9 Mark Twain Quotes On Death: Exploring His Wisdom and Wit

Last updated on December 31st, 2023 at 09:20 am.

Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, passed away on April 21, 1910. He was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835 and he died of a heart attack at the age of 74 at his residence in Redding, Connecticut.

Twain had a remarkable life as a writer, humorist, and public figure, leaving behind a legacy of influential literary works and thought-provoking quotes that continue to captivate readers to this day.

mark twain quotes on death

Mark Twain, to this day is thought of as an American literary giant known for his sharp wit and insightful observations that resonate with readers across generations.

While many of his quotes span a range of topics, his reflections on death offer a unique blend of wisdom, humor, and contemplation. In this article, we delve into some of the best Mark Twain quotes on death, capturing his distinctive perspective on the inevitable journey we all must undertake.

Profound Mark Twain Quotes about Death

Mark Twain writing in bed
Mark Twain Project, the Bancroft Library

Mark Twain’s views on death often cut through the somberness with a distinctively pragmatic outlook. He approached the subject with a mixture of curiosity, introspection, and his signature satirical touch. Here are some of his notable quotes that shed light on his perspective:

1. “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Twain’s insight suggests that embracing life to its fullest extent can dispel the fear of death, making mortality a less daunting prospect.

2. “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”.
– Mark Twain in Eruption

3.The Impartial Friend: Death, the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose peace and whose refuge are for all–the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved“.
– This is known as Mark Twain’s last written statement on death; Moments with Mark Twain

Death: The Great Unknown

Mark Twain reading

Twain’s musings on the unknown aspects of death reveal his characteristic humor and curiosity, reminding us to ponder these mysteries with a touch of levity:

4. “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” Twain’s witty observation playfully underscores the natural state of nonexistence before birth and after death.

5. “The report of my death was an exaggeration.

The Story behind the quote: In 1897, an English journalist working for the New York Journal reached out to Twain to verify the accuracy of the rumors regarding his serious illness or potential demise. Twain crafted a reply, and a portion of his response was featured in the article published in the Journal on June 2, 1897.

The Entire Quote: “I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration.’”

Fun Fact: The most common versions of these quotes are incorrect! “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” or “The reports of my death are grossly exaggerated” have become some of the most famous quotes by Twain, but they aren’t 100% accurate!

There are many misquoted versions of the above that stem from a Mark Twain biography by Albert Bigelow Paine published in 1912 (two years after Twain’s actual death). According to Paine’s embellished version, Twain had told the reporter, “Just say the report of my death has been grossly exaggerated.”

Death: The Legacy of Laughter

Mark Twain’s ability to find humor in the face of mortality reveals his unique perspective on the human experience, which continues to resonate with audiences today:

6. “The fear of death is indeed the pretense of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being a pretense of knowing what we do not know.” This quote underscores the notion that our fear of death might stem from a facade of wisdom rather than genuine understanding.

7. “Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Twain’s humorous yet thought-provoking remark encourages us to lead lives so vivid and remarkable that even those responsible for our final journey would regret our departure.

8. “I was sorry to have my name mentioned as one of the great authors, because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, Spencer is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I am not feeling very well myself.” This quote humorously addresses the notion of famous authors and their mortality, weaving Twain’s wit into the discussion of death.

One Quote About Death Not by Mark Twain

9.  “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” circulated on social media in 2021 about the passing of Rush Limbaugh, with Twain getting much of the credit. In fact, a version of the quote actually came from attorney Clarence Darrow, who first said it more than a decade after Twain’s death and was confirmed by USA Today.

Mark Twain’s Last Words

On the day Mark Twain passed, by his side were Mrs. Gabrilowitsch (his daughter, Clara Clemens), her husband, Dr. Robert Halsey, Dr. Quintard, Albert Bigelow Paine, who his autobiography was dictated and who would write Mark Twain’s biography and is his literary executor, and the two trained nurses. 

The Washington Post reported He recognized his daughter, Clara, spoke a rational word or two, and feeling himself unequal to conversation, wrote out in pencil:

“Give me my glasses.”

They were the last words of Mark Twain. Laying them aside he sank first into reverie and later into final unconsciousness.

Mark Twain & His Autobiography Published 100 Years After His Death

Mart Twain dictated most of the content for his autobiography to a stenographer in the four years before he died, at 74 in 1910. Twain then ordered that the book be published a century after his death.

Published in 2010, the Autobiography of Mark Twain, reached the No. 7 spot on The New York Times’s hardcover nonfiction best-seller list in its fourth week on the list. It also reached No. 4 on the Barnes and Noble best-seller list.

Autobiography of Mark Twain

It is more political than his previous works, by turns frank, funny, angry and full of recollections from his childhood, which deeply influenced books like “Huckleberry Finn.”

“It sold right out,” said Kris Kleindienst, an owner of Left Bank Books in St. Louis told the New York Times in 2010. “You would think only completists and scholars would want a book like this. But there’s an enduring love affair with Mark Twain, especially around here. Anybody within a stone’s throw of the Mississippi River has a Twain attachment.”

How long did Mark Twain live in Missouri?

Mark Twain, aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens, spent a significant portion of his early life in Missouri. As state above, he was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835. When he was four years old, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, which would become the town that deeply influenced his writing and served as the inspiration for the fictional town of St. Petersburg in his famous novels “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Twain lived in Hannibal, Missouri, until he left for various travels and pursuits as a young adult. While he did not spend his entire life in Missouri, his formative years there had a profound impact on his writing style, themes, and perspectives, making Missouri an essential part of his personal and literary history.

More Inspirational Quotes by Mark Twain

Good Books On Twain

Mark Twain in Eruption: A good book of assorted writings of Mark Twain, including many observations on his contemporaries and good friends, such as John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Moments With Mark Twain: This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

Wrapping it Up: Celebrating Life through Twain’s Words

Mark Twain’s quotes about death encapsulate his distinctive approach to life’s greatest mystery. With a blend of humor, wisdom, and introspection, Twain encourages us to embrace life fully, navigate the unknown with curiosity, and find laughter in the face of mortality. His words continue to guide and inspire, reminding us that death is not just an end, but a part of the profound and complex journey of existence.

So, what is more fitting than to end this article with a quote from Mark Twain about a tip to live life to it’s fullest!

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails”.

Mark Twain Quotes On Death: Exploring His Wisdom and Wit. Mark Twain Quotes

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