Sunday, October 18, 2015
Mark Twain says
I have lived a severely moral life. But it would be a mistake for other people to try that, or for me to recommend it. Very few would succeed: you have to have a perfectly colossal stock of morals; and you can’t get them on a margin; you have to have the whole thing, and put them in your box. Morals are an acquirement--like music, like a foreign language, like piety, poker, paralysis--no man is born with them. I wasn’t myself, I started poor. I hadn’t a single moral. There is hardly a man in this house that is poorer than I was then. Yes, I started like that--the world before me, not a moral in the slot. Not even an insurance moral. I can remember the first one I ever got. I can remember the landscape, the weather, the--I can remember how everything looked. It was an old moral, an old second-hand moral, all out of repair, and didn’t fit, anyway. But if you are careful with a thing like that, and keep it in a dry place, and save it for processions, and Chautauquas, and World’s Fairs, and so on, and disinfect it now and then, and give it a fresh coat of whitewash once in a while, you will be surprised to see how well she will last and how long she will keep sweet, or at least inoffensive. When I got that mouldy old moral, she had stopped growing, because she hadn’t any exercise; but I worked her hard, I worked her Sundays and all. Under this cultivation she waxed in might and stature beyond belief, and served me well and was my pride and joy for sixty-three years; then she got to associating with insurance presidents, and lost flesh and character, and was a sorrow to look at and no longer competent for business. She was a great loss to me. Yet not all loss. I sold her--ah, pathetic skeleton, as she was--I sold her to Leopold, the pirate King of Belgium; he sold her to our Metropolitan Museum, and it was very glad to get her, for without a rag on, she stands 57 feet long and 16 feet high, and they think she’s a brontosaur. Well, she looks it. They believe it will take nineteen geological periods to breed her match.