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



Sam in red
Illustration from the
Dave Thomson collection

I sent down...and hired an artist by the week to sit up nights and curse that stranger, and give me a lift occasionally in the daytime when I came to a hard place.
- "A Mysterious Visit"

The idea that no gentleman ever swears is all wrong. He can swear and still be a gentleman if he does it in a nice and benevolent and affectionate way.
- Private and Public Morals speech, 1906

When angry count four; when very angry, swear.
- Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

There ought to be a room in every house to swear in. It's dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

...he was empty. You could have drawn a seine through his system and not caught curses enough to disturb your mother.
- Life on the Mississippi

I was...blaspheming my luck in a way that made my breath smell of brimstone.
- Roughing It

Profanity is more necessary to me than is immunity from colds.
- Letter to Orion Clemens, 14 May 1877

...quadrilateral, astronomical, incandescent son-of-a-bitch.
- Letter to William Dean Howells, 13 February 1903

When you're mad, count four; when you're very mad, swear! But most of us don't wait to count four! at least I don't!
- quoted in A Lifetime with Mark Twain: The Memories of Katy Leary

Her eyes blazed up, and she jumped for him like a wild-cat, and when she was done with him she was rags and he wasn't anything but an allegory.
- "A Horse's Tale"

He didn't utter a word, but he exuded mute blasphemy from every pore.
- Autobiography of Mark Twain, (bowling alley story)

The spirit of wrath and not the words -- is the sin; and the spirit of wrath is cursing. We begin to swear before we can talk.
- Following the Equator

When it comes down to pure ornamental cursing, the native American is gifted above the sons of men.
- Roughing It

Let us swear while we may, for in Heaven it will not be allowed.
- Notebook, 1898

If I cannot swear in heaven I shall not stay there.
- Notebook, 1898

He began with that word "H". That's a long word and a profane word. I don't remember what the word was now, but I recognized the power of it. I had never used that language myself, but at that moment I was converted. It has been a great refuge for me in time of trouble. If a man doesn't know that language he can't express himself on strenuous occasions. When you have that word at your command let trouble come.
- Speech, 19 February 1908

All through the first ten years of my married life I kept a constant and discreet watch upon my tongue while in the house, and went outside and to a distance when circumstances were too much for me and I was obliged to seek relief. I prized my wife's respect and approval above all the rest of the human race's respect and approval. I dreaded the day when she should discover that I was but a whited sepulcher partly freighted with suppressed language. I was so careful, during ten years, that I had not a doubt that my suppressions had been successful. Therefore I was quite as happy in my guilt as I could have been if I had been innocent.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

I have some new sleeve buttons...beautiful anticussers. You can put them in and take them out without a change of temper...
- quoted in My Father Mark Twain, Clara Clemens

My swearing doesn't mean any more to me than your sermons do to you.
- comment made to Rev. Joe Twichell, quoted in Mark Twain and Hawaii, by Walter Francis Frear


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