Marcia Strykowski

Mark Twain

DSC00068I recently visited the beautiful home of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 – 1910), better known as “Mark Twain.” If you’re ever in Hartford, CT, I highly recommend the tour. He lived here for seventeen years and nearly every room holds a fascinating story. His next-door neighbor was Harriet Beecher Stowe (her lovely home is open for tours, too). Rather than babble on about his accomplishments, I’d like to share the following thoughts from his own words.

800px-Mark_Twain_House_-_HABS_photo_023204pu“The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

640px-Mark_Twain_by_Mora,_1882“In writing “Tom Sawyer” I had no idea of laying down rules for the bringing up of small families, but merely to throw out hints as to how they might bring themselves up, and the boys seemed to have caught the idea nicely.”

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

“I like a good story well told. That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.”

480px-Tom_Sawyer_-_bookcover“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

Tom_Sawyer_-_01-017We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess, than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess.”

“It is human nature to take delight in exciting admiration. It is what prompts children to say “smart” things, and do absurd ones, and in other ways “show off” when company is present. It is what makes gossips turn out in rain and storm to be the first to tell a startling bit of news.”

640px-MarkTwain.LOC“To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.”

Huckleberry_Finn_book“A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.”

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Mark_Twain_DLitt“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young.”

“Learning softeneth the heart and breedeth gentleness and charity.”

At left is the official portrait of Mark Twain in his Doctor of Letters academic dress, awarded by Oxford University in 1907.

DSC00211The above statue stands in front of the Hartford Public Library. Back at the Twain house it was fun to find him built entirely of Legos. I hear there is a large Lego rendition of the house itself at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. The portrait of Twain with his beloved corn-cob pipe (below) was created by James Carroll Beckwith in 1890.


If you are interested in other famous author homes you can tour, please see my earlier post here.


  1. I’ve always liked that lightning bug quote– and so many of his others! What a writer. And his home is beautiful, love that popped out part. I’d love to visit his and Harriet’s homes someday.


    • I love to picture Mark and Harriet as neighbors. Apparently their families were quite close. Thanks for visiting, Leandra!


  2. A lot of great quotes! I especially like: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”


  3. Bette Norton

    I love your post on Mark Twain! One of my favorite authors! I would love to go on that house tour someday! Twain has some very interesting quotes, Words to live by! I like his way of thinking! 🙂 You look very comfortable standing beside Lego Mark Twain! A very fun post!


    • You’ll have to visit. Carved into the front of that beautiful fireplace is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.” Thanks, Bette!


  4. Vijaya

    Marcia, what a refreshing post. Just what I needed today. It is nearing 6 pm and I haven’t opened any wips. Perhaps I might make a lightning bug this evening. Thank you. Someday I hope to visit.


  5. mirkabreen

    Thank you the tour, Marcia. I’ve been there in person ages ago, and it was worth going.


    • I’m glad you were able to visit, Mirka. It’s such a grand old house. Thanks for sharing!


  6. I took a humour and wit course in 2009. Of all the comic writers we studied, the class found that Mark Twain was the wittiest. I’d love to visit his home someday.


    • Yes, witty he was. I think he would have approved of the endless abundance of his words on the internet.


  7. He was so humourous (witty, really), and I love that house!


    • And it’s amazing how many quotes are attributed to him that he never even said! Anything witty goes under Twain. Thanks for stopping by, Claudine!


  8. Katie L. Carroll

    I live so close to Mark Twain’s house and have actually never been there. I’ll have to remedy that very soon! Don’t know what’s taken me so long. Thanks for the kick in the butt, Marcia.


    • Lucky you! Hartford seems to have a lot of hidden gems. We took in the Wadsworth Museum, as well–so beautiful. Thanks for your comment, Katie!


  9. Oh my goodness I would love to visit both homes. I had better start saving my pennies.
    My favourite of these quotes is “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”


    • Yes, that’s a perfect description of show don’t tell. I hope you’ll get to visit New England soon, Barbara!


  10. Ashley

    Twain’s home is beautiful and he is very witty!!


  11. I’d love to visit! Twain’s home matches his personality. The original edition of Tom Sawyer is also available online for free where I last re-read the classic.


    • Yes, he definitely had an exuberant personality. Good to know about the Tom Sawyer edition. Thanks, Greg!


  12. I thoroughly enjoyed touring Mark Twain’s house. Loved the story about the headboard of the bed. 🙂


    • He was quite the character with great taste in furnishings. I guess he did a lot of writing in that bed and slept backwards in it, so he could admire the fancy headboard. I’m glad you got to visit his house, Judy!


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