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

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LITERATURE

lliterature collage
Collage by Dave Thomson

My books are water; those of the great geniuses is wine. Everybody drinks water.
- Notebook, 1885

High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water.
- Letter to William Dean Howells, 15 February 1887

Twain & John Lewis on porch
Sam Clemens and John T. Lewis
photo courtesy of Dave Thomson

I have never tried, in even one single little instance, to help cultivate the cultivated classes. I was not equipped for it either by native gifts or training. And I never had any ambition in that direction, but always hunted for bigger game--the masses. I have seldom deliberately tried to instruct them, but I have done my best to entertain them, for they can get instruction elsewhere.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

It makes one hope and believe that a day will come when, in the eye of the law, literary property will be as sacred as whiskey, or any other of the necessaries of life. It grieves me to think how far more profound and reverent a respect the law would have for literature if a body could only get drunk on it.
- Dinner speech, 8 December 1881

Creed and opinion change with time, and their symbols perish; but Literature and its temples are sacred to all creeds and inviolate.
- Letter to the Millicent [Rogers] Library, 22 February 1894

Delicacy -- a sad, sad false delicacy -- robs literature of the two best things among its belongings: Family-circle narratives & obscene stories.
- Letter to William Dean Howells, 19 September 1877

Comedy keeps the heart sweet; but we all know that there is wholesome refreshment for both mind and heart in an occasional climb among the pomps of the intellectual snow-summits built by Shakespeare and those others.
- "About Play-Acting"

I told that girl, in the kindest, gentlest way, that I could not consent to deliver judgment upon any one's manuscript, because an individual's verdict was worthless. It might underrate a work of high merit and lose it to the world, or it might overrate a trashy production and so open the way for its infliction upon the world. I said that the great public was the only tribunal competent to sit in judgment upon a literary effort, and therefore it must be best to lay it before that tribunal in the outset, since in the end it must stand or fall by that mighty court's decision any way.
- "The Facts Concerning the Carnival of Crime in Connecticut"

No man has an appreciation so various that his judgment is good upon all varieties of literary work.
- quoted in My Father Mark Twain, Clara Clemens

In literature imitations do not imitate.
- More Maxims of Mark, Johnson

Literature is well enough, as a time-passer, and for the improvement and general elevation and purification of mankind, but it has no practical value.
- letter to Henry H. Rogers, 24 January 1899

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