Illustration from first edition of
LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
| There's one thing in this world which isn't
ever cheap. That's a coffin. There's one thing in this world which a person
don't ever try to jew you down on. That's a coffin. There's one thing in
this world which a person don't say-- 'I'll look around a little, and if
I find I can't do better I'll come back and take it.' That's a coffin. There's
one thing in this world which a person won't take in pine if he can go walnut;
and won't take in walnut if he can go mahogany; and won't take in mahogany
if he can go an iron casket with silver door-plate and bronze handles. That's
a coffin. And there's one thing in this world which you don't have to worry
around after a person to get him to pay for. And that's a coffin. Undertaking?--why
it's the dead-surest business in Christendom, and the nobbiest.
- Life on the Mississippi
When the place was packed full the undertaker he slid around in his black gloves
with his softy soothering ways, putting on the last touches, and getting people
and things all ship-shape and comfortable, and making no more sound than a cat.
He never spoke; he moved people around, he squeezed in late ones, he opened
up passageways, and done it with nods, and signs with his hands. Then he took
his place over against the wall. He was the softest, glidingest, stealthiest
man I ever see; and there warn't no more smile to him than there is to a ham.
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
We must take the position that burial is stuck to merely in the interest of
the undertaker (who has his family cremated to save expense).
- Marginalia in C. F. Gordon-Cumming's book In the Himalayas and on the Indian Plains
Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will
- Puddn'head Wilson's Calendar
I have a human distaste for death, as applied to myself, but I see nothing
very solemn about it as applied to anybody--it is more to be dreaded than a
birth or a marriage, perhaps, but it is really not as solemn a matter as either
of these, when you come to take a rational, practical view of the case. Therefore
I would prefer to know that an undertaker's bill was a just one before I paid
it; and I would rather see it go clear to the Supreme Court of the United States,
if I could afford the luxury, than pay it if it were distinguished for its unjustness.
A great many people in the world do not think as I do about these things. But
I care nothing for that. The knowledge that I am right is sufficient for me.
- "Concerning Undertakers, " Letter to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, written 2/5/1864
Related special feature: Mark Twain's Quarrel with Undertakers
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