Sam's Shorts

If you’ve ever wanted to dive deeper into Twain's works but haven't known where to start, Sam’s Shorts is your opportunity!

Each month, we’re bringing you a brief passage from one of his less-familiar works, including his speeches, essays, short stories, and letters, and inviting you to read, reflect, and respond. Then we’ll share what we learned from your responses, answer some of your questions, and tell you a bit more about the background and context of the piece. Your responses help us develop new programs for adults and teach Twain’s writing to students. They’ll also help us pick new shorts for you to read and enjoy!

You can also read all previous Sam’s Shorts selections with reader feedback and additional context.

From a letter to Livy Clemens, January 1869

I have seen your young gentlemen womenhaters often—I know them intimately. They are infallibly & invariably unimportant whelps with vast self-conceit & a skull full of oysters, which they take a harmless satisfaction in regarding as brains. They are day-dreamers, & intensely romantic, though they would have the world think otherwise. Their pet vanity is to be considered “men of the world”—& they generally know about as much of the world as a horse knows about metaphysics. They are powerfully sustained in their woman-hating & kept well up to the mark by the secret chagrin of observing that no woman above mediocrity ever manifests the slightest interest in them—they come without creating a sensation, & go again without anybody seeming to know it. They are coarse, & vulgar, & mean—these people—& they know it. Neither men or women admire them much or love them—& they know that, also. [in margin: I wish I could see you, Livy.] They thirst for applause—any poor cheap applause of their “eccentricity” is manna in the desert to them—& they suffer in noticing that the world is stupidly unconscious of them & exasperatingly indifferent to them. When sense dawns upon these creatures, how suddenly they discover that they have been pitiable fools—but they are full forty years old, then, & they sigh to feel that those years & pleasures they might have borne, are wasted, & lost to them for all time. I do pity a womanhater with all my heart. The spleen he suffers is beyond comprehension.

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Read the rest

Drawn from SLC to Olivia L. Langdon, 14 Jan 1869, Davenport, Iowa (UCCL 00232).” In Mark Twain’s Letters, 1869. Edited by Victor Fischer, Michael B. Frank, and Dahlia Armon. Mark Twain Project Online. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. 1992, 2007.

You can read the full letter on the website of the Mark Twain Project.

Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, and the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign and its Travelers Arts Impact Grant program with major support from The Travelers Foundation.