2.3 Mark Twain

Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a popular American writer. He was famous for his humorous stories, novels and other writings. His ready wit shone through everyday conversations. Many anecdotes related to Mark Twain are told and enjoyed even today.

 It should be noted that he was a great defender of human values like liberty, equality and fraternity. He opposed wars and imperialism and supported the cause of labourers and of the black people in his country, America. Given below are some anecdotes from his life and some quotations from his speeches and writings.

Some Anecdotes

One day during a lecture tour, Mark Twain entered a local barber shop for a shave. This, Twain told the barber, was his first visit to the town.

 “You’ve chosen a good time to come,” he declared.

 “Oh?” Twain replied.

“Mark Twain is going to lecture here tonight. You’ll want to go, I suppose?”

 “I guess so…”

 “Have you bought your ticket yet ?”

 “No, not yet.”

“Well, it’s sold out, so you’ll have to stand.”

“Just my luck,” said Twain with a sigh.

 “I always have to stand when that fellow lectures !”

 Mrs Stowe was leaving for Florida one morning, and Clemens (the young Mark Twain) ran over early to say goodbye. On his return Mrs Clemens regarded him disapprovingly:

“Why”, she said, “you haven’t on any collar and tie.” He said nothing, but went up to his room, did up these items in a neat package, and sent it over to Mrs Stowe by a servant, with a line: ‘Herewith receive a call from the rest of me.’

One day Henry Irving, in the midst of telling Mark Twain a humorous story, abruptly stopped and examined his friend’s face. “You haven’t heard this, have you ?” he asked. Twain assured him that he had not.

When, some time later, Irving again paused, and again posed the question, Twain again reassured him. Then, approaching the climax, Irving broke off once more. “Are you quite sure you haven’t heard this?” he demanded suspiciously.

“I can lie once,” Twain finally replied. “I can lie twice for courtesy’s sake, but I draw the line there. I can’t lie the third time at any price. I not only heard the story, I invented it !”

Mark Twain once proposed a ‘Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling’:

 For example, in Year 1 that useless letter ‘c’ would be dropped to be replased either by ‘k’ or ‘s,’ and likewise, ‘x’ would no longer be part of the alphabet.

The only kase in which ‘c’ would be retained would be the ‘ch’ formation, which will be dealt with later.

Year 2 might reform ‘w’ spelling, so that ‘which’ and ‘one’ would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish ‘y’ replasing it with ‘i’ and Iear 4 might fiks the ‘g/j’ anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl to meik ius ov thi ridandant letez ‘c,’ ‘y’ and ‘x’ — bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez — tu riplais ‘ch,’ ‘sh,’ and ‘th’ rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

One day during his tenure as the editor of a small Missouri newspaper, Mark Twain received a letter from a reader who had found a spider in his paper. He wondered whether this portended good or bad luck.

“Finding a spider in your paper,” Twain replied, “is neither good luck nor bad. The spider was merely looking over our paper to see which merchant was not advertising so that he could go to that store, spin his web across the door, and lead a life of undisturbed peace ever afterward.”

 Mark Twain’s birth in November 1835 was heralded by the return of Halley’s comet. Twain, who often remarked upon this curiosity, came to think of himself and the comet as ‘unaccountable freaks,’ cosmically linked: having come in together, he declared, they would go out together.

In fact, Twain was proven right. On the night of his death in April 1910, Halley’s comet once again blazed through the sky…