Whiskey and cigar day: Twain and Churchill

Mark Twain, afloat

November 30 is the birthday of Mark Twain (1835), and Winston Churchill (1874).

Twain had a comment on recent actions at the Texas Education Agency:

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.

– Following the Equator; Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar

The Nobel literature committees were slow; Twain did not win a Nobel in Literature; he died in 1910. Churchill did win, in 1953.

Both men were aficianadoes of good whiskey and good cigars. Both men suffered from depression in old age.

Both men made a living writing, early in their careers as newspaper correspondents. One waged wars of a kind the other campaigned against. Both were sustained by their hope for the human race, against overwhelming evidence that such hope was sadly misplaced.


Both endured fantastic failures that would have killed other people, and both rebounded.

Both men are worth study.

Twain, on prisons versus education: “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” – Speech, November 23, 1900

Churchill on the evil men and nations do:

“No One Would Do Such Things”

“So now the Admiralty wireless whispers through the ether to the tall masts of ships, and captains pace their decks absorbed in thought. It is nothing. It is less than nothing. It is too foolish, too fantastic to be thought of in the twentieth century. Or is it fire and murder leaping out of the darkness at our throats, torpedoes ripping the bellies of half-awakened ships, a sunrise on a vanished naval supremacy, and an island well-guarded hitherto, at last defenceless? No, it is nothing. No one would do such things. Civilization has climbed above such perils. The interdependence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the Hague Convention, Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible. Are you quite sure? It would be a pity to be wrong. Such a mistake could only be made once—once for all.”

—1923, recalling the possibility of war between France and Germany after the Agadir Crisis of 1911, in The World Crisis,vol. 1, 1911-1914, pp. 48-49.

Image of Twain aboard ship – origin unknown. Image of Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine.

More on Mark Twain

More on Winston Churchill

Orson Welles, with Dick Cavett, on Churchill, his wit, humor and grace (tip of the old scrub brush to the Churchill Centre):


3 Responses to Whiskey and cigar day: Twain and Churchill

  1. bernarda says:

    Author Jim Zwick used to have a good Mark Twain site called Boondocks, but he had to close it because other sites were taking his material and then hijacking browser search references.

    You can still find a few things here, and if you search “jim zwick” you will find some of the stuff he had on his site that was taken by others.



  2. Bret says:

    Thanks for the post, Ed. It brings back memories of visiting Twain’s childhood home and environs in Hannibal, Missouri, including the nearby cave that he frequented. Here’s an excerpt from his autobiography regarding the cave: http://twainquotes.com/Cave.html (p.s. The body of the girl has since been removed from the cave)

    I also visited one of his homes in Hartford, Connecticut. http://www.marktwainhouse.org/ There was a fancy carved headboard on his bed, and he insisted on sleeping with his head near the footboard – since he paid so much for the headboard, he wanted to be able to see it while in bed.


  3. Churchill met Twain during a speaking tour of the U.S. at the end of December, 1900. Twain introduced Churchill and said, “… Mr. Churchill by his father is an Englishman, by his mother he is an American, no doubt a blend that makes the perfect man …” Churchill used this theme in a speech on 26 December 1941 to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, “I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been an American and my mother British, instead of the other way round, I might have got here on my own. In that case, this would not have been the first time you would have heard my voice.”
    On 22 January 1901, Twain autographed for Churchill his 25-volume set, THE WRITINGS OF MARK TWAIN. Twain wrote on Volume 1, “To be good is noble; to teach others how to be good is nobler and no trouble.”


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