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Q: Marl Twain quotations ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Marl Twain quotations
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: joyinlearning-ga
List Price: $8.00
Posted: 28 Jul 2006 14:42 PDT
Expires: 27 Aug 2006 14:42 PDT
Question ID: 750498
"When whole races and peoples conspire to propagate gigantic mute lies
in the interest of tyrannies and shams, why should we care anything
about the trifling lies told by individuals?"
The quotation was attributed to Mark Twain.  Please advise
which of his writings this may have come from and in what context.
Subject: Re: Marl Twain quotations
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 28 Jul 2006 14:58 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
The quote hails from Twain's collection of tales, "The Man Who
Corrupted Hadleyburg, and Other Stories", which you can find in
searchable text at the wonderful Project Gutenberg site:

The particular story in which the quote appears is "MY FIRST LIE, AND

If you search the text (by pressing Ctrl-F on a Windows system) for [
whole races ], you'll be taken right to the appropriate portion of the
text.  The complete paragraph is:


What I am arriving at is this: When whole races and peoples conspire to
propagate gigantic mute lies in the interest of tyrannies and shams, why
should we care anything about the trifling lies told by individuals?  Why
should we try to make it appear that abstention from lying is a virtue?
Why should we want to beguile ourselves in that way?  Why should we
without shame help the nation lie, and then be ashamed to do a little
lying on our own account?  Why shouldn't we be honest and honourable, and
lie every time we get a chance?  That is to say, why shouldn't we be
consistent, and either lie all the time or not at all?  Why should we
help the nation lie the whole day long and then object to telling one
little individual private lie in our own interest to go to bed on?  Just
for the refreshment of it, I mean, and to take the rancid taste out of
our mouth.


Let me know if there's anything else you need.


search strategy -- Google search on [ gutenberg "whole races and peoples" ]

Request for Answer Clarification by joyinlearning-ga on 28 Jul 2006 22:20 PDT
Thanks very much for the information provided.  Is it possible to put
referenced paragraph into context and clarify Twain's intent.  Knowing
his mindset somewhat, he often speaks tongue in cheek. With this in
mind, do you believe this quote to be a viable "excuse" for some level
of  inevitable human dishonesty?

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 29 Jul 2006 05:11 PDT

Good question.

No, I don't think Twain means this as a valid excuse for lying.  He
was, in his writing, both a very virtuous and very cynical fellow, and
rather sour, at times, about the state of human affairs (probably most
baldly expressed in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", one
of the great diatribes of all times.  Bing Crosby he's not!).

In the paragraph in question, he's decrying the hypocrisy that frowns
upon lies told by individuals, while at the same time, accepts lies
told by whole nations.  He uses this -- tongue in cheek, as you
suggest -- as an attempted excuse at tolerating, even justifying, lies
told by individuals.

But clearly, he would much prefer that we learned to be less tolerant
of lies told by whole races and peoples.

Why do I say "clearly"?  Because this can be taken as a central theme
throughout Twain's writing...he abhors the big lies created by nations
that, in Twain's mind, keep people in supression and slavery.

Hope that helps.

joyinlearning-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Your directing me to the section in his literature was quite helpful
and further your assessment of Twain's central theme was expressed in
a manner that validated my sense and beliefs. I appreciate any
opportunity to hear another perspective whether or not it differs from
mine. In this case, we have agreement.  Thanks.

There are no comments at this time.

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