clothes and buttons

Mark Twain

What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, and every day, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his “thoughts,” not those other things, are his history. His acts and his words are merely the visible, thin crust of his world, with its scattered snow summits and its vacant wastes of water – and they are so trifling a part of his bulk! a mere skin enveloping it. The mass of him is hidden – it and its volcanic fires that toss and boil, and never rest, night, nor day. These are his life, and they are not written, and cannot be written. Every day would make a whole book of eighty thousand words – three hundred and sixty-five books a year. Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man – the biography of the man himself cannot be written.
~ Mark Twain
(Studies in Biography)

Happy Birthday, Mr. Twain!

8 thoughts on “clothes and buttons”

  1. Mark Twain was so wise, and he recognized the depth of us which can hardly be shared. I remember reading Mark Twain’s work as a young teenager and the way the librarian was shocked that a teenager would be checking out this kind of book.

    1. Makes me wonder what the librarian had to say about your book selection when she went home and had dinner with her family that day. 🙂 “Letters from the Earth” was a favorite topic of conversation in our high school, and recently my dad asked me to find a copy of it for him. Twain’s wit and wisdom is ageless.

  2. I love Twain. I saw Hal Holbrook’s one-man show in Connecticut many years ago, and have read a couple of Twain biographies. But I don’t remember ever seeing that quote — it’s a gem.

    Thanks, Barbara.

    1. You’re welcome, Charles. What a treat that must have been to see Hal Holbrook as Twain! I’ve seen some clips of the show on YouTube but it must have been so memorable to have seen him live. When you were in Connecticut did you also get to see the Mark Twain house in Hartford? I visited it a few years back, with my dad, another Twain fan.

      The quote is also found in “Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete & Authoritative Edition” a huge volume which was published in 2010. If I remember correctly he didn’t want his full autobiography published until 100 years after his death.

    1. He was truly a genius – and to think how little we know of what was going on inside, under that “thin crust of his world.”

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