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



Oh, dear, we are all like that. Each of us knows it all, and knows he knows it all--the rest, to a man, are fools and deluded. One man knows there is a hell, the next one knows there isn't; one man knows high tariff is right, the next man knows it isn't; one man knows monarchy is best, the next one knows it isn't; one age knows there are witches, the next one knows there aren't; one sect knows its religion is the only true one, there are sixty-four thousand five hundred million sects that know it isn't so. There is not a mind present among this multitude of verdict-deliverers that is the superior of the minds that persuade and represent the rest of the divisions of the multitude. Yet this sarcastic fact does not humble the arrogance nor diminish the know-it-all bulk of a single verdict-maker of the lot, by so much as a shade. Mind is plainly an ass, but it will be many ages before it finds it out, no doubt. Why do we respect the opinions of any man or any microbe that ever lived? I swear [I] don't know. Why do I respect my own? Well--that is different.
- "Three Thousand Years among the Microbes"

When we are young we generally estimate an opinion by the size of the person that holds it, but later we find that is an uncertain rule, for we realize that there are times when a hornet's opinion disturbs us more than an emperor's.
- "An Undelivered Speech," 3/25/1895

I am persuaded that a coldly-thought-out and independent verdict upon a fashion in clothes, or manners, or literature, or politics, or relition, or any other matter that is projected into the field of our notice and interest, is a most rare thing--if it has indeed ever existed.
- "Corn-pone Opinions"

I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts.
- Wearing White Clothes speech, 1907

If you cannot have a whale's good opinion except at some sacrifice of principle or personal dignity, it is better to try to live without it. That is my idea about whales.
- "An Undelivered Speech," 3/25/1895

Dwig hornet's nest
Illustration by "Dwig" from the
Dave Thomson collection

Postcard from the
Dave Thomson collection

It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse-races.
- Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar, 1894

Sane and intelligent human beings are like all other human beings, and carefully and cautiously and diligently conceal their private real opinions from the world and give out fictitious ones in their stead for general consumption.
- Mark Twain In Eruption

We keep half of what we think hidden away on our inside and only deliver ourselves of that remnant of it which is proper for general consumption.
- Mark Twain in Eruption
All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the Republicans and Mugwumps know it. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats and Mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.
- Christian Science
Mark Twain pointing
Illustration from WASHINGTON TIMES,
January 12, 1904

We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove. We have two opinions: one private, which we are afraid to express; and another one--the one we use--which we force ourselves to wear...until habit makes us comfortable in it, and the custom of defending it presently makes us love it, adore it, and forget how pitifully we came by it. Look at it in politics.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

I, like all other human beings, expose to the world only my trimmed and perfumed and carefully barbered public opinions and conceal carefully, cautiously, wisely, my private ones.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

We all break over the rule two or three times in our lives and fire a disagreeable and unpopular private opinion of ours into print, but we never do it when we can help it, we never do it except when the desire to do it is too strong for us and overrides and conquers our cold, calm, wise judgment.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else.
- quoted in Mark Twain and I, Opie Read, 1940

Is a person's public and private opinion the same? It is thought there have been instances.
- More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

We are nothing but echoes. We have no thoughts of our 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

Opinions based upon theory, superstition, and ignorance are not very precious.
- Letter to J. H. Twitchell, 1/27/1900

Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will.
- "Consistency" speech and essay

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