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


Page from 1917 Mark Twain Calendar
published by Sully and Kleinteich of NY
by arrangement with
Harper & Brothers
from the
Dave Thomson collection


It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

It's my opinion that every one I know has morals, though I wouldn't like to ask. I know I have. But I'd rather teach them than practice them any day. "Give them to others"--that's my motto.
- Speech, "Morals and Memory," 7 March 1906

There are two kinds of Christian morals, one private and the other public. These two are so distinct, so unrelated, that they are no more akin to each other than are archangels and politicans. During three hundred and sixty-three days in the year the American citizen is true to his Christian private morals, and keeps undefiled the nation's character at its best and highest; then in the other two days of the year he leaves his Christian private morals at home and carries his Christian public morals to the tax office and the polls, and does the best he can to damage and undo his whole year's faithful and righteous work.
- Speech, "Taxes and Morals," 22 January 1906

Morals consist of political morals, commercial morals, ecclesiastical morals, and morals.
- More Maxims of Mark, Merle Johnson, 1927

We get our morals from books. I didn't get mine from books, but I know that morals do come from books -- theoretically at least.
- Remarks at the opening of the Mark Twain Library, Redding, CT. Quoted in Mark Twain: A Biography by Albert Bigelow Paine.

As by the fires of experience, so by commission of crime you learn real morals. Commit all crimes, familiarize yourself with all sins, take them in rotation (there are only two or three thousand of them), stick to it, commit two or three every day, and by and by you will be proof against them. When you are through you will be proof against all sins and morally perfect. You will be vaccinated against every possible commission of them. This is the only way.
- Speech, "Theoretical and Practical Morals," 8 July 1899

The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

It has always been a peculiarity of the human race that it keeps two sets of morals in stock-the private and the real, and the public and the artificial.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

You can't keep a juvenile moral institution alive on two displays of its sash per year.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

It is not best to use our morals weekdays, it gets them out of repair for Sunday.
- Notebook, 1898

A man should not be without morals; it is better to have bad morals than none at all.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

The most permanent lessons in morals are those which come, not of book teaching, but of experience.
- A Tramp Abroad

Morals are not the important thing--nor enlightenment--nor civilization. A man can do absolutely well without them, but he can't do without something to eat. The supremest thing is the need of the body, not of the mind and spirit.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

"Moral creatures!" Now discard that slang. We haven't any morals -- & never had any that weren't brummagem. We don't know any more about morals than the Diety knew about astronomy when he wrote Genesis. And don't you keep on intimating that we have intervals wherein we are not liars. There aren't any such. I wrote a story about it last week -- a Xmas story -- for Harper, Entitled "Was it Heaven? Or Hell? You wait & see.
- Letter to Joseph Twichell, 7 September 1902


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