing attention--there is no source that is humble enough for that.
- "Does the Race of Man Love a Lord?"

Some men deserve compliments, but the only one that is welcome to a modest man is the one that is undeserved.
- Speech, October 17, 1893 to the Oxford Club; reported in the Brooklyn Eagle, October 18, 1893, p. 5

An occasional compliment is necessary to keep up one's self-respect. The plan of the newspaper is good and wise; when you can't get a compliment any other way, pay yourself one.
- Notebook, 1894

I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough.
- Speech, September 23, 1907

I like compliments, praises, flatteries; I cordially enjoy all such things, and am grieved and disappointed when what I call a 'barren mail' arrives--a mail that hasn't any compliments in it.
- Dictation May 19, 1907

A sincere compliment is always grateful to a lady, so long as you don't try to knock her down with it.
- "Answers to Correspondents," Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 2

The happy phrasing of a compliment is one of the rarest of human gifts and the happy delivery of it another.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

One should not pay a person a compliment and straightway follow it with a criticism. It is better to kiss him now and kick him next week.
- inscription written on fly leaf of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the L. M. Powers collection. Reported in Kansas City Star, April 10, 1911, p. 6.

Do not offer a compliment and ask a favor at the same time. A compliment that is charged for is not valuable.
- Notebook, 1902-1903

It is a talent by itself to pay compliments gracefully and have them ring true. It's an art by itself.
- "I Was Born for a Savage" speech, 1907

None but an ass pays a compliment and asks a favor at the same time. There are many asses.
- Notebook, 1902; also in More Maxims of Mark, 1927

A dozen direct censures are easier to bear than one morganatic compliment.
- Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

If husbands could realize what large returns of profit may be gotten out of a wife by a small word of praise paid over the counter when the market is just right, they would bring matters around the way they wish them much oftener than they usually do. Arguments are unsafe with wives, because they examine them; but they do not examine compliments. One can pass upon a wife a compliment that is three-fourths base metal; she will not even bite it to see if it is good; all she notices is the size of it, not the quality.
- "Hellfire Hotchkiss," Satires and Burlesques

The compliment that helps us on our way is not the one that is shut up in the mind, but the one that is spoken out.
- Mark Twain: A Biography

The form of a compliment has nothing to do with its value -- it is the spirit that is in it that makes it gold or dross. This one was gold. This one was out of the heart, and I have found that an ignorant hot one out of the heart tastes just as good as does a calm judicial, reasoned one out of an educated head.
- "The Refuge of the Derelicts" published in Fables of Man

Compliments make me vain: & when I am vain, I am insolent & overbearing. It is a pity, too, because I love compliments. I love them even when they are not so. My child, I can live on a good compliment two weeks with nothing else to eat.
- Letter to Gertrude Natkin, 2 March 1906

Edison's compliment

Thomas Edison's compliment with Clemens's marginalia.
From the Bob Slotta collection.
Published in Ephemera News, Spring 2001.

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