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



For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud-rack; I can feel the spirit of its woody solitudes, I hear the plashing of the brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

AI image created by R. Kent Rasmussen

The native language is soft and liquid and flexible and in every way efficient and satisfactory--till you get mad; then there you are; there isn't anything in it to swear with. Good judges all say it is the best Sunday language there is. But then all the other six days in the week it just hangs idle on your hands; it isn't any good for business and you can't work a telephone with it. Many a time the attention of the mssionaries has been called to this defect, and they are always promising they are going to fix it; but no, they go fooling along and fooling along and nothing is done.
- Mark Twain's Speeches, 1923 ed. "Welcome Home"

Missionary Stew
In 1897 a joint resolution was introduced in the United States Congress to annex the Sandwich Islands.
This cartoon, which ridiculed the natives as missionary-eating savages,
appeared in the Omaha World-Herald on June 27, 1897, reprinted from the New York World.
The cartoon featured a statement from Mark Twain's lecture on the Sandwich Islands.

Nearby is an interesting ruin--the meager remains of an ancient temple--a place where human sacrifices were offered up in those old bygone days...long, long before the missionaries braved a thousand privations to come and make [the natives] permanently miserable by telling them how beautiful and how blissful a place heaven is, and how nearly impossible it is to get there; and showed the poor native how dreary a place perdition is and what unnecessarily liberal facilities there are for going to it; showed him how, in his ignorance, he had gone and fooled away all his kinsfolk to no purpose; showed him what rapture it is to work all day long for fifty cents to buy food for next day with, as compared with fishing for a pastime and lolling in the shade through eternal summer, and eating of the bounty that nobody labored to provide but Nature. How sad it is to think of the multitudes who have gone to their gaves in this beautiful island and never knew there was a hell.
- Roughing It

Adultery they look upon as poetically wrong but practically proper...Kanakas will have horses and saddles and the women will fornicate--two strong characteristics of this people.
- quoted in Mark Twain in Hawaii, Walter Francis Frear

This is the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world--ought to take dead men out of grave.
- quoted in Mark Twain in Hawaii, Walter Francis Frear

The missionaries braved a thousand privations to come and make them permanently miserable by telling them how beautiful and how blissful a place heaven is, and how nearly impossible it is to get there.
- Roughing It

Charles Warren Stoddard has gone to the Sandwich Islands permanently. Lucky devil. It is the only supremely delightful place on earth. It does seem that the more advantages a body doesn't earn here, the more of them God throws at his head. This fellow's postal card has set the vision of those gracious islands before my mind again, with not a leaf withered, nor a rainbow vanished, nor a sun-flash missing from he waves, & now it will be months, I reckon, before I can drive it away again. It is beautiful company, but it makes one restless & dissatisfied.
- Letter to W. D. Howells, 26 Oct. 1881

Frank Moeller's Masonic Hotel
Napier, New Zealand
Nov. 30, 1895

Dear Mr. Whitney: -- Your long-delayed letter has reached me today, and I was very glad to hear from you, and know that you are still hale and hearty -- which I am not; it exasperates me to have to say. I was perishing to get ashore at Honolulu, and talk to you all, and see your enchanted land again, and be welcomed and stirred up. But it was not to be, and I shall regret it a thousand years; for of course I shan't get another chance to see the islands again. At least, I am afraid I shan't, life is so uncertain now-a-days.

I have had a very delightful time in Australia and New Zealand, notwithstanding my poor health.

Do please remember me most cordially to any of my old-time friends that still survive the thrity years interval since I was with them in Honolulu.

I thank you ever so much for your beautiful "Tourist Guide Through Hawaii, which arrived by recent mail.

Sincerely yours,
S. L. Clemens

- "Letter from Mark Twain," reprinted in Hawaiian Gazette, 7 Jan 1896, p. 6.

[for more info on Henry W. Whitney, see Twain's column in the Galaxy, November 1870.]


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