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



Twain from Life 1883
Cartoon from LIFE magazine, March 22, 1883

I believe our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

It now seems plain to me that that theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one...the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.
- "The Lowest Animal"

Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno.
- "Was the World Made for Man?"

Evolution is a blind giant who rolls a snowball down a hill. The ball is made of flakes--circumstances. They contribute to the mass without knowing it. They adhere without intention, and without foreseeing what is to result. When they see the result they marvel at the monster ball and wonder how the contriving of it came to be originally thought out and planned. Whereas there was no such planning, there was only a law: the ball once started, all the circumstances that happened to lie in its path would help to build it, in spite of themselves.
- "The Secret History of Eddypus"


Adam is fading out. It is on account of Darwin and that crowd. I can see that he is not going to last much longer. There's a plenty of signs. He is getting belittled to a germ -- a little bit of a speck that you can't see without a microscope powerful enough to raise a gnat to the size of a church. They take that speck and breed from it: first a flea; then a fly, then a bug, then cross these and get a fish, then a raft of fishes, all kinds, then cross the whole lot and get a reptile, then work up the reptiles till you've got a supply of lizards and spiders and toads and alligators and Congressmen and so on, then cross the entire lot again and get a plant of amphibiums, which are half-breeds and do business both wet and dry, such as turtles and frogs and ornithorhyncuses and so on, and cross-up again and get a mongrel bird, sired by a snake and dam'd by a bat, resulting in a pterodactyl, then they develop him, and water his stock till they've got the air filled with a million things that wear feathers, then they cross-up all the accumulated animal life to date and fetch out a mammal, and start-in diluting again till there's cows and tigers and rats and elephants and monkeys and everything you want down to the Missing Link, and out of him and a mermaid they propagate Man, and there you are! Everything ship-shape and finished-up, and nothing to do but lay low and wait and see if it was worth the time and expense.

Well, then, was it? To my mind, it don't stand to reason. They say it took a hundred million years. Suppose you ordered a Man at the start, and had a chance to look over the plans and specifications -- which would you take, Adam or the germ? Naturally you would say Adam is business, the germ ain't; one is immediate and sure, the other is speculative and uncertain. Well, I have thought these things all over, and my sympathies are with Adam. Adam was like us, and so he seems near to us, and dear. He is kin, blood kin, and my heart goes out to him in affection. But I don't feel that way about that germ. The germ is too far away -- and not only that, but such a wilderness of reptiles between. You can't skip the reptiles and set your love on the germ; no, if they are ancestors, it is your duty to include them and love them. Well, you can't do that. You would come up against the dinosaur and your affections would cool off. You couldn't love a dinosaur the way you would another relative. There would always be a gap. Nothing could ever bridge it. Why, it gives a person the dry gripes just to look at him!

Very well, then, where do we arrive? Where do we arrive with our respect, our homage, our filial affection? At Adam! At Adam, every time. We can't build a monument to a germ, but we can build one to Adam, who is in the way to turn myth in in fifty years and be entirely forgotten in two hundred. We can build a monument and save his name to the world forever, and we'll do it!
- "The Refuge of the Derelicts" published in Fables of Man


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