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On Originality

Mark Twain on Originality

My son Gian bought me the second volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography for my birthday. It was an extremely meaningful gift and a really long story of how he wanted to get the book he knew his mother wanted but was thwarted at every turn. It is a tale worthy of Twain himself, but I’m not going into that right now. These two volumes of Twain’s essays, recollections, and observations are fascinating to read. Imagine if Twain had a blog today. This would be exactly what this is like.

Am I standing upon the world’s back and looking east toward the rising sun and west toward the setting sun? That is a handsome figure! I wonder if it has been used before. It probably has. Most things that are said have been said before. In fact all things that are said have been said before. Moreover they have been said many millions of times. This is a sad thing for the human race that sits up nine nights in the week to admire its own originality. The race has always been able to think well of itself, and it doesn’t like people who throw bricks at its naive self-appreciation. It is sensitive upon this point. The other day I furnished a sentiment in response to a man’s request — to wit:

“The noblest work of God?” Man.

“Who found it out?” Man.

I thought it wwas very good, and smart, but the other person didn’t.
Mark Twain
Autobiography of Mark Twain, vol. 2 (p. 18)

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