15 Fascinating Quotes By Mark Twain On Death Featured Image

15 Fascinating Quotes By Mark Twain On Death

Mark Twain Died In 1910: Here Is What He Had To Say About It When He Was Still Alive

Today, you will look at quotes by Mark Twain on death and explore the touchy subject from his point of view. Samuel Langhorn Clemens; better known as Mark Twain, had a lot to say about the subject. So let’s dive into his family history, the crazy yet accurate prediction he made, and his views on death coming straight from his mouth.

His Family Was No Stranger To Death

Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.

Mark Twain had 6 other siblings. Sadly, he didn’t get the chance to know all of them. One sibling; Pleasant Clemens, he never got to meet. And he only knew the other two; Margaret Lampton Clemens and Benjamin Clemens for a few short years. However, due to his age at the times of their death, it is unlikely he remembered much of them.

His childhood was also cut short when his father died of pneumonia. You can learn more about Twain and his father in The Rise of Mark Twain and His Pen Name.

Did Mark Twain Predict His Death?

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together’.”

Mark Twain, 1909

Twain was born just after Halley’s comet. It was first visible by the naked eye as early as September, but even more so in October, and he was born the following month on November 30, 1835. From the quote above, we can easily infer that he thought it only proper to leave with Halley’s comet as well. This makes me wonder if he was a believer in fate. Perhaps that is a discussion for another time.

RELATED: I found some interesting information on the comet, including an eyewitness account. You can check it out in Havard’s archives here.

Luckily (or perhaps unluckily), he got his wish. Halley’s comet came back as close as ever on April 20, 1910, and Twain passed away at 74 years old on April 21, 1910. I mean… a prediction can’t get any better than that!

How Did Twain Die?

“In those early days dueling suddenly became a fashion in the new territory of Nevada and by 1864 everybody was anxious too have a chance in the new sport, mainly for the reason that he was not able to thoroughly respect himself so long as he had not killed or crippled somebody in a duel or been killed or crippled in one himself….

I was ambitious in several ways but I had entirely escaped the seductions of that particular craze. I had had no desire to fight a duel. I had no intention of provoking one. I did not feel respectable but I got a certain amount of satisfaction out of feeling safe. I was ashamed of myself…but I got along well enough. I had always been accustomed to feeling ashamed of myself, for one thing or another, so there was no novelty for me in the situation. I bore it very well”

Autobiography of Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s death could have happened prematurely, and it would have been his fault entirely. The infamous Mark Twain had challenged a newspaperman to a duel!

Here are the bits and bobs of it.

Mark Twain, 29, was acting as chief editor while his higher up left for San Francisco for a week. He worked for the Virginia City Enterprise whose rival was the Virginia Union. A certain Mr. Laird’s editor had also gone off to San Francisco, so he was acting as chief editor for his newspaper.

Strange coincidence, huh? Keep reading, it gets even more interesting!

Quotes by Mark Twain on Death Pin

Mark Twain was feeling uninspired and couldn’t come up with something to write about. So, his bright idea was to instigate a fight with his rivaling newspaper. He angered Mr. Laird, hoping for the man to send for a challenge, but he did not. So Twain, with the help of his coworkers, sent challenge after challenge, which was met with decline after decline. Until a duel was accepted at midnight and set for 5:00am the following morning.

This was such an ordeal that even his will was written! However, Mark Twain was discouraged when he spent the hour before the duel practicing. He couldn’t hit the rail or the barn door. No marks to be seen. He got nervous when he could hear his counterpart practicing not too far away.

But wait, there’s more!

Mark Twain’s second was a man named Steve. Something happened just before Mr. Laird and his second came. A bird flew by and Steve shot its head off.

When Mr. Laird showed up, his second asked about the bird. Steve gave Twain all the credit and praised him for his excellent skills, saying he could shoot like that 4 out 5 times.

Because of this, Laird ended up declining to fight in the duel. Mark Twain considered his life saved!

Many years later Mark Twain was in very poor health; especially in the last year of his life. In fact, he didn’t even think he’d make it home in time. Luckily, he did. He died in his bed. His death was due to angina pectoris (chest pain due to coronary heart disease).

What Were Mark Twain’s Last Words?

“A distinguished man should be as particular about his last words as he is about his last breath. He should write them out on a slip of paper and take the judgment of his friends on them. He should never leave such a thing to the last hour of his life, and trust to an intellectual spurt at the last moment to enable him to say something smart with his latest gasp and launch into eternity with grandeur”

Mark Twain (2013). “Delphi Complete Works of Mark Twain (Illustrated)”, p.3459, Delphi Classics

Those were not his last words. They were merely his view of a man’s last words. What he actually said is certainly less profound but I think that just confirms his point. His actual last words were recorded on a piece of paper as noted by the New York times:

For two hours he lay in bed enjoying the feeling of this return of strength. Then he made a movement asked in a faint voice for the copy of Carlyle’s “French Revolution,” which he has always had near him for the last year, and which he has read and re-read and brooded over.

The book was handed to him, and he lifted it up as if to read. Then a smile faintly illuminated his face when he realized that he was trying to read without his glasses. He tried to say, “Given me my glasses,” but his voice failed, and the nurses bending over him could not understand. He motioned for a sheet of paper and a pencil, and wrote what he could not say.

With his glasses on he read a little and then slowly put the book down with a sigh. Soon he appeared to become drowsy and settled on his pillow. Gradually he sank and settled into a lethargy. Dr. Halsey appreciated that he could have been roused, but considered it better for him to rest. At 3 o’clock he went into complete unconsciousness.

Later Dr. Quintard, who had arrived from New York, held a consultation with Dr. Halsey, and it was decided that death was near. The family was called and gathered about the bedside watching in a silence which was long unbroken. It was the end. At twenty-two minutes past 6, with the sunlight just turning red as it stole into the window in perfect silence he breathed his last.

Mark Twain Quotes About Death

Now you know of his life from death’s lense. It is time that we reverse that. The following are quotes from Mark Twain on death. He was an interesting man. This is no doubt because he had fascinating things to say. Here are views on death from the lense of Mark Twain:

“Both marriage and death ought to be welcome: the one promises happiness, doubtless the other assures it”

Mark Twain (2014). “Mark Twain’s Letters & Speeches (Annotated Edition)”, p.563, Jazzybee Verlag

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain”

Mark Twain (2014). “Mark Twain on Common Sense: Timeless Advice and Words of Wisdom from America’s Most-Revered Humorist”, p.54, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

“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.”

Mark Twain (2012). “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips: A Book of Quotations”, p.135, Courier Corporation

“Manifestly, dying is nothing to a really great and brave man”

Mark Twain, Letter to Olivia Clemens, 7/1/1885 (referring to General Grant)

“Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is, knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our race. He brought death into the world”

Pudd’nhead Wilson ch. 3, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar” (1894)

“Death….a great Leveler — a king before whose tremendous majesty shades & differences in littleness cannot be discerned — an Alp from whose summit all small things are the same size”

Mark Twain, – Letter to Olivia Clemens, 10/15/1871
Mark Twain Quotes About Death Pin

“To die one’s self is a thing that must be easy, & light of consequence; but to lose a part of one’s self–well, we know how deep that pang goes, we who have suffered that disaster, received that wound which cannot heal”

Mark Twain, Letter to Will Bowen, 11/4/1888

Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered – either by themselves or by others.

“It is a time when one’s spirit is subdued and sad, one knows not why; when the past seems a storm-swept desolation, life a vanity and a burden, and the future but a way to death”

Mark Twain, General Press (2016). “The Complete Works of Mark Twain: All 13 Novels, Short Stories, Poetry and Essays”, p.1257, GENERAL PRESS

“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

Quotes By Mark Twain On Death: Let’s Talk About It!

Today we talked a bit about Mark Twain’s family history of death, the extremely accurate prediction he made about his own death, his close call to death, and lastly his views on death. Boy, I think that’s the most I have ever used that word. Sorry for the redundancy there!

What are your views on death?

With love,

Alexis M.

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