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1) From Innocents Abroad, a very funny bit about getting a shave in France. I hate shaving, so I appreciated it quite a bit. Related to this one is this other hilarious barber-related sketch which I agree with Twain applies to all generations of barber-going men.

2) Also from Innocents Abroad, a pretty funny description of freaks on one of his visits to Constantinople.

3) Here's some amusing thoughts on camels, from Innocents Abroad.

4) See Money for Nothing Essay endnotes for included Twain quote related to the paradoxical work/reward ratio.

5) A short quote from Innocents Abroad, I believe the conclusion, that I think is a well put thought on the wonders one experiences in travels:

Truly, "seeing is believing" -- and many a man lives a long life through, thinking he believes certain universally received and well established things, and yet never suspects that if he were confronted by those things once, he would discover that he did not really believe them before, but only thought he believed them.

6) Upon his failure to quit the smoking habit, from Roughing It:

At last I lit the pipe, and no human being can feel meaner and baser than I did then. I was ashamed of being in my own pitiful company.

7) Twain's first impression of Lake Tahoe, from Roughing It:

We tramped a long time on level ground, and then toiled laboriously up a mountain about a thousand miles high and looked over. No lake there. We descended on the other side, crossed the valley and toiled up another mountain three or four thousand miles high, apparently, and looked over again. No lake yet. We sat down tired and perspiring, and hired a couple of Chinamen to curse those people who had beguiled us. Thus refreshed, we presently resumed the march with renewed vigor and determination. We plodded on, two or three hours longer, and at last the Lake burst upon us -- a noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feet above the level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks that towered aloft full three thousand feet higher still! It was a vast oval, and one would have to use up eighty or a hundred good miles in traveling around it. As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.

8) Continuing on regarding the high esteem Twain had for the healing powers of Lake Tahoe, with his usual humorous exaggeration:

It is always very cold on that lake shore in the night, but we had plenty of blankets and were warm enough. We never moved a muscle all night, but waked at early dawn in the original positions, and got up at once, thoroughly refreshed, free from soreness, and brim full of friskiness. There is no end of wholesome medicine in such an experience. That morning we could have whipped ten such people as we were the day before -- sick ones at any rate. But the world is slow, and people will go to "water cures" and "movement cures" and to foreign lands for health. Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite like an alligator. I do not mean the oldest and driest mummies, of course, but the fresher ones. The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn't it be? -- it is the same the angels breathe. I think that hardly any amount of fatigue can be gathered together that a man cannot sleep off in one night on the sand by its side. Not under a roof, but under the sky; it seldom or never rains there in the summer time. I know a man who went there to die. But he made a failure of it. He was a skeleton when he came, and could barely stand. He had no appetite, and did nothing but read tracts and reflect on the future. Three months later he was sleeping out of doors regularly, eating all he could hold, three times a day, and chasing game over mountains three thousand feet high for recreation. And he was a skeleton no longer, but weighed part of a ton. This is no fancy sketch, but the truth. His disease was consumption. I confidently commend his experience to other skeletons.

More Twain on Lake Tahoe, from Roughing It, chapter 23:

9) From Yankee, I love this passage describing a good old Middle Ages feast; reminds me a bit of Las Vegas Buffets:

After this music, the priest who stood behind the royal table said a noble long grace in ostensible Latin. Then the battalion of waiters broke away from their posts, and darted, rushed, flew, fetched and carried, and the mighty feeding began; no words anywhere, but absorbing attention to business. The rows of chops opened and shut in vast unison, and the sound of it was like to the muffled burr of subterranean machinery.

The havoc continued an hour and a half, and unimaginable was the destruction of substantials. Of the chief feature of the feast -- the huge wild boar that lay stretched out so portly and imposing at the start -- nothing was left but the semblance of a hoop-skirt; and he was but the type and symbol of what had happened to all the other dishes.

10) Again from Yankee, a quote that reminds me of the soul-depleted corporate drones that I have encountered at various sad jobs and a mentality I hope to resist:

To wit, that this dreadful matter brought from these downtrodden people no outburst of rage against these oppressors. They had been heritors and subjects of cruelty and outrage so long that nothing could have startled them but a kindness. Yes, here was a curious revelation, indeed, of the depth to which this people had been sunk in slavery. Their entire being was reduced to a monotonous dead level of patience, resignation, dumb uncomplaining acceptance of whatever might befall them in this life. Their very imagination was dead. When you can say that of a man, he has struck bottom, I reckon; there is no lower deep for him.

11) From Roughing It, an interesting passage that demonstrates that the dot-com bubble and partial stock analysts touting "sure" winners is simply history repeated. Twain was a reporter and mine owners favored him and others with gifts to get a good writeup in the paper about their discovery:

So the thousand wild cat shafts burrowed deeper and deeper into the earth day by day, and all men were beside themselves with hope and happiness. How they labored, prophesied, exulted! Surely nothing like it was ever seen before since the world began. Every one of these wild cat mines -- not mines, but holes in the ground over imaginary mines -- was incorporated and had handsomely engraved "stock" and the stock was salable, too. It was bought and sold with a feverish avidity in the boards every day. You could go up on the mountain side, scratch around and find a ledge (there was no lack of them), put up a "notice" with a grandiloquent name in it, start a shaft, get your stock printed, and with nothing whatever to prove that your mine was worth a straw, you could put your stock on the market and sell out for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. To make money, and make it fast, was as easy as it was to eat your dinner.

Every man owned "feet" in fifty different wild cat mines and considered his fortune made. Think of a city with not one solitary poor man in it! One would suppose that when month after month went by and still not a wild cat mine [by wild cat I mean, in general terms, any claim not located on the mother vein, i.e., the "Comstock") yielded a ton of rock worth crushing, the people would begin to wonder if they were not putting too much faith in their prospective riches; but there was not a thought of such a thing. They burrowed away, bought and sold, and were happy.

There was nothing in the shape of a mining claim that was not salable. We received presents of "feet" every day. If we needed a hundred dollars or so, we sold some; if not, we hoarded it away, satisfied that it would ultimately be worth a thousand dollars a foot. I had a trunk about half full of "stock." When a claim made a stir in the market and went up to a high figure, I searched through my pile to see if I had any of its stock -- and generally found it.

12) Twain's visit to Hawaii, also detailed in Roughing It, offers several great lines to enjoy.

13) From Life on the Mississippi, thoughts on aging which really resonated with me as I increase in age to a point where I am experiencing the same thing Twain did when returning to his hometown for the first time in several years:

Of course I suffered some surprises, along at first, before I had become adjusted to the changed state of things. I met young ladies who did not seem to have changed at all; but they turned out to be the daughters of the young ladies I had in mind -- sometimes their grand-daughters. When you are told that a stranger of fifty is a grandmother, there is nothing surprising about it; but if, on the contrary, she is a person whom you knew as a little girl, it seems impossible. You say to yourself, 'How can a little girl be a grandmother.' It takes some little time to accept and realize the fact that while you have been growing old, your friends have not been standing still, in that matter.

14) I've often noted how oftentimes when people become really serious about a hobby or profession, the simple joy they use to experience in the activity leaves and it just becomes an obsession to complete the activity in the most efficient manner. Twain sees this in himself as he achieves expert status as a riverboat pilot:

I stood like one bewitched. I drank it in, in a speechless rapture. The world was new to me, and I had never seen anything like this at home. But as I have said, a day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon the river's face; another day came when I ceased altogether to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had been repeated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and should have commented upon it, inwardly, after this fashion: This sun means that we are going to have wind to-morrow; that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef which is going to kill somebody's steamboat one of these nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that; those tumbling 'boils' show a dissolving bar and a changing channel there; the lines and circles in the slick water over yonder are a warning that that troublesome place is shoaling up dangerously; that silver streak in the shadow of the forest is the 'break' from a new snag, and he has located himself in the very best place he could have found to fish for steamboats; that tall dead tree, with a single living branch, is not going to last long, and then how is a body ever going to get through this blind place at night without the friendly old landmark.No, the romance and the beauty were all gone from the river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat.

Since those days, I have pitied doctors from my heart. What does the lovely flush in a beauty's cheek mean to a doctor but a 'break' that ripples above some deadly disease. Are not all her visible charms sown thick with what are to him the signs and symbols of hidden decay? Does he ever see her beauty at all, or doesn't he simply view her professionally, and comment upon her unwholesome condition all to himself? And doesn't he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost most by learning his trade?

15) An amusing passage from the later years of his writing when he traveled the globe in Following the Equator as Twain sees a dachshund for the first time.

16) Again from the above text, Twain wearing pyjamas (Enlish/Indian spelling) for the first time.

17) His description of the utter contentment of being aboard the ship sailing through the Indian Ocean makes me wish I could have been there.  From Ch. 62 of above text.

18) Also in Chaper 62, a fairly progressive view (at the time, especially) of Twain musing on Man's level of importance in nature:

It is strange and fine—Nature's lavish generosities to her creatures. At least to all of them except man. For those that fly she has provided a home that is nobly spacious—a home which is forty miles deep and envelops the whole globe, and has not an obstruction in it. For those that swim she has provided a more than imperial domain—a domain which is miles deep and covers four-fifths of the globe. But as for man, she has cut him off with the mere odds and ends of the creation. She has given him the thin skin, the meagre skin which is stretched over the remaining one-fifth—the naked bones stick up through it in most places. On the one-half of this domain he can raise snow, ice, sand, rocks, and nothing else. So the valuable part of his inheritance really consists of but a single fifth of the family estate; and out of it he has to grub hard to get enough to keep him alive and provide kings and soldiers and powder to extend the blessings of civilization with. Yet man, in his simplicity and complacency and inability to cipher, thinks Nature regards him as the important member of the family—in fact, her favorite. Surely, it must occur to even his dull head, sometimes, that she has a curious way of showing it.

19) Great description of scum in this report on the conditions of the court room in San Francisco from 1866.  It also introduced me to the word "guttersnipe" which I vow to use soon in a conversation.

20) From his Autobiography Vol. 2 (Jan 28, 1907 dictation), I just loved his style of derision for this corrupt senator being honored at a dinner he was attending.  My favorite sentence is highlighted, but I'm included a couple paragraphs as it's a great indication of Twain's plan to delay the release of his autobiography for 100 years so he could feel comfortable flaying this aparent scumbag:

When this wearisome orator had finished his devotions, the President of the Union League got up and continued the service in the same vein, vomiting adulations upon that jailbird which, estimated by any right standard of values, were the coarsest sarcasms, although the speaker was not aware of that. Both of these orators had been applauded all along, but the present one ultimately came out with a remark which I judged would fetch a cold silence, a very chilly chill; he revealed the fact that the expenses of the club’s loan exhibition of the Senator’s pictures had exceeded the income from the tickets of admission; then he paused—as speakers always do when they are going to spring a grand effect—and said that at that crucial time Senator Clark stepped forward, of his own motion, and put his hand in his pocket and handed out fifteen hundred dollars wherewith to pay half of the insurance on the pictures, and thus the club’s pocket was saved whole. I wish I may never die, if the worshippers present at this religious service did not break out in grateful applause at that astonishing statement; and I wish I may never permanently die, if the jailbird didn’t smile all over his face and look as radiantly happy as he will look some day when Satan gives him a Sunday vacation in the cold-storage vault.

Finally, while I was still alive, the President of the club finished his dreary and fatiguing marketing of juvenile commonplaces, and introduced Clark, and sat down. Clark rose to the tune of the “Star-Spangled Banner”—no, it was “God Save the King,” frantically sawed and thumped by the fiddlers and the piano; and this was followed by “For he’s a jolly good fellow,” sung by the whole strength of the happy worshippers. A miracle followed. I have always maintained that no man could make a speech with nothing but a compliment for a text, but I know now that a reptile can. Senator Clark twaddled, and twaddled, and twaddled along for a full half hour with no text but those praises which had been lavished upon his trifling generosities; and he not only accepted at par all these silly praises, but added to them a pile—praising his own so-called generosities and magnanimities with such intensity and color that he took the pigment all out of those other men’s compliments and made them look pallid and shadowy. With forty years’ experience of human assfulness and vanity at banquets, I have never seen anything of the sort that could remotely approach the assfulness and complacency of this coarse and vulgar and incomparably ignorant peasant’s glorification of himself.

I shall always be grateful to Jones for giving me the opportunity to be present at these sacred orgies. I had believed that in my time I had seen at banquets all the different kinds of speech-making animals there are, and also all the different kinds of people that go to make our population, but it was a mistake. This was the first time I had ever seen men  get down in the gutter and frankly worship dollars, and their possessors. Of course I was familiar with such things, through our newspapers, but I had never before heard men worship the dollar with their mouths, or seen them on their knees in the act.

21) Another passage that struck me from the above text also near the end of the volume.  Here he talks about a topic I have thought a lot of over the years, that being people's nature and whether you really can be mad at people for acting a certain distasteful way when in fact a lot of how people act is predetermined by their "programming" not necessary from God, but just the structure of their genes. He's talking about has former friend's daughter's demise and ascribes it to the fact that her father was kind of a sleaze.

Who is to blame for this tragedy? That poor woman? I think not. She came by her unwise and unhappy ways legitimately; they are an inheritance; she got them from her father, along with her temperament. Temperament is a law, and that which it commands its possessor must obey; restraint, training, and environment can dull its action or suppress it for a time—long or short according to circumstances—but that is the most, and the best, that can be done with it; nothing can ever permanently modify it, by even a shade, between the cradle and the grave. Is this girl responsible for the results of her temperament? She did not invent her temperament herself; she was not consulted in the matter; she was allowed no more choice in the character of it than she was allowed in the selection of the color of her hair. Bret Harte transmitted his unfortunate temperament to her. Was he to blame for this? I cannot see that he was. He was not allowed a choice in the sort of temperament he was to confer upon her. To take up the next detail: was he to blame for the unhappy results of his own temperament? If he was, I fail to see how. He did not invent his temperament; he was not allowed a voice in the selection of it. Did he inherit it from his parents?—from his grandparents?—from his great-grandparents? If so, [page 428] were they responsible for the results of their temperament? I think not. If we could trace Harte’s unlucky inheritance all the way back to Adam, I think we should still have to confess that all the transmitters of it were blameless, since none of them ever had a voice in the choice of the temperament they were to transmit. As I have said, it is my conviction that a person’s temperament is a law, an iron law, and has to be obeyed, no matter who disapproves; manifestly, as it seems to me, temperament is a law of God, and is supreme, and takes precedence of all human laws. It is my conviction that each and every human law that exists has one distinct purpose and intention, and only one: to oppose itself to a law of God and defeat it, degrade it, deride it, and trample upon it. We find no fault with the spider for ungenerously ambushing the fly and taking its life; we do not call it murder; we concede that it did not invent its own temperament, its own nature, and is therefore not blamable for the acts which the law of its nature requires and commands. We even concede this large point: that no art and no ingenuity can ever reform the spider and persuade her to cease from her assassinations. We do not blame the tiger for obeying the ferocious law of the temperament which God lodged in him, and which the tiger must obey. We do not blame the wasp for her fearful cruelty in half paralysing a spider with her sting and then stuffing the spider down a hole in the ground to suffer there many days, while the wasp’s nursery gradually torture the helpless creature through a long and miserable death by gnawing rations from its person daily; we concede that the wasp is strictly and blamelessly obeying the law of God as required by the temperament which He has put into her. We do not blame the fox, the blue jay, and the many other creatures that live by theft; we concede that they are obeying the law of God promulgated by the temperament with which He provided for them. We do not say to the ram and the goat “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” for we know that ineradicably embedded in their temperament—that is to say in their born nature—God has said to them “Thou shalt commit it.”

If we should go on until we had singled out and mentioned the separate and distinct temperaments which have been distributed among the myriads of the animal world, we should find that the reputation of each species is determined by one special and prominent trait; and then we should find that all of these traits, and all the shadings of these many traits, have also been distributed among mankind; that in every man a dozen or more of these traits exist, and that in many men traces and shadings of the whole of them exist. In what we call the lower animals, temperaments are often built out of merely one, or two, or three, of these traits; but man is a complex animal, and it takes all of the traits to fit him out. In the rabbit we always find meekness and timidity, and in him we never find courage, insolence, aggressiveness; and so when the rabbit is mentioned we always remember that he is meek and timid; if he has any other traits or distinctions—except, perhaps, an extravagant and inordinate fecundity—they never occur to us. When we consider the house-fly and the flea, we remember that in splendid courage the belted knight and the tiger cannot approach them, and that in impudence and insolence they lead the whole animal world, including even man; if those creatures have other traits they are so overshadowed by those which I have mentioned that we never think of them at all. When the peacock is mentioned, vanity occurs to us, and no other trait; when we think [page 429] of the goat, unchastity occurs to us, and no other trait; when certain kinds of dogs are mentioned, loyalty occurs to us, and no other trait; when the cat is mentioned, her independence—a trait which she alone of all created creatures, including man, possesses—occurs to us, and no other trait; except we be of the stupid and the ignorant—then we think of treachery, a trait which is common to many breeds of dogs, but is not common to the cat. We can find one or two conspicuous traits in each family of what we impudently call the lower animals; in each case these one or two conspicuous traits distinguish that family of animals from the other families; also in each case those one or two traits are found in every one of the members of each family, and are so prominent as to eternally and unchangeably establish the character of that branch of the animal world. In all these cases we concede that the several temperaments constitute a law of God, a command of God, and that whatsoever is done in obedience to that law is blameless.

Man was descended from those animals; from them he inherited every trait that is in him; from them he inherited the whole of their numerous traits in a body, and with each trait its share of the law of God. He widely differs from them in this: that he possesses not a single trait that is similarly and equally prominent in each and every member of his race. You can say the house-fly is limitlessly brave, and in saying it you describe the whole house-fly tribe; you can say the rabbit is limitlessly timid, and by that phrase you describe the whole rabbit tribe; you can say the spider is limitlessly murderous, and by that phrase you describe the whole spider tribe; you can say the lamb is limitlessly innocent, and sweet, and gentle, and by that phrase you describe all the lambs; you can say the goat is limitlessly unchaste, and by that phrase you describe the whole tribe of goats. There is hardly a creature which you cannot definitely and satisfactorily describe by one single trait—but you cannot describe man by one single trait. Men are not all cowards, like the rabbit; nor all brave, like the house-fly; nor all sweet and innocent and gentle, like the lamb; nor all murderous, like the spider and the wasp; nor all thieves, like the fox and the blue jay; nor all vain, like the peacock; nor all beautiful, like the angel-fish; nor all frisky, like the monkey; nor all unchaste, like the goat. The human family cannot be described by any one phrase; each individual has to be described by himself. One is brave, another is a coward; one is gentle and kindly, another is ferocious; one is proud and vain, another is modest and humble. The multifarious traits that are scattered, one or two at a time, throughout the great animal world, are all concentrated, in varying and nicely shaded degrees of force and feebleness, in the form of instincts, in each and every member of the human family. In some men the vicious traits are so slight as to be imperceptible, while the nobler traits stand out conspicuously. We describe that man by those fine traits, and we give him praise and accord him high merit for their possession. It seems comical. He did not invent his traits; he did not stock himself with them; he inherited them at his birth; God conferred them upon him; they are the law that God imposed upon him, and he could not escape obedience if he should try. Sometimes a man is a born murderer, or a born scoundrel—like Stanford White—and upon him the world lavishes censure and dispraise; but he is only obeying the law of his nature, the law of his temperament; he is not at all likely to try to disobey it, and if he should try he  would fail. It is a curious and humorous fact that we excuse all the unpleasant things that the creatures that crawl, and fly, and swim, and go on four legs do, for the recognizably sufficient reason that they are but obeying the law of their nature, which is the law of God, and are therefore innocent; then we turn about and with the fact plain before us that we get all our unpleasant traits by inheritance from those creatures, we blandly assert that we did not inherit the immunities along with them, but that it is our duty to ignore, abolish, and break these laws of God. It seems to me that this argument has not a leg to stand upon, and that it is not merely and mildly humorous, but violently grotesque.

By ancient training and inherited habit, I have been heaping blame after blame, censure after censure, upon Bret Harte, and have felt the things I have said, but when my temper is cool I have no censures for him. The law of his nature was stronger than man’s statutes and he had to obey it. It is my conviction that the human race is no proper target for harsh words and bitter criticisms, and that the only justifiable feeling toward it is compassion; it did not invent itself, and it had nothing to do with the planning of its weak and foolish character.

A great site for more Twain quotes and much more,

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