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



Nor have I ever seen in print Mark's saying about the weather. "We all grumble about the weather, but" (dramatic pause) "--but--but nothing is done about it." He was a master in the piquant use of the pause at the right moment.
- Robert Underwood Johnson, Remembered Yesterdays (1923), p. 322. This quote is often thought to have originated with Charles Dudley Warner.

Ford calendar art
Quotation from 1921 Ford calendar card from
the Dave Thomson collection

Mushy weather
Illustration from first edition of FOLLOWING THE EQUATOR

When a person is accustomed to 138 in the shade, his ideas about cold weather are not valuable....In India, "cold weather" is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy.
- Following the Equator

I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don't know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk's factory who experiment and learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take their custom elsewhere if they don't get it.
- "The Weather" speech, 1876

No weather will be found in this book. This is an attempt to pull a book through without weather. It being the first attempt of the kind in fictitious literature, it may prove a failure, but it seemed worth the while of some dare-devil person to try it, and the author was in just the mood.

Many a reader who wanted to read a tale through was not able to do it because of delays on account of the weather. Nothing breaks up an author's progress like having to stop every few pages to fuss-up the weather. Thus it is plain that persistent intrusions of weather are bad for both reader and author.

Of course weather is necessary to a narrative of human experience. That is conceded. But it ought to be put where it will not be in the way; where it will not interrupt the flow of the narrative. And it ought to be the ablest weather that can be had, not ignorant, poor-quality, amateur weather. Weather is a literary specialty, and no untrained hand can turn out a good article of it. The present author can do only a few trifling ordinary kinds of weather, and he cannot do those very good. So it has seemed wisest to borrow such weather as is necessary for the book from qualified and recognized experts-giving credit, of course. This weather will be found over in the back part of the book, out of the way. See Appendix. The reader is requested to turn over and help himself from time to time as he goes along.
- The American Claimant

On Saturday, March 10, 1888 a great blizzard prevented his wife from joining him on a trip to New York.
Clemens wrote:

"And so, after all my labor and persuasion to get you to at last promise to take a week's holiday and go off with me on a lark, this is what Providence has gone and done about it. It does seem to me the oddest thing--the way Providence manages. A mere simple request to you to stay at home would have been entirely sufficient; but no, that is not big enough, picturesque enough--a blizzard's the idea; pour down all the snow in stock, turn loose all the winds, bring a whole continent to a stand-still: that is Providence's idea of the correct way to trump a person's trick. If I had known it was going to make all this trouble and cost all these millions, I never would have said anything about your going. Now in the light of this revelation of the methods of Providence, consider Noah's flood--I wish I knew the real reason for playing that cataclysm on the public: likely enough, somebody who liked dry weather wanted to take a walk. That is probably the whole thing--and nothing more to it."
- Letter to Olivia Clemens, March 10, 1888

Shut the door. Not that it lets in the cold but that it lets out the cozyness.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

It is best to read the weather forecast before we pray for rain.
- More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd all have frozen to death.
- quoted in Mark Twain and I, Opie Read

The captain had been telling how, in one of his Arctic voyages, it was so cold that the mate's shadow froze fast to the deck and had to be ripped loose by main strength. And even then he got only about two-thirds of it back.
- Following the Equator

Yes, the weather is bad, and if I were dealing in weather it is not the brand that I'd put up in cans for future use. No, it is the kind of weather I'd throw on the market and let it go for what it would fetch, and if it wouldn't sell for anything I would hunt up some life-long enemy and present it to him. Failing in this, as a last resort I should probably take it out on the big bridge, dump it into the Mississippi and start it to Europe via the jetties. I'd unload it someway, and that quickly, too.
- quoted in "A Day with Mark Twain" by John Henton Carter

Winter is begun here, now, I suppose. It blew part of the hair off the dog yesterday & got the rest this morning.
- letter to Chatto and Windus, October 21, 1892. Published in The Fence Painter, Winter, 2004.

1950s weather poster
Advertising poster from the 1950s.

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