Thursday, September 17, 2009

"It is a lie, plain and simple."

"It is a lie, plain and simple." -- Obama, calling politicians like Palin a liar (concerning HR3200)

"You lie." -- Joe Wilson, a few minutes later; aimed at Obama's statement that illegal aliens would not be covered by HR3200.

Perhaps they all should read this: My First Lie, And How I Got Out Of It - Mark Twain

Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can.
What Is Man?

...the smallest minds and the selfishest souls and the cowardliest hearts that God makes.
- Letter fragment, 1891

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
Mark Twain, a Biography

Congressman is the trivialist distinction for a full grown man.
- Notebook #14, 11/1877 - 7/1878

All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity.
Mark Twain's Autobiography; also in Mark Twain in Eruption

Congressman and flea
Illustration from AMERICAN EXAMINER, 1910
from the Dave Thomson collection

The lightning there is peculiar; it is so convincing, that when it strikes a thing it doesn't leave enough of that thing behind for you to tell whether--Well, you'd think it was something valuable, and a Congressman had been there.
Mark Twain's Speeches, "The Weather"

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
- Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

It is the foreign element that commits our crimes. There is no native criminal class except Congress.
More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

Whiskey is carried into committee rooms in demijohns and carried out in demagogues.
- Notebook, 1868

...I never can think of Judas Iscariot without losing my temper. To my mind Judas Iscariot was nothing but a low, mean, premature, Congressman.
- "Foster's Case", New York Tribune, 3/10/1873 

Mark Twain on Lies

Note that venerable proverb: Children and fools always speak the truth. The deduction is plain: adults and wise persons never speak it.
- "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" 

Sam on the dock
Illustration courtesy of Dave Thomson

The old saw says--"let a sleeping dog lie." Experience knows better; experience says, If you want to convince do it yourself.
- Written in Clara Clemens's copy of The Gilded Age

"Let a sleeping dog lie." It is a poor old maxim, & nothing in it: anybody can do it, you don't have to employ a dog.
- Written in copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Margery Clinton, August 18, 1908

You cain't pray a lie.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 

The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might.
Letter to San Francisco Alta California, dated May 17, 1867; published June 16, 1867

[Lying] Man's most universal weakness.
- quoted in Mark Twain and I, by Opie Read

Carlyle said "a lie cannot live." It shows that he did not know how to tell them.
Mark Twain's Autobiography; Mark Twain in Eruption

In all lies there is wheat among the chaff...
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Lie--an abomination before the Lord and an ever present help in time of trouble.
- 3/30/1901

The lie, as a virtue, a principle, is eternal; the lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man's best and surest friend is immortal.
- "On the Decay of the Art of Lying"

One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.
Pudd'nhead Wilson

I would rather tell seven lies than make one explanation.
- Letter to John Bellows, 11 April 1883

Cream of Wheat ad
1913 Cream of Wheat ad featuring
Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and 
Aunt Polly by artist Leslie Thresher

'Tis immoral to lie except for practice.
- Maxim written in copy of Editorial Wild Oats donated in 1905 for the Bryn Mawr book sale. Reported in Washington Times, December 16, 1905, p. 3.

Never tell a lie--P.S. - Except to keep in practice.
- quoted in "Mark Twain's Autograph," Atlanta Constitution, 9 September 1906, p. E3.

Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." (... And Astrophotographs!)
Autobiography of Mark Twain 
for more info on the background of this quote, see Stephen Goranson's post to the Mark Twain Forum July 31, 2002

There are 869 different forms of lying, but only one of them has been squarely forbidden. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Following the Equator; Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

I am different from Washington; I have a higher, grander standard of principle. Washington could not lie. I can lie, but I won't.
- quoted in Mark Twain, Henderson 

The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying.
- "On the Decay of the Art of Lying"

The young ought to be temperate in the use of this great art until practice and experience shall give them that confidence, elegance, and precision which alone can make the accomplishment graceful and profitable. Patience, diligence, painstaking attention to detail -- these are the requirements; these, in time, will make the student perfect; upon these, and upon these only, may he rely as the sure foundation for future eminence. Think what tedious years of study, thought, practice, experience, went to the equipment of that peerless old master who was able to impose upon the whole world the lofty and sounding maxim that "Truth is mighty and will prevail"-- the most majestic compound fracture of fact which any of woman born has yet achieved. For the history of our race, and each individual's experience, are sewn thick with evidences that a truth is not hard to kill, and that a lie well told is immortal.
- "Advice to Youth," 15 April 1882

The glory which is built upon a lie soon becomes a most unpleasant incumbrance. How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!
Mark Twain in Eruption

I realize that in a sudden emergency I am but a poor clumsy liar, whereas a fine alert and capable emergency-liar is the only sort that is worth anything in a sick-chamber.
Mark Twain's Autobiography

It is true I have a passion for lying to rich people, but I do not lie to men who get their bread by thankless hard work.
- Letter to W. D. Howells, 10/28/1889

Almost all lies are acts, and speech has no part in them.
- "My First Lie and How I Got Out of It"

There is a prejudice against the spoken lie, but none against any other, and by examination and mathematical computation I find that the proportion of the spoken lie to the other varieties is 1 to 22,894. Therefore the spoken lie is of no consequence, and it is not worth while to go around fussing about it and trying to make believe that it is an important matter. The silent colossal National Lie that is the support and confederate of all the tyrannies and shams and inequalities and unfairnesses that afflict the peoples - that is the one to throw bricks and sermons at.
- "My First Lie and How I Got Out of It"

Let others lie, wantonly, gratuitously, if they will, but let you & me make it the rule of our life to lie for revenue only.
- manuscript page dated January 15, 1910 from the Ethel Sloan collection

A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
- This quote has been attributed to Mark Twain, but it has never been verified as originating with Twain. This quote may have originated with Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) who attributed it to an old proverb in a sermon delivered on Sunday morning, April 1, 1855. Spurgeon was a celebrated English fundamentalist Baptist preacher. His words were: "A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on."


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