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Directory of Mark Twain's maxims, quotations, and various opinions:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Twain portrait
Portrait from
Harper's Weekly, March 18, 1905

Sam Patrick portrait based on Harper's
Portrait by Sam Patrick, 1951
from the Dave Thomson collection

HONESTY

Honesty is the best policy--when there is money in it.
- Speech, 30 March 1901

There are people who think that honesty is always the best policy. This is a superstition. There are times when the appearance of it is worth six of it.
- Following the Equator

Barring the natural expression of villainy which we all have, the man looked honest enough.
- "A Mysterious Visit," 1875

Honesty: the best of all the lost arts.
- Notebook, 1902

Yes, even I am dishonest. Not in many ways, but in some. Forty-one, I think it is.
- Letter to Joseph Twichell, 14 March 1905

All my life I have been honest -- comparatively honest. I could never use money I had not made honestly -- I could only lend it.
- Speech, 22 December 1907

I would much prefer to suffer from the clean incision of an honest lancet than from a sweetened poison.
- Letter to Olivia Langdon Clemens, 29 December 1869

Every man is wholly honest to himself and to God, but not to any one else.
- More Maxims of Mark, Merle Johnson, ed. (1927)

No man is straitly honest to any but himself and God.
- More Maxims of Mark, Merle Johnson, ed. (1927)

I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead -- and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead, and they would be honest so much earlier.
- Autobiographical dictation, 31 July 1906. Published in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2 (University of California Press, 2013)

An honest man in politics shines more than he would elsewhere.
- A Tramp Abroad

The insincerity of man -- all men are liars, partial or hiders of facts, half tellers of truths, shirks, moral sneaks. When a merely honest man appears he is a comet -- his fame is eternal -- needs no genius, no talent -- mere honesty -- Luther, Christ, etc.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

....honest men are few when it comes to themselves.
- quoted in My Mark Twain, William Dean Howells

As a rule, we go about with masks, we go about looking honest, and we are able to conceal ourselves all through the day.
- Speech, 8 March 1902

Also see "Diogenes and His Lantern"

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