Mark Twain? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, I encountered an insightful quotation about courage attributed to Mark Twain that I had not seen before:
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, and not the absence of fear.
Is this a genuine Twain quotation? Where did it appear?
Quote Investigator: In December 1893 Mark Twain began to serialize the novel “Pudd’nhead Wilson” in “The Century Magazine”. 1 In 1894 he published the full work under the title “The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy Those Extraordinary Twins”. The twelfth chapter began with the following lengthy epigraph. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 2
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose misapplication of the word. Consider the flea!—incomparably the bravest of all the creatures of God, if ignorance of fear were courage.
Whether you are asleep or awake he will attack you, caring nothing for the fact that in bulk and strength you are to him as are the massed armies of the earth to a sucking child; he lives both day and night and all days and nights in the very lap of peril and the immediate presence of death, and yet is no more afraid than is the man who walks the streets of a city that was threatened by an earthquake ten centuries before.
When we speak of Clive, Nelson, and Putnam as men who “didn’t know what fear was,” we ought always to add the flea—and put him at the head of the procession.
—Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1894 March, The Century Magazine, Volume 47, Number 5, (Serialization begun in December 1893; target quotation appeared in March 1894), Section: Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, (epigraph at beginning of chapter 12), Quote Page 772, The Century Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link ↩
- 1894, The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson; And the Comedy Those Extraordinary Twins by Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens), Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, (Epigraph at beginning of chapter 12), Quote Page 155, American Publishing Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link ↩