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



Charles Henry Twain lived during the latter part of the seventeenth century, and was a zealous and distinguished missionary. He converted sixteen thousand South Sea islanders, and taught them that a dog-tooth necklace and a pair of spectacles was not enough clothing to come to divine service in. His poor flock loved him very, very dearly; and when his funeral was over, they got up in a body (and came out of the restaurant) with tears in their eyes, and saying, one to another, that he was a good tender missionary, and they wished they had some more of him.
- A Burlesque Autobiography
savage Sam

We are all missionaries (propagandists of our views.) Each of us disapproves of the other missionaries.
- Notebook, 1905

O kind missionary, O compassionate missionary, leave China! Come home and convert these Christians.
- "The United States of Lyncherdom"

...missionarying was a better thing in those days than it is in ours. All you had to do was to cure the head savage's sick daughter by a miracle -- a miracle like the miracle of Lourdes in our day, for instance -- and immediately that head savage was your convert, and filled to the eyes with a new convert's enthusiasm. You could sit down and make yourself easy now. He would take the ax and convert the rest of the nation himself.
- "Switzerland, the Cradle of Liberty"

I would not now try to unsettle any person's religious faith, where it was untroubled by doubt -- not even the savage African's. I have found it pretty hard to give up missionarying -- that least excusable of all human trades -- but I was obliged to do it, because I could not continue to exercise it without private shame while publicly and privately deriding and blaspheming the other missionaries.
- Autobiograpical dictation, 6 September 1907. Published in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3 (University of California Press, 2015)

I do not know why we respect missionaries. Perhaps it is because they have not intruded here from Turkey or China or Polynesia to break our hearts by sapping away our children's faith & winning them to the worshop of alien gods. We have lacked the opporutnity to find out how a parent feels to see his child deriding & blaspheming the religion of its ancestors. We have lacked the opportunity of hearing a foreign missionary who has been forced upon us against our will lauding his own saints & gods & saying harsh things about ours. If some time or other, we shall have these experiences, it will probably go hard with the missionary ... The missionary has no wish to be an insulter, but how is he to help it? All his propositions are insults, word them as he may ...
- unpublished editorial sent to Charles Frederic Moberly Bell of the London Times, July 1900. Published in "The Missionary in World-Politics" in Who Is Mark Twain? (HarperStudio 2009).

Joe, where is the fairness in the missionary's trade? His prey is the children; he cannot convert adults. He beguiles the litle children to forsake their parents' religion & break their hearts. ... To my mind the Christian missionary is easily the most criminal criminal that exists on the planet, & the lowest down in the scale of malefactors.
- Letter to Joseph Twichell, 19 April 1909


WHO IS MARK TWAIN? available from
contains the full text of "The Missionary in World-Politics"

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