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



I urged that kings were dangerous. He said, then have cats. He was sure that a royal family of cats would answer every purpose. They would be as useful as any other royal family, they would know as much, they would have the same virtues and the same treacheries, the same disposition to get up shindies with other royal cats, they would be laughable vain and absurd and never know it, they would be wholly inexpensive, finally, they would have as sound a divine right as any other royal house...The worship of royalty being founded in unreason, these graceful and harmless cats would easily become as sacred as any other royalties, and indeed more so, because it would presently be noticed that they hanged nobody, beheaded nobody, imprisoned nobody, inflicted no cruelties or injustices of any sort, and so must be worthy of a deeper love and reverence than the customary human king, and would certainly get it.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

AI image created by Barbara Schmidt

...these are princes which are cast in the chaste princely mould, & they make me regret -- again -- that I am not a prince myself. It isn't a new regret, but a very old one. I have never been properly & humbly satisfied with my condition. I am a democrat only on principle, not by instinct -- nobody is that. Doubtless some people say they are, but this world is grievously given to lying.
- Mark Twains Notebook #42

There never was a throne which did not represent a crime.
Mark Twain, a Biography

The institution of royalty in any form is an insult to the human race.
- Notebook, 1888
Clemens in his Princeton robes
Clemens in Princeton robes

Let us take the present male sovereigns of the earth -- and strip them naked. Mix them with 500 naked mechanics, and then march the whole around a circus ring, charging suitable admission of course -- and desire the audience to pick out the sovereigns. They couldn't. You would have to paint them blue. You can't tell a king from a copper except you differentiate their exteriority.
- Notebook, 1888

Why, dear me, any kind of royalty, howsoever modified, any kind of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you are born and brought up under that sort of arrangement you probably never find it out for yourself, and don't believe it when somebody else tells you.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Bonaparte instituted the setting of merit above birth, and also so completely stripped the divinity from royalty that, whereas crowned heads in Europe were gods before, they are only men since, and can never be gods again, but only figure-heads, and answerable for their acts like common clay. Such benefactions as these compensate the temporary harm which Bonaparte and the Revolution did, and leave the world in debt to them for these great and permanent services to liberty, humanity, and progress.
- Life on the Mississippi

This autobiography of mine is a mirror, and I am looking at myself in it all the time. Incidentally I notice the people that pass along at my back--I get glimpses of them in the mirror- and whenever they say or do anything that can help advertise me and flatter me and raise me in my own estimation, I set these things down in my autobiography. I rejoice when a king or a duke comes my way and makes himself useful to this autobiography, but they are rare customers, with wide intervals between. I can use them with good effect as lighthouses and monuments along my way, but for real business I depend upon the common herd.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

Unquestionably the person that can get lowest down in cringing before royalty and nobility, and can get most satisfaction out of crawling on his belly before them, is an American. Not all Americans, but when an American does it he makes competition impossible.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

A Prince picks up grandeur, power, and a permanent holiday and gratis support by a pure accident, the accident of birth, and he stands always before the grieved eye of poverty and obscurity a monumental representative of luck. And then -- supremest value of all -- his is the only high fortune on the earth which is secure. The commercial millionaire may become a beggar; the illustrious statesman can make a vital mistake and be dropped and forgotten; the illustrious general can lose a decisive battle and with it the consideration of men; but once a Prince always a Prince -- that is to say, an imitation god, and neither hard fortune nor an infamous character nor an addled brain nor the speech of an ass can undeify him. By common consent of all the nations and all the ages the most valuable thing in this world is the homage of men, whether deserved or undeserved. It follows without doubt or question, then, that the most desirable position possible is that of a Prince. And I think it also follows that the so-called usurpations with which history is littered are the most excusable misdemeanors which men have committed. To usurp a usurpation -- that is all it amounts to, isn't it?
- "At the Shrine of St. Wagner"

A royal "right" stolen five hundred years ago is called a "divine" right to-day. God himself is made a conspirator, an accessory to the theft.
- "Letters from a Dog to Another Dog Explaining and Accounting for Man"

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