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Mark Twain’s Helpful Hints for Good Living

Mark Twain’s Helpful Hints for Good Living: A Handbook for the Damned Human Race

Lin Salamo
Victor Fischer
Michael B. Frank
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  • Book Info
    Mark Twain’s Helpful Hints for Good Living
    Book Description:

    Irreverent, charming, eminently quotable, this handbook—an eccentric etiquette guide for the human race—contains sixty-nine aphorisms, anecdotes, whimsical suggestions, maxims, and cautionary tales from Mark Twain's private and published writings. It dispenses advice and reflections on family life and public manners; opinions on topics such as dress, health, food, and childrearing and safety; and more specialized tips, such as those for dealing with annoying salesmen and burglars. Culled from Twain's personal letters, autobiographical writings, speeches, novels, and sketches, these pieces are delightfully fresh, witty, startlingly relevant, and bursting with Twain's characteristic ebullience for life. They also remind us exactly how Mark Twain came to be the most distinctive and well-known American literary voice in the world. These texts, some of them new or out of print for decades, have been selected and meticulously prepared by the editors at the Mark Twain Project.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93134-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    IN OCTOBER 1865‚ JUST SHY OF HIS THIRTIETH BIRTHDAY‚ SAMUEL LANGHORNE Clemens found himself scraping along in San Francisco, having attempted and abandoned a succession of careers: journeyman printer, Mississippi River steamboat pilot, miner, stock speculator, journalist. His fortunes and his spirits had been at lowest ebb but were now—after some bitter soul-searching—beginning to rebound. He wrote to his brother on 19 October:

    I never had but two powerful ambitions in my life. One was to be a pilot‚ & the other a preacher of the gospel. I accomplished the one & failed in the other‚ because I...

  5. 1 Everyday Etiquette
    (pp. 13-32)

    All through the first ten years of my married life I kept a constant and discreet watch upon my tongue while in the house, and went outside and to a distance when circumstances were too much for me and I was obliged to seek relief. I prized my wife’s respect and approval above all the rest of the human race’s respect and approval. I dreaded the day when she should discover that I was but a whited sepulchre partly freighted with suppressed language. I was so careful, during ten years, that I had not a doubt that my suppressions had...

  6. 2 Modest Proposals and Judicious Complaints
    (pp. 35-57)

    It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us—the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage— may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss—except the inventor of the telephone.

    About noon yesterday the Rev. George H. Bigler, one of the oldest and most esteemed citizens of Farmington, left his home in that village to visit his married daughter, Mrs. Eli Sawyer, of Hartford. He came in an open two-horse wagon, and was accompanied by...

  7. 3 The American Table
    (pp. 59-79)

    It was a heavenly place for a boy, that farm of my uncle John’s. The house was a double log one, with a spacious floor (roofed in) connecting it with the kitchen. In the summer the table was set in the middle of that shady and breezy floor, and the sumptuous meals—well, it makes me cry to think of them. Fried chicken; roast pig; wild and tame turkeys, ducks, and geese; venison just killed; squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, partridges, prairie chickens; home-made bacon and ham; hot biscuits, hot batter-cakes, hot buckwheat cakes, hot “wheat-bread,” hot rolls, hot corn pone; fresh...

  8. 4 Travel Manners
    (pp. 81-93)

    Our coach was a great swinging and swaying stage, of the most sumptuous description—an imposing cradle on wheels. It was drawn by six handsome horses, and by the side of the driver sat the “conductor,” the legitimate captain of the craft; for it was his business to take charge and care of the mails, baggage, express matter, and passengers. We three were the only passengers, this trip. We sat on the back seat, inside. About all the rest of the coach was full of mail-bags—for we had three days’ delayed mails with us. Almost touching our knees, a...

  9. 5 Health and Diet
    (pp. 95-115)

    Beyond the road where the snakes sunned themselves was a dense young thicket, and through it a dim-lighted path led a quarter of a mile; then out of the dimness one emerged abruptly upon a level great prairie which was covered with wild strawberry-plants, vividly starred with prairie pinks, and walled in on all sides by forests. The strawberries were fragrant and fine, and in the season we were generally there in the crisp freshness of the early morning, while the dew-beads still sparkled upon the grass and the woods were ringing with the first songs of the birds.


  10. 6 Parenting and the Ethical Child
    (pp. 117-137)

    This party was one of those persons whom they call Philosophers. He was twins, being born simultaneously in two different houses in the city of Boston. These houses remain unto this day, and have signs upon them worded in accordance with the facts. The signs are considered well enough to have, though not necessary, because the inhabitants point out the two birth-places to the stranger anyhow, and sometimes as often as several times in the same day. The subject of this memoir was of a vicious disposition, and early prostituted his talents to the invention of maxims and aphorisms calculated...

  11. 7 Clothes, Fashion, and Style
    (pp. 139-153)

    At Gen. Grant’s reception, the other night, the most fashionably dressed lady was Mrs. G.C. She wore a pink satin dress, plain in front, but with a good deal of rake to it—to the train, I mean; it was said to be two or three yards long. One could see it creeping along the floor some little time after the woman was gone. Mrs. C. wore also a white bodice, cut bias, with Pompadour sleeves, flounced with ruches; low neck, with the inside handkerchief not visible; white kid gloves. She had on a pearl necklace, which glinted lonely, high...

  12. 8 In Case of Emergency
    (pp. 155-182)

    This was in 1849. I was fourteen years old, then. We were still living in Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi, in the new “frame” house built by my father five years before. That is, some of us lived in the new part, the rest in the old part back of it—the “L.” In the autumn my sister gave a party, and invited all the marriageable young people of the village. I was too young for this society, and was too bashful to mingle with young ladies, anyway, therefore I was not invited—at least not for...

  13. About the Texts
    (pp. 183-202)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 203-206)
  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 207-207)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 208-208)