Top 15 Mark Twain Pipe Quotes

Because he smoked during every waking moment, Mark Twain was perhaps the most experienced smoker who ever lived, as well as one of literary history's most gifted writers. In fact, he is widely considered the father of American literature. Ernest Hemingway, not without immense writing gifts of his own, said, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."

Huckleberry Finn has considerable smoking sprinkled throughout, as do most of Mark Twain's works. Tobacco was a supremely important part of his life and it translated well to his fiction. He considered tobacco to be necessary for his craft. He found that he just couldn't write well unless he was smoking.

He had lots to say about smoking, often turning his wit and humor to the subject. Reading everything he wrote is a worthwhile but time-consuming affair, so we here at Smokingpipes have selected the best pipe and tobacco quotes from his works for easy reference. Here are the top 15 pipe quotes from the master of American humor, Mark Twain.

"As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep and never to refrain when awake." ("70th Birthday Speech," 1905)

"... when they used to tell me I would shorten my life ten years by smoking, they little knew the devotee they were wasting their puerile word upon — they little knew how trivial and valueless I would regard a decade that had no smoking in it!" (Letter to Joseph Twichell, December 19, 1870)

"... for the feeling I had during the moment when they presented me with that pipe and when Charley Pope was making his speech and I was making my reply to it — for the memory of that feeling, now, that pipe is more precious to me than any pipe in the world!" ("Reporting With Mark Twain," by Dan DeQuille, 1893)

"No good smoking tobacco in Europe — no Durham, Vanity F, Lone Jack — but I brought mine with me — been over before." (Journal entry, 1879)

"Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times." (attributed to Mark Twain)

"I don't want any of your statistics; I took your whole batch and lit my pipe with it.

"I hate your kind of people. You are always ciphering out how much a man's health is injured, and how much his intellect is impaired, and how many pitiful dollars and cents he wastes in the course of ninety-two years' indulgence in the fatal practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal practice of drinking coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in taking a glass of wine at dinner, etc. etc. And you are always figuring out how many women have been burned to death because of the dangerous fashion of wearing expansive hoops, etc. etc. You never see more than one side of the question.

Mark Twain (1907). Underwood & Underwood. Library of Congress.

"You are blind to the fact that most old men in America smoke and drink coffee, although, according to your theory, they ought to have died young; and that hearty old Englishmen drink wine and survive it, and portly old Dutchmen both drink and smoke freely, and yet grow older and fatter all the time. And you never try to find out how much solid comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment a man derives from smoking in the course of a lifetime (which is worth ten times the money he would save by letting it alone), nor the appalling aggregate of happiness lost in a lifetime by your kind of people from not smoking. Of course you can save money by denying yourself all those little vicious enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do with it? What use can you put it to? Money can't save your infinitesimal soul. All the use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment where is the use of accumulating cash?

"It won't do for you to say that you can use it to better purpose in furnishing a good table, and in charities, and in supporting tract societies, because you know yourself that you people who have no petty vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you stint yourselves so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and hungry. And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor wretch, seeing you in a good humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you; and in church you are always down on your knees, with your ears buried in the cushion, when the contribution-box comes around; and you never give the revenue officers a full statement of your income.

"Now you know all these things yourself, don't you? Very well, then, what is the use of your stringing out your miserable lives to a lean and withered old age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless to you? In a word, why don't you go off somewhere and die, and not be always trying to seduce people into becoming as ornery and unlovable as you are yourselves, by your villainous 'moral statistics?'

"Now, I don't approve of dissipation, and I don't indulge in it either; but I haven't a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices. And so I don't want to hear from you any more. I think you are the very same man who read me a long lecture last week about the degrading vice of smoking cigars, and then came back, in my absence, with your reprehensible fire-proof gloves on, and carried off my beautiful parlor stove." ("The Moral Statistician," Sketches, Old and New, 1893)

"I smoke a good deal. That is to say, all the time." ("Mental Telegraphy," 1891)

"Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn't. She said it was a mean practice and wasn't clean, and I must try not to do it any more. That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it. Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it. And she took snuff, too; of course, that was all right, because she done it herself." (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1884)

"At the hospitable mansion where I am a guest, I have to smoke surreptitiously when all are in bed, to save my reputation, and then draw suspicion upon the cat when the family detect the unfamiliar odor. I never was so absurdly proper in the broad light of day in my life ... so far, I am safe; but I am sorry to say that the cat has lost caste." (Letter to the Alta California, January 25, 1868)

"There is even a brand of European smoking-tobacco that I like. It is a brand used by the Italian peasants. It is loose and dry and black, and looks like tea-grounds. When the fire is applied it expands, and climbs up and towers above the pipe, and presently tumbles off inside of one's vest. The tobacco itself is cheap, but it raises the insurance. It is as I remarked in the beginning--the taste for tobacco is a matter of superstition. There are no standards — no real standards. Each man's preference is the only standard for him, the only one which he can accept, the only one which can command him." ("Concerning Tobacco," What is Man?, 1893)

"But we had an accident, now, and it fetched all the plans to a standstill. Tom's old ornery corn-cob pipe had got so old and swelled and warped that she couldn't hold together any longer, notwithstanding the strings and bandages, but caved in and went to pieces. Tom he didn't know what to do. The professor's pipe wouldn't answer; it warn't anything but a mershum, and a person that's got used to a cob pipe knows it lays a long ways over all the other pipes in this world. ..." (Tom Sawyer Abroad, Tom Sawyer Detective and Other Stories, 1896)

"Let me tell you briefly the history of my personal relation to tobacco. It began, I think, when I was a lad, and took the form of a quid, which I became expert in tucking under my tongue. Afterward I learned the delights of the pipe, and I suppose there was no other youngster of my age who could more deftly cut plug tobacco so as to make it available for pipe-smoking." (Speeches, around 1895)

"The farmers were bound to throw in something, to sort of offset my liberality, whether I would or no; so I let them give me a flint and steel; and as soon as they had comfortably bestowed Sandy and me on our horse, I lit my pipe. When the first blast of smoke shot out through the bars of my helmet, all those people broke for the woods, and Sandy went over backwards and struck the ground with a dull thud. They thought I was one of those fire-belching dragons they had heard so much about." (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, 1889)

"Soon there came a youth strolling toward us through the trees, and he sat down and began to talk in a friendly way, just as if he knew us. But we did not answer him, for he was a stranger and we were not used to strangers and were shy of them. He had new and good clothes on, and was handsome and had a winning face and a pleasant voice, and was easy and graceful and unembarrassed, not slouchy and awkward and diffident, like other boys. We wanted to be friendly with him, but didn't know how to begin. Then I thought of the pipe, and wondered if it would be taken as kindly meant if I offered it to him. But I remembered that we had no fire, so I was sorry and disappointed. But he looked up bright and pleased, and said:

"'Fire? Oh, that is easy; I will furnish it.'

"I was so astonished I couldn't speak; for I had not said anything. He took the pipe and blew his breath on it, and the tobacco glowed red, and spirals of blue smoke rose up. We jumped up and were going to run, for that was natural; and we did run a few steps, although he was yearningly pleading for us to stay, and giving us his word that he would not do us any harm, but only wanted to be friends with us and have company. So we stopped and stood, and wanted to go back, being full of curiosity and wonder, but afraid to venture. He went on coaxing, in his soft, persuasive way; and when we saw that the pipe did not blow up and nothing happened, our confidence returned by little and little, and presently our curiosity got to be stronger than our fear, and we ventured back — but slowly, and ready to fly at any alarm." (Mysterious Stranger, 1897-1908)

"As concerns tobacco, there are many superstitions. And the chiefest is this — that there is a STANDARD governing the matter, whereas there is nothing of the kind. Each man's own preference is the only standard for him, the only one which he can accept, the only one which can command him. A congress of all the tobacco-lovers in the world could not elect a standard which would be binding upon you or me, or would even much influence us." ("Concerning Tobacco," What is Man?, 1893)

Photographs of Mark Twain's pipes, taken at the Mark Twain museum in Hannibal

Assorted photographs of some of Mark Twain's pipes, taken at the Mark Twain museum in Hartford, Connecticut.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Famous Pipe Smokers Pipe Culture Quotes


    • Gene Bowker on October 23, 2021
    • Quite a few could be either cigar or pipe quotes, but Twain is always good for a good quote.

    • Michael Cherry on October 24, 2021
    • My favorite author Mark Twain written about by my second favorite Chuck Stanion. It just doesn't get any better.Your Obedient Servant;Michael Cherry

    • Joseph Kirkland on October 24, 2021
    • Kudos, Chuck.

    • Astrocomical on October 24, 2021
    • I chuckled at the "giving up smoking..." line. Hillaryous!

    • KEVIN RUYLE on October 24, 2021
    • My first corn cob came shortly after reading Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. How could my father deny me after forcing to read them. Of coarse he didn't condone smoking it even though he smoked a cob himself Ha Ha

    • Dan on October 24, 2021
    • "I never was so absurdly proper in the broad light of day in my life ..." had me chuckling. A wise man with my kind of humor.

    • Dan on October 24, 2021
    • Not to stray from the subject, but another master of American humor (imo) was Dave Berg (a pipe smoker); he was an American cartoonist for Mad magazine. A magazine that I grew up with. As I was surfing the web and spiraling down the Mad universe, I stumbled upon "THE MAD NON-SMOKERS HATE BOOK" PDF. There's a particular comic that hit my funny bone that reads "Don't you hate smokers who....affect phony smoking poses that are supposed to make them look smart and sophisticated!". In the picture are two people chatting with each other while striking a pose with their cigarettes, and there's one lone pipe smoker in the background smoking his pipe with his left leg cocked upon the window sill, left elbow on knee with pipe supported up to mouth by the left hand, right hand in jacket pocket, and he's staring out the window in deep contemplative thoughtšŸ¤£ I can't help but to wonder how many cigar and pipe smokers are guilty of striking a pose, lol. Oh, Al Jaffee just turned 100 years old and recently retired from MAD magazine, not sure if he smoked a pipe or not.

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