An argument with Mark Twain about the weather

One of my favorite authors, and one to which Connecticut lays partial claim, is Sam Clemens. I call him Sam, his right and true name, in the assured confidence that, had we been born in the same time period and had occasion to meet, we would have been fast friends. Not because I am in any way on par with his ability or intelligence but because he’s dead, and so I can believe what I want without fear of being proven wrong.

Someday the worms will call me dinner and I may meet Clemens in the afterlife. If, at that point, it turns out that we have a terrible disdain for each other, I will be sure to write a retraction. As Mark Twain and I are — or would have been — such great friends, I have decided to devote this bit of literary spittle to him.

This is a very friendly person. Just oozes friendliness. Has "happiness" written all over his moustache.

We got through the October snowstorm with power and heat, only to lose it Monday morning. Here, sitting in my cold house, I am warming myself with some Clemens weather wisdom, a subject on which Twain wrote quite a bit. So I will offer, for your enjoyment, a few of his musings on the subject, followed by my own responses, should they have been said in conversation over a gimlet or whisky sour.


“I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don’t know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk’s factory who experiment and learn how.”

Yeah, OK, Sam. Whatever you say. You don’t like it? Move to southern California, where the weather-clerk must be on the take. Snow on our jack-o-lanterns seems a bit wrong somehow, but do you think complaining about it will make it any better?


“A great deal has been said about the weather, but very little has ever been done.”

Exactly what do you want us to do, Mr. Know-It-All? Oh, wait, I’ll go get my Cesna and we can sprinkle some good-weather-juice in the upper atmosphere. Or, I suppose we could just compose pithy and piquant sayings in the hope it makes people feel better. Your choice, Sam.


“Winter is begun here, now, I suppose. It blew part of the hair off the dog yesterday and got the rest this morning.”

Are you saying that cold weather is a hangover cure, Clemens? Or maybe you just couldn’t think of an appropriate folksy metaphor so just through in a cliche and hoped for the best. How about, “Winter is begun here, now, I suppose. It snowed.” But, no. That’s not good enough. Nobody would quote that in 100 years, would they?


“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

OK, now you’re just talking crazy-talk. Of course he learns something — he learns not to abuse cats. And what the heck does that have to do with the weather? Nothing, that’s what. Well, I’ll tell you what, a man who carries a fish by the ear learns something, too — that fish don’t have ears (though I admit there were other ways he could have learned that lesson).


“I like criticism, but it must be my way.”

You can dish it out, but you can’t take it, huh? Some humorist you are. Can’t take a joke. I say we settle this the old fashioned way. Let’s step outside and I’ll beat you to a bloody pulp, and I’m not talking about a Bloody Mary with the tomato pulp left in it, either.


“If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet retired spot and kill him.”

Is that a threat?


“Forget and forgive. This is not difficult, when properly understood.”

Oh, alright. I never could stay mad at you. It’s the white hair and mustache. And I always was a sucker for a well-turned phrase.


“We are all erring creatures, and mainly idiots, but God made us so and it is dangerous to criticise.”

You said it.

Jordan Fenster is the entertainment editor at the New Haven Register. He can be reached by email at Follow us on Twitter at or find us at Text NHNEWS to 22700 to get news alerts directly to your cell phone. Standard message and data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.


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