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Old 25 August 2012, 07:24 PM
Loopus Loopus is offline
 
 
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Default Mark Twain quote about death

Here's one I've run across on the Internet a few times

"I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." --Mark Twain

While this does kinda sound like something Twain might say, what gets me is the "billions and billions" reference, because I don't think that the universe was understood to be that old back then. People were only beginning to understand that it might be on the order of millions.

I've never seen the quote sourced.
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  #2  
Old 29 August 2012, 06:01 AM
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BrianB BrianB is offline
 
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Interestingly, WikiQuotes also expresses skepticism about the quote:
Quote:
Quoted in Dawkins, Richard (2006). "A Much Needed Gap?". The God Delusion. Bantam Press. p. 354. ISBN 0-618-68000-4., but no source is given. Note that during Twain's life the Age of the Earth was thought to be measured in tens of millions not billions of years.
Also this site asked the same question on 18 December 2006 and also found a few other versions. A search on TwainQuotes.com comes up empty. In addition, a search for "death" on TwainQuotes.com gives no matches to the OP. And nothing on TwainWeb.net either.

I found several quotes from Mark Twain about death but not the OP one. In fact, the following is the closest to the OP quote I can find :
Quote:
While you are asleep you are dead; and whether you stay dead an hour or a billion years the time to you is the same.
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1896
As the WikiQuotes article mentions it's quoted in Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. Unfortunately, Dawkins (apparently) doesn't say where he found it. While searching for this quote I noticed that there are only a handful of references prior to 2007 and none before 2006. In fact, the earliest reference to this quote I've found is this Usenet post dated 6 January 2006. And not one reference to this quote says where it's from.

Brian

Last edited by BrianB; 29 August 2012 at 06:19 AM. Reason: 1. Forgot a period. 2. Realized I duplicated a quote.
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  #3  
Old 29 August 2012, 06:45 AM
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erwins erwins is offline
 
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Here's a slightly different version in a post from 2005--not written as a direct quote:

"Mr. Clemens was once asked whether he feared death. He said that he did not, in view of the fact that he had been dead for billions and billions of years before he was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.
~Mark Twain
"

Here's another one of that same version from 2004. http://forum.quoteland.com/eve/forum...2926#143102926

This version is from Jan. 2004, and sounds even less likely to me:

"Death - a great Leveler - a king before whose tremendous majesty shades and differences in littleness cannot be discerned - an Alp from whose summit all small things are the same size. (Mr. Clemens was once asked whether he feared death. He said that he did not, in view of the fact that he had been dead for billions and billions of years before he was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.)
Author
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)"

http://vacilando.net/quotation/death...tleness-cannot

ETA: The version at the top of this post is in this post from 2002. http://messages.finance.yahoo.com/St...=2&frt=2&off=1

And another one from 2002. http://roadoutofeden.com/Famous_Quotes___Appendix.html

This post points out that there's a "transitional" version on this page (about 1/2 way down):

"[I] do not fear death. [I] had been dead for billions and billions of years before [I] was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

None of these versions cite a source.

Last edited by erwins; 29 August 2012 at 06:57 AM.
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  #4  
Old 29 August 2012, 07:11 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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Quote:
Note that during Twain's life the Age of the Earth was thought to be measured in tens of millions not billions of years.
Nitpick: Well, yes, but a relative eternity was sometimes described as billions of years. (But I also doubt the quote belongs to Samuel Clemens.)
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  #5  
Old 29 August 2012, 07:56 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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Here is a quote from his autobiography that comes close. It seems likely to me that it was paraphrased and the quotes were added later. (This is not one of the many fake online quotes. I confirmed it in the 1959 printed edition.)
Quote:
Annihilation has no terrors for me, because I have already tried it before I was born—a hundred million years—and I have suffered more in an hour, in this life, than I remember to have suffered in the whole hundred million years put together.
Incidentally, in the only reference I could find to his use of "billions" in his written works (not letters), it was defined as a million million, not the modern American meaning of a thousand million.

Last edited by ganzfeld; 29 August 2012 at 08:05 AM.
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Old 29 August 2012, 08:09 AM
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Barbara Barbara is offline
 
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These are the guys to ask:

Mark Twain Project

http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/MTP/
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  #7  
Old 29 August 2012, 11:18 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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And they have another very useful page:
http://www.marktwainproject.org/

Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
It seems likely to me that it was paraphrased and the quotes were added later.
I mean the quote in the OP was paraphrased, of course, not the one in my post, which I confirmed in the print edition.
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