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



Monrovia statue
Statue of Mark Twain by Gary Price
located in front of the Monrovia Public Library,
Monrovia, California.
Courtesy of Dave Thomson.
What a lumbering poor vehicle prose is for the conveying of a great thought! ...Prose wanders around with a lantern & laboriously schedules & verifies the details & particulars of a valley & its frame of crags & peaks, then Poetry comes, & lays bare the whole landscape with a single splendid flash.
- Letter to W. D. Howells, 2/25/1906

I have thought many times since that if poets when they get discouraged would blow their brains out, they could write very much better when they got well.
- Speech, Liverpool, 7/10/1907

Anybody can write the first line of a poem, but is a very difficult task to make the second line rhyme with the first.
- Speech, 9/23/1907

I shall not write poetry unless I conceive a spite against the subscribers.
- Buffalo Express newspaper column, 1869

My usual style of ciphering out the merits of poetry, which is to read a line or two near the top, a verse near the bottom and then strike an average...
- "Answers to Correspondents"

A "connoisseur" should never be in doubt about anything. It is ruinous. I will give you a few hints. Attribute all the royal blank verse, with a martial ring to it, to Shakspeare; all the grand ponderous ditto, with a solemn lustre as of holiness about it, to Milton; all the ardent love poetry, tricked out in affluent imagery, to Byron; all the scouring, dashing, descriptive warrior rhymes to Scott; all the sleepy, tiresome, rural stuff, to Thomson and his eternal Seasons; all the genial, warm-hearted jolly Scotch poetry, to Burns; all the tender, broken-hearted song-verses to Moore; all the broken-English poetry to Chaucer or Spenser - whichever occurs to you first; all the heroic poetry, about the impossible deeds done before Troy, to Homer; all the nauseating rebellion mush-and-milk about young fellows who have come home to die - just before the battle, mother - to George F. Root and kindred spirits; all the poetry that everybody admires and appreciates, but nobody ever reads or quotes from, to Dryden, Cowper and Shelley; all the grave-yard poetry to Elegy Gray or Wolfe, indiscriminately; all the poetry that you can't understand, to Emerson; all the harmless old platitudes, delivered with a stately and oppressive pretense of originality, to Tupper, and all the "Anonymous" poetry to yourself. Bear these rules in mind, and you will pass muster as a connoisseur; as long as you can talk glibly about the "styles" of authors, you will get as much credit as if you were really acquainted with their works. Throw out a mangled French phrase occasionally, and you will pass for an accomplished man, and a Latin phrase dropped now and then will gain you the reputation of being a learned one. Many a distinguished "connoisseur" in belles lettres and classic erudition travels on the same capital I have advanced you in this rather lengthy paragraph. Make a note of that "Anonymous" suggestion - never let a false modesty deter you from "cabbaging" anything you find drifting about without an owner. I shall publish a volume of poems, shortly, over my signature, which became the "children of my fancy" in this unique way.
- "Answers to Correspondents," The Californian, June 17, 1865

The poetry is all in the anticipation, for there is none in reality.
- quoted by Mrs. Lee Whipple-Haslam in Early Days in California

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