Mark Twain? Albert Bigelow Paine? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: There are a set of statements attributed to the famous humorist Mark Twain about allowable behaviors in heaven:
- If I cannot swear in heaven I shall not stay there.
- If I cannot drink bourbon in heaven, then I shall not go.
- If I can’t smoke cigars in heaven, I won’t stay there long.
Did Twain really make any of these remarks?
Quote Investigator: After Mark Twain’s death in 1910 Albert Bigelow Paine who was his friend became his literary executor with access to his papers and notebooks. In 1912 Paine published an important multi-volume biography of Twain.
In 1935 Paine published “Mark Twain’s Notebook” which included observations, ideas, and diary-like material from Twain’s collection of notebooks. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
If all men were rich, all men would be poor.
Let us swear while we may, for in heaven it will not be allowed.
Familiarity breeds contempt. How accurate that is. The reason we hold truth in such respect is because we have so little opportunity to get familiar with it.
If I cannot swear in heaven I shall not stay there.
Twain wrote down notions such as those above in his notebooks because he felt they might be useful later while composing a speech, essay, or story. Paine selected items from the notebooks for the 1935 publication.
QI has not yet found comments about smoking or drinking that match the template of the remark about swearing.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1935, Mark Twain’s Notebook by Mark Twain, Edited by Albert Bigelow Paine, Chapter 31: In Vienna, Quote Page 345, Harper & Brothers, New York. (Verified on paper) ↩