17 Mark Twain Quotes That Are as Relatable Today as They Were Then

Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, was an American writer renowned for his wit, satire, and keen observations of society. Growing up along the Mississippi River in Hannibal, Missouri, Twain worked as a printer’s apprentice and later as a riverboat pilot, adopting the pseudonym “Mark Twain.”

He gained fame with novels like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (1876) and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1885), which explored themes of race, morality, and societal hypocrisy. Beyond fiction, Twain wrote essays, travelogues, and speeches, earning him recognition as one of America’s greatest literary figures. Despite financial setbacks, he traveled widely, lecturing around the world and befriending notable figures like Ulysses S. Grant and Nikola Tesla. Twain’s humor, storytelling, and profound insights into the human condition continue to inspire readers and writers. He passed away on April 21, 1910, leaving behind a lasting legacy as a literary icon.

1. On telling the truth

Via State Library Victoria (Australia)

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything”

2. On buying land

Via State Library Victoria (Australia)

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”

3. On doing the right thing

Napoleon Sarony / Public Domain (CC0 1.0)

“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

4. On denial

Via Cleveland Museum of Art

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

5. On education

Jeremiah Gurney & Son / Getty’s Open Content Program

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

6. On truth and fiction

Alvin Langdon Coburn / Getty’s Open Content Program

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”

7. On accomplishment

Via Wellcome collectoin / Creative Commons (CC by 4.0)

“There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.”

8. On getting it over with

Underwood & Underwood / Library of Congress

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

9. On troubles

Leslie Matthew “Spy” Ward / Yale Center for British Art

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

10. On the size of the dog

John White Alexander / Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

11. On forgiveness

Via Wellcome Collection

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

12. On courage

Via WikiImages

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

13. On cheering yourself up

Guessford, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”

14. On actions and words

Image courtesy of Flickr user Terry Ballard

“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.”

15. On aging

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-USZ62-112728)

“Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.”

16. On success

By Napoleon Sarony / New York Public Library

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.”

17. On compliments

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. LC-USZ62-28851

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

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