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Ticket Replay: 100 years ago reports of Mark Twain's death were no longer greatly exaggerated

Mark Twain aka Samuel L. clemens

During the holiday season, as in years past, The Ticket is republishing some of our favorite items from the previous political year. This story was originally published on April 21, 2010:

You don't know about a man named Mr. Mark Twain without you have read a book called "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." Or maybe "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." But that ain't no matter.

Those books was made by Mr. Twain, and he told the truth mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.

One hundred years ago today, reports of Twain's death became no longer greatly exaggerated. The iconic American author and one-time humorist died at the age of 74, heartbroken, having long since lost a daughter and a wife before their time.

But as the University of Notre Dame's noted politics expert Robert Schmuhl notes, what lives on even today are the words of Twain, aka Samuel L. Clemens, many of them aimed at politics and politicians.

"An honest man in politics," he wrote, "shines more than he would elsewhere."

Or: "In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not....

...themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing."

Twain wrote many classics, which he defined as "a book which people praise but don't read." His observations about politics and many other things have sometimes been in dispute but have lived on for two reasons.

One, because they are so human and timeless, especially in politics, it often seems. "Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today" is as apt in the 21st century as in his 19th.

Hal Holbrook in his classic role Mark Twain

And, two, thanks to Hal Holbrook, who has spent nearly half the time since Twain's death portraying him onstage with the most uncanny skill, artistry and wit.

So here, in truth, are some of our favorite Twainisms. If you've got others, feel free to add them below.

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.

Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.

By trying we can easily endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.

A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

All generalizations are false, including this one.

All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.

Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.

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

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

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary.

As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain from smoking when awake.

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.All right, then, I'll go to hell.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: The Official Website of Mark Twain ; 'Mark Twain Tonight' with Hal Holbrook.

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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