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Mark Twain Quotes

100+ of the best book quotes from Mark Twain
01
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“Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.”
Mark Twain
author
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
book
Huckleberry Finn
character
behavior
people
concepts
02
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“Jim said that bees won’t sting idiots, but I didn’t believe that, because I tried them lots of times myself and they wouldn’t sting me.”
03
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“Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no business doing wrong when he ain’t ignorant and knows better.”
04
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“Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And hain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”
05
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“What’s the use you learning to do right when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?”
06
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“Sometimes you gwyne to git hurt, en sometimes you gwyne to git sick; but every time you’s gwyne to git well agin.”
07
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“Stars and shadows ain’t good to see by.”
08
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“Now we’ll start this band of robbers and call it Tom Sawyer’s gang. Everybody that wants to join has got to take an oath, and write his name in blood.”
09
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“Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any.”
10
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“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
11
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“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”
12
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“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
13
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“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d druther not.”
14
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“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
15
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“He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.”
16
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“Here was a gorgeous triumph; they were missed; they were mourned; hearts were breaking on their account; tears were being shed; accusing memories of unkindnesses to these poor lost lads were rising up, and unavailing regrets and remorse were being indulged: and best of all, the departed were the talk of the whole town, and the envy of all the boys, as far as this dazzling notoriety was concerned. This was fine. It was worth being a pirate, after all.”
17
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“Huckleberry was cordially hated and dreaded by all the mothers of the town because he was idle, and lawless, and vulgar, and bad - and because all their children admired him so, and delighted in his forbidden society, and wished they dared to be like him.”
18
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“The elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one constrained shape long at a time.”
19
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“I ain’t doing my duty by that boy, and that’s the Lord’s truth, goodness knows. Spare the rod and spile the child, as the Good Book says. I’m a-laying up sin and suffering for us both, I know. He’s full of the Old Scratch, but laws-a-me! he’s my own dead sister’s boy, poor thing, and I ain’t got the heart to lash him, somehow. Every time I let him off, my conscience does hurt me so, and every time I hit him my old heart most breaks.”
20
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“Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden.”
21
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“Ah, if he could only die temporarily!”
22
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“Tom was a glittering hero once more-the pet of the old, the envy of the young. His name even went into immortal print, for the village paper magnified him. There were some that believed he would be President, yet, if he escaped hanging.”
23
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“There was no getting around the stubborn fact that taking sweetmeats was only “hooking,” while taking bacon and hams and such valuables was plain simple stealing — and there was a command against that in the Bible. So they inwardly resolved that so long as they remained in the business, their piracies should not again be sullied with the crime of stealing.”
24
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“I could forgive the boy, now, if he’d committed a million sins!”
25
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“He was not the Model Boy of the village. He knew the model boy very well though--and loathed him.”
26
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“Oh, they just have a bully time - take ships, and burn them, and get the money and bury it in awful places in their island where there’s ghosts and things to watch, it, and kill everybody in the ships - make ‘em walk a plank. they don’t kill the women - they’re too noble. And the women’s always beautiful, too.”
27
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“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
28
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“Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.”
29
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“The minister gave out his text and droned along monotonously through an argument that was so prosy that many a head by and by began to nod — and yet it was an argument that dealt in limitless fire and brimstone and thinned the predestined elect down to a company so small as to be hardly worth the saving.”
30
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“You only just tell a boy you won’t ever have anybody but him, ever ever ever, and then you kiss and that’s all. Anybody can do it.”
31
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“They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever.”
32
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“As you perceive, the only person responsible for the couple’s offense escaped; and not only escaped but became the executioner of the innocent.”
33
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“No. No creature can be honorably required to go counter to the law of his nature -- the Law of God.”
34
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″ Man is without any doubt the most interesting fool there is. Also the most eccentric. He hasn’t a single written law, in his Bible or out of it, which has any but just one purpose and intention -- to limit or defeat the law of God.”
35
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“The Bible has this advantage over all other books that teach refinement and good manners: that it goes to the child. It goes to the mind at its most impressible and receptive age -- the others have to wait. ”
36
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“Your country and mine is an interesting one, but there is nothing there that is half so interesting as the human mind.”
37
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“I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me.”
38
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“What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.”
39
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“Providentially. That is the word. For the fly had not been left behind by accident. No, the hand of Providence was in it. There are no accidents. All things that happen, happen for a purpose. They are foreseen from the beginning of time, they are ordained from the beginning of time.
40
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“The human being is a machine. An automatic machine. It is composed of thousands of complex and delicate mechanisms, which perform their functions harmoniously and perfectly, in accordance with laws devised for their governance, and over which the man himself has no authority, no mastership, no control.”
41
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“The tiger -- yes. The law of his nature is ferocity. The law of his nature is the Law of God. He cannot disobey it.”
42
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“It is most difficult to understand the disposition of the Bible God, it is such a confusion of contradictions; of watery instabilities and iron firmness; of goody-goody abstract morals made out of words, and concreted hell-born ones made out of acts; of fleeting kindness repented of in permanent malignities.”
43
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” Each human being shall have all of these in him, and they will constitute his nature. In some, there will be high and fine characteristics which will submerge the evil ones, and those will be called good men; in others the evil characteristics will have dominion, and those will be called bad men.”
44
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″ It shows you that when people have left a reproachful vacancy in a contract they can be as shady about it in Bibles as elsewhere.”
45
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“Many men pray, not many of them like to do it. A few pray long, the others make a short cut.”
46
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“Life was not a valuable gift, but death was. [...] Death was man’s best friend; when man could endure life no longer, death came and set him free.”
47
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″ Man is an experiment, the other animals are another experiment. Time will show whether they were worth the trouble.”
48
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“He is a marvel -- man is! I would I knew who invented him.”
49
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″ It is curious -- the way the human mind works. The Christian begins with this straight proposition, this definite proposition, this inflexible and uncompromising proposition: God is allknowing, and all-powerful.”
50
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“Human history in all ages is red with blood, and bitter with hate, and stained with cruelties; but not since Biblical times have these features been without a limit of some kind.
51
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“Adam and Eve entered the world naked and unashamed --naked and pure-minded; and no descendant of theirs has ever entered it otherwise. All have entered it naked, unashamed, and clean in mind. They have entered it modest. ”
52
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“I am not in the humor for it.”
53
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“But hunger is pride’s master.”
54
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“Kings cannot ennoble thee, thou good, great soul, for One who is higher than kings hath done that for thee; but a king can confirm thy nobility to men.”
55
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“But when weariness finally forced him to be silent, he was no longer of use to his tormentors, and they sought amusement elsewhere.”
56
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“By and by Tom’s reading wrought such a strong effect upon him that he began to act the prince, unconsciously. His speech and manners became curiously ceremonious and courtly, to the vast admiration and amusement of his intimates. But Tom’s influence among these young people began to grow, now, day by day; and in time he came to be looked up to, by them, with a sort of wondering awe, as a superior being.”
57
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“That which I have seen, in that little moment, will never go out from my memory, but will abide there; and I shall see it all the days, and dream of it all the nights, till I die. Would God I had been blind!”
58
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“Loose him and forbear!”
59
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“What dost thou know of suffering and oppression? I and my people know, but not thou.”
60
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“Learning softeneth the heart and breedeth gentleness and charity.”
61
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“When I am come to mine own again, I will always honor little children, remembering how that these trusted me and believed me in my time of trouble; whilst they that were older, and thought themselves wiser, mocked at me and held me for a liar.”
62
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“It does us all good to unbend sometimes.”
63
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“What God wills, will happen; thou canst not hurry it, thou canst not alter it; therefore wait, and be patient”
64
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“Let us change the tense for convenience.”
65
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“Foo-foo the First, King of the Mooncalves!”
66
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“And when he awoke in the morning and looked upon the wretchedness about him, his dream had had its usual effect: it had intensified the sordidness of his surroundings a thousandfold.”
67
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“The world is made wrong; kings should go to school to their own laws, at times, and so learn mercy.”
68
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“Their garment? Have they but one?” “Ah, good your Worship, what would they do with more? Truly they have not two bodies each.”
69
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“Five and twenty sturdy budges, bulks, files, clapperdogeons and maunders, counting the dells and doxies and other morts. Most are here, the rest are wandering eastward, along the winter lay. We follow at dawn.”
70
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“Explosive and was expected to blow him up.”
71
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“I couldn’t bear to think about it; and yet, somehow, I couldn’t think about nothing else.”
72
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“I do not wish any reward but to know I have done the right thing.”
73
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“You can’t pray a lie – I found that out.”
74
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“The average man don’t like trouble and danger.”
75
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“He was sunshine most always-I mean he made it seem like good weather.”
76
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“I don’t want no better book than what your face is.”
77
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“All kings is mostly rapscallions, as fur as I can make out.”
78
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“All right then, I’ll go to hell”
79
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Tom told me what his plan was, and I see in a minute it was worth fifteen of mine for style, and would make Jim just as free a man as mine would, and maybe get us all killed besides. So I was satisfied, and said we would waltz in on it.
80
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“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?” The brush continued to move. “Like it? Well I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?” That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth—stepped back to note the effect—added a touch here and there—criticized the effect again—Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said: “Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”
81
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“Tom was a glittering hero once more—the pet of the old, the envy of the young. His name even went into immortal print, for the village paper magnified him. There were some that believed he would be President, yet, if he escaped hanging.”
82
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“Say, Becky, was you ever engaged?” “What’s that?” “Why, engaged to be married.” “No.” “Would you like to?” “I reckon so. I don’t know. What is it like?” “Like? Why it ain’t like anything. You only just tell a boy you won’t ever have anybody but him, ever ever ever, and then you kiss and that’s all. Anybody can do it.”
83
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“When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.”
84
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“You ought never to “sass” old people—unless they “sass” you first.”
85
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“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”
86
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“′Classic′ - a book which people praise and don’t read.”
87
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“When in doubt, tell the truth.”
88
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“Saturday morning was come, and all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart . . . There was cheer in every face and a spring in every step. The locust trees were in bloom and the fragrance of the blossoms filled the air.”
89
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“There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat had even stilled the songs of the birds; nature lay in a trance that was broken by no sound but the occasional far-off hammering of a woodpecker, and this seemed to render the pervading silence and sense of loneliness the more profound. The boy’s soul was steeped in melancholy; his feelings were in happy accord with his surroundings.”
90
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“But the elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one constrained shape long at a time. Tom presently began to drift insensibly back into the concerns of his life again. What if he turned his back, now, and disappeared mysteriously? . . . [H]e would join the Indians . . . He would be a pirate! That was it! Now his future lay plain before him, and glowing with unimaginable splendor.”
91
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“Then her conscience reproached her, and she yearned to say something kind and loving; but she judged that this would be construed into a confession that she had been in the wrong, and discipline forbade that. So she kept silence, and went about her affairs with a troubled heart.”
92
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“I was mighty down-hearted; so I made up my mind I wouldn’t ever go anear that house again, because I reckoned I was to blame, somehow.”
93
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“I knowed very well why [the words] wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all.”
94
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“That’s just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don’t want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide it, it ain’t no disgrace. That was my fix exactly.”
95
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“That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothing about it.”
96
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“Look here, if you’re telling the truth you needn’t be afraid--nobody’ll hurt you.”
97
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“It’s the little things that smooths people’s roads the most.”
98
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“A person’s conscience ain’t got no sense, and just goes for him anyway.”
99
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“There warn’t anybody at the church, except maybe a hog or two, for there warn’t any lock on the door, and hogs likes a puncheon floor in summer-time because it’s cool. If you notice, most folks don’t go to church only when they’ve got to: but a hog is different.”
100
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“Yes, King Edward VI lived only a few years, poor boy, but he lived them worthily.”
101
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“Yet little Tom was not unhappy. He had a hard time of it but did not know it. It was the sort of time that all the Offal Court boys had, therefore he supposed it was the correct and comfortable thing.”
102
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“The law roasted her to death at a slow fire.”
103
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“When I am king they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books, for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved.”
104
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“He lay down upon a sumptuous divan, and proceeded to instruct himself with honest zeal.”
105
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“By and by Tom’s reading wrought such a strong effect upon him that he began to act the prince, unconsciously. His speech and manners became curiously ceremonious and courtly, to the vast admiration and amusement of his intimates. But Tom’s influence among these young people began to grow, now, day by day; and in time he came to be looked up to, by them, with a sort of wondering awe, as a superior being.”
106
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″... no country can be well governed unless its citizens as a body keep religiously before their minds that they are the guardians of the law and that the law officers are only the machinery for its execution, nothing more.”
107
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“He brought us clear down to the ground, nearly. He’s an honest soul, and means the very best in the world, but I’m afraid, I’m afraid he’s too flighty.”
108
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“Washington dreamed his way along the street, his fancy flitting from grain to hogs, from hogs to banks, from banks to eye-water, from eye-water to Tennessee Land, and lingering but a feverish moment upon each of these fascinations.”
109
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″... Miss Alice is a great friend of Harry’s, who is always trying to build a house by beginning at the top.”
110
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“He has no traditions to bind him or guide him; and his impulse is to break away from the occupation his father has followed, and make a new way for himself.”
111
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“And one of the first and most startling things you find out is, that every individual you encounter in the City of Washington ... from the highest bureau chief, clear down to the maid who scrubs Department halls, the night watchmen of the public buildings... represents Political Influence.”
112
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“An ugly woman would ruin me, the disease would be sure to strike in and kill me at the sight of her. I think a pretty physician, with engaging manners, would coax a fellow to live through almost anything.”
113
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“Unless you can get the ear of a Senator, or a Congressman, or a Chief of a Bureau or Department, and persuade him to use his ‘influence’ in your behalf, you cannot get an employment of the most trivial nature in Washington.”
114
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“Nobody knows anything, really, you know, and a woman can guess a good deal nearer than a man.”
115
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“I wasn’t worth a cent two years ago, and now I owe two millions of dollars.”
116
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“To the young American, here or elsewhere, the paths to fortune are innumerable and all open; There is invitation in the air and success in all his wide horizon.”
117
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″... a woman will never do again what has been done before.”
118
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“A woman’s intuition is better than a man’s.”
119
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“Beautiful credit! The foundation of modern society. Who shall say that this is not the golden age of mutual trust, of unlimited reliance upon human promises.”
120
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“If you should rear a duck in the heart of the Sahara, no doubt it would swim if you brought it to the Nile.”
121
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“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like and do what you’d rather not.”
122
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″... every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”
123
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“Foreordain it? No. The man’s circumstances and environment order it. His first act determines the second and all that follow after.”
124
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“Are you so unobservant as not to have found out that sanity and happiness are an impossible combination? No sane man can be happy, for to him life is real, and he sees what a fearful thing it is.”
125
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“You know that kind of quiver that trembles around through you when you are seeing something so strange and enchanting and wonderful that it is just a fearful joy to be alive and look at it.”
126
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″‘And always we had wars, and more wars, and still other wars--all over Europe, all over the world. Sometimes in the private interest of royal families,’ Satan said, ‘sometimes to crush a weak nation; but never a war started by the aggressor for any clean purpose--there is no such war in the history of the race.‘”
127
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“I said it was a brutal thing.” “No, it was a human thing. You should not insult the brutes by such a misuse of that word; they have not deserved it.”
128
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“Only the mad can be happy, and not many of those.”
129
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“It gave an appalling idea of the value of an hour, and I thought I could never waste one again without remorse and terror.”
130
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″... we had taken his silence as a sort of encouragement; necessarily, then, this talk of his was a disappointment to us, for it showed we had made no impression upon him... we knew then how the missionary must feel when he has been cherishing a glad hope and has seen it blighted.”
131
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“Among you boys you have a game: you stand a row of bricks on end a few inches apart; you push a brick, it knocks its neighbor over, the neighbor knocks over the next brick--and so on till all the row is prostrate. That is human life.”
132
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“To skip any one of the billion acts in Columbus’s chain would have wholly changed his life. I have examined his billion of possible careers, and in only one of them occurs the discovery of America.”
133
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“Now were he impostor and called himself prince, look you that would be natural; that would be reasonable. But lived ever an impostor yet, who, being called prince by the king, prince by the court, prince by all, denied his dignity and pleaded against his exaltation? No! By the soul of St. Swithin, no! This is the true prince, gone mad.”
134
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“When I am king they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books, for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved.”
135
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“He is mad; but he is my son, and England’s heir; and, mad or sane, still shall reign!”
136
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“When I am come to mine own again, I will always honor little children, remembering how that these trusted me and believed me in my time of trouble; whilst they that were older, and thought themselves wiser, mocked at me and held me for a liar.”
137
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“It may be history, it may be only a legend, a tradition. It may have happened, it may not have happened: but it could have happened. It may be that the wise and the learned believed it in the old days; it maybe that only the unlearned and the simple loved it and credited it.”
138
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″‘Then shall the king’s law be law of mercy from this day, and never more be law of blood! Up from thy knees and away! To the Tower and say the king decrees the duke of Norfolk shall not die!’ The words were caught up and carried eagerly from lip to lip far and wide over the hall, and as Hertford hurried from the presence, another prodigious shout burst forth— ‘The reign of blood is ended! Long live Edward, King of England!‘”
139
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“In the ancient city of London, on a certain autumn day in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, a boy was born to a poor family of the name of Canty, who did not want him. On the same day another English child was born to a rich family of the name of Tudor, who did want him.”
140
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“Death—and a violent death—for these poor unfortunates! The thought wrung Tom’s heart-strings. The spirit of compassion took control of him, to the exclusion of all other considerations; he never thought of the offended laws, or of the grief or loss which these three criminals had inflicted upon their victims, he could think of nothing but the scaffold and the grisly fate hanging over the heads of the condemned. His concern made him even forget, for the moment, that he was but the false shadow of a king, not the substance.”
141
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“In a moment all the heavy sorrow and misery which sleep had banished were upon him again, and he realized that he was no longer a petted prince in a palace, with the adoring eyes of a nation upon him, but a pauper, an outcast, clothed in rags, prisoner in a den fit only for beasts, and consorting with beggars and thieves.”
142
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“To the rest of the world the name of Henry VIII brought a shiver, and suggested an ogre whose nostrils breathed destruction and whose hand dealt scourgings and death; but to this boy the name brought only sensations of pleasure, the figure it invoked wore a countenance that was all gentleness and affection. He called to mind a long succession of loving passages between his father and himself, and dwelt fondly upon them, his unstinted tears attesting how deep and real was the grief that possessed his heart.”

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