In odd moments now and then – I have lots of odd moments – I wonder if Mark Twain ever said anything that wasn’t designed to become an epithet, witticism, or ironic Truth. He must have done, surely. There must have been times when he said things not worthy of repetition (as often as not inaccurate) by later generations.
“I need to go take a dump,” he may well have said; most blokes do sooner or later. It’s part of our infinite charm as a gender.
“Look at the knockers on that,” was allegedly one of his favourite observations. No doubt he was also not averse to observing, “that bird’s got a bum like two kids fighting under a blanket”.
Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens – which is a lot less snappy, and probably explains why he wrote under another one. The name he chose was (natch) a jeu de mot about how Mississippi River navigators kept the Captain informed about the water depth: the second mark on the rod measuring depth signified two fathoms, or twelve feet— a safe depth for steamboats. Old english for Second Mark is Mark Twain.
This is a picture of Sam Clemens. As you can see, like most Deep South Americans of his generation he was 34% moustache and short of a good barber. A high proportion of inbred Southerners at the time were born without any top lip, and so the chosen method of hiding this unfortunate birth defect was to grow nasal hair slowly from the age of sixteen onwards. I apologise for that utterly offensive slur against the Confederate cause, but I’m in playful mood tonight so get over it.
Truth is, Twain did not support the Confederate cause. On the whole he thought it the cause of a lot of trouble Americans could’ve done without. He was a voluble opponent of slavery, and generally a man of the Left who supported Trade Unions. But his twin advantages over Marcus Brigstock were that he supported such things when it could get you lynched; and also he was funny, whereas Brigstock is less funny than eboli.
Not many people know this, but at one time or another Twain saved the best part of two hundred negroes from being lynched by hiding them in his nasal hair. The main reason not many people are aware of this fact is that it’s not true.
It says a lot about the present day that one has to go back 150 years in order to find safe laughter, even if it is politically incorrect and surreal.
But contemporary truths beat anything Salvador Dali might have imagined.
Today, BHS closed its last 22 stores, but the former owner’s £100m yacht remains afloat. Last Monday, MPs gave themselves a pensions increase, but hundreds of thousands of Waspi women are doing without any pension at all. Cuts have been announced to the NHS right across Britain, while $21 trillion of tax evasion continues in tax havens across the world, and UK-based multinationals pay an average tax rate of 6.5%.
Keeping a very low profile at the moment are Sir Philip Green, Damian Green, and Jeremy Hunt. On the whole, cowardly of them….but very wise.