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



Man quote graphic
Composite graphic courtesy of Dave Thomson.

The only very marked difference between the average civilized man and the average savage is that the one is gilded and the other is painted.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

It is the strangest thing, that the world is not full of books that scoff at the pitiful world, and the useless universe and the vile and contemptible race--books that laugh at the whole paltry scheme and deride it...Why don't I write such a book? Because I have a family. There is no other reason.
- Notebook #29, 10 November 1895

Man of MarkWhat is Man? Man is a noisome bacillus whom Our Heavenly Father created because he was disappointed in the monkey.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey. I believe that whenever a human being, of even the highest intelligence and culture, delivers, an opinion upon a matter apart from his particular and especial line of interest, training and experience, it will always be an opinion so foolish and so valueless a sort that it can be depended upon to suggest to our Heavenly Father that the human being is another disappointment and that he is no considerable improvement upon the monkey.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography; Mark Twain in Eruption

In discarding the monkey and substituting man, our Father in Heaven did the monkey an undeserved injustice.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography; Mark Twain in Eruption

All I care to know is that a man is a human being--that is enough for me; he can't be any worse. I can get right down and grovel with him.
- Mark Twain's notebook #42

It is a solemn thought: dead, the noblest man's meat is inferior to pork.
- More Maxims of Mark, edited by Merle Johnson, 1927

Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principle one was that they escaped teething.
- Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.
- Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
- Pudd'nhead Wilson

Such is the human race. Often it does seem such a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.
- Christian Science, 1907

There are three kinds of people--Commonplace Men, Remarkable Men, and Lunatics.
- Following the Equator

Oh, this infernal Human Race! I wish I had it in the Ark again--with an auger!
- The American Academy of Arts and Letters pamphlet, "In Memory of Samuel Langhorne Clemens"

I am the only man living who understands human nature; God has put me in charge of this branch office; when I retire there will be no-one to take my place. I shall keep on doing my duty, for when I get over on the other side, I shall use my influence to have the human race drowned again, and this time drowned good, no omissions, no Ark.
- quoted in Mark Twain, J. Macy, (Doubleday, Page & co., 1913)

Man was made at the end of the week's work, when God was tired.
- Notebook, 1903; Mark Twain, a Biography

Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion-- several of them.
- "The Lowest Animal," 1897

I think we are only the microscopic trichina concealed in the blood of some vast creature's veins and it is the vast creature that God concerns himself about and not us.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

[Twichell] ... sends me a vast newspaper heading, the breadth of five columns 'Close of a Great Career' in which it is said that I am living in penury in London and that my family has forsaken me. This would enrage and disgust me if it came from a dog or a cow, or an elephant or any of the higher animals, but it comes from a man, and much allowance must be made for man.
- Notebook, 28 March 1897

Man is a Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute.
- "The Lowest Animal," 1897

God's noblest work? Man. Who found it out? Man.
- More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

The noblest work of God? Man. Who found it out? Man.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

Every man is in his own person the whole human race without a detail lacking.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

To create man was a quaint and original idea, but to add the sheep was tautology.
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

We are nothing but echoes. We have no thoughts of or own, no opinions of our own, we are but a compost heap made up of the decayed heredities, moral and physical.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

Concerning the difference between man and the jackass: some observers hold that there isn't any. But this wrongs the jackass.
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1898

We're nothing but a ragbag of disappeared ancestors.
- quoted in Isabel Lyon's journal, 3 February 1906

Why, he's the poorest, clumsiest excuse of all the creatures that inhabit this earth. He has got to be coddled and housed and swathed and bandaged and upholstered to be able to live at all. He is a rickety sort of a thing, anyway you take him, a regular British Museum of infirmities and inferiorities. He is always undergoing repair...He has just that one stupendous superiority--his imagination, his intellect.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

The government is not best which secures mere life and property--there is a more valuable thing--manhood.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out...and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel...And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for "the universal brotherhood of man"--with his mouth.
- What Is Man?

Man was created a bloody animal and I think he will always thirst for blood and will manage to have it. I think he is far and away the worst animal that exists; and the only untamable one.
- quoted in My Father Mark Twain, Clara Clemens

If man had created man he would be ashamed of his performance.
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

He equips the Creator with every trait that goes to the making of a fiend, and then arrives at the conclusion that a fiend and a father are the same thing! Yet he would deny that a malevolent lunatic and a Sunday school superintendent are essentially the same. What do you think of the human mind? I mean, in case you think there is a human mind.
- Letters from the Earth

Isn't human nature the most consummate sham & lie that was ever invented? Isn't man a creature to be ashamed of in pretty much all is aspects? Is he really fit for anything but to be stood up on the street corner as a convenience for dogs? Man, "Know thyself--& then thou wilt despise thyself, to a dead moral certainty.
- Letter to William Dean Howells, 31 August 1884

I suspect that to you there is still dignity in human life, & that Man is not a joke--a poor joke--the poorest that was ever contrived--an April-fool joke, played by a malicious Creator with nothing better to waste his time upon. ...Man is not to me the respect-worthy person he was before; & so I have lost my pride in him & can't write gaily nor praisefully about him any more. And I don't intend to try.
- Letter to William Dean Howells Howells, 2 April 1899

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?"

I believe that many a person has examined man with a microscope in every age of the world; has found that he did not even resemble the creature he pretended to be; has perceived that a civilization not proper matter for derision has always been and must always remain impossible to him -- and has put away his microscope and kept his mouth shut. Perhaps because the microscopist (besides having an influential wife) was built like the rest of the human race -- ninety-nine parts of him being moral cowardice.
- Letter to Carl Thalbitzer, 26 November 1902. Reprinted in Harper's Magazine, December 2009.


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