In 2012, we have the benefit of having had a couple of years to digest Twain’s Autobiography, and we have the benefit of new scholarship and a major new book on Churchill, William Manchester’s and Paul Reid’s The Last Lion.
Twain had a comment on the Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education:
In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.
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 aficionados 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.
Each possessed a great facility with words, and wit, and frequently said or wrote things that people like to remember and repeat again.
Both of them rank near the top of the list of people to whom almost any quote will be attributed if the quote is witty and the speaker can’t remember, or doesn’t know, who actually said it.
Both men are worth study. And wouldn’t you really love to have had them over to dinner?
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. (Obviously, and sadly, Churchill was wrong — twice wrong.)
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
- Mark Twain Quotations
- Mark Twain in His Time, University of Virginia (see especially the photo of Twain — with an electric light? — on the opening page)
- Mark Twain, a film by Ken Burns
- The Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut
- Ain’t it great that we’ve finally got the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography this year?
More on Winston Churchill
- Nobel Prize in Literature, 1953
- Churchill Centre, London
- Churchill quotations, from the Churchill Centre
- National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri (an excellent place to visit, great resources for students)
- Washington Post review of The Last Lion
Orson Welles, with Dick Cavett, on Churchill, his wit, humor and grace (tip of the old scrub brush to the Churchill Centre):
More, contemporary reports from 2012:
- Ready for November 30? Humidor set? Liquor stocked? (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- On This Day In 1835, Mark Twain is Born (rememberinghistory.wordpress.com)
- OMG! First Use of Abbreviation Found in a 1917 Letter to Winston Churchill (newsfeed.time.com)
- HAPPY 177th BIRTHDAY MARK TWAIN! MARK TWAIN was a GENIUS American author, novelist, satirist and humorist, who is most famous for writing “The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” (greatkat.wordpress.com)
- Winston Churchill: The Ultimate CEO (greatfinds.icrossing.com)