Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain: Savage Wits: A Twofer

Born today were Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift.

For skewering sarcasm, each had a gift.

Which of them was more profane?

You make the call. Was it Swift or Mark Twain?

Swift and Twain: A Table Talk:

Swift: And he gave it for his opinion, "that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.

Twain: Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reasons.

Swift: We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.

Twain: Man is kind enough when he is not excited by religion.

Swift: Principally, I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth.

Twain: What is man? Man is a noisome bacillus whom our Heavenly Father created because he was disappointed in the monkey.

Swift: A soldier is a "Yahoo" hired to kill in cold blood as many of his own species who have never offended him, as possibly he can.

Twain: Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War.  He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind.  He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out... and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.... And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for "the universal brotherhood of man" - with his mouth.



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  • I'm not sure about profane, but maybe not in the sense of current comedy clubs.

    On the other hand, with regard to the last paragraph, I'm sure there are cannibalistic animals, felines mark their territory, and most horned animals fight over females and send the losers into exile. Maybe not as senseless as war, but I believe that aggression is innate in the genes rather than sui generis.

  • In reply to jack:

    That might be, but we're supposed to be rational, remember?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    We are, but most of the Internet disproves that about others.

    Also, one could consider rational that the U.S. sends a drone up the butt of the al-Qaeda leader of of the week instead of troops. At least an argument can be made to support it.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    To get back to the animal cannibal point, aside from the rational point, Discover has some examples (mostly insects, but including lions) but the most in point one is the bloodthirsty chimp (image 10 of 10).

  • This is too good! Thanks, AW

  • AW and Jack--who are real satirists, now?

    Just wondering, who did the portraits of Swift and Twain... is that last painting by Thomas Hart Benton?

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    You can click on the pictures and accept the redirect to obtain the provenance. From that, picture #3 appears to be an illustration from Gulliver's Travels, but mentions that there are several editions. and a search indicates several illustrators. Similarly, #4 is said to be from the Mo. State Museum; that source doesn't say who the painter is either, but Googling indicates that you are correct about Benton.

  • I didn't know you could click on the pictures. How about that....
    Thank you, Jack!

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    That came up on the CTA Tattler. Originally there was some defect in the software and you would get the "I don't understand what you mean" screen, but they must have fixed it.

  • Jack, you are a cyber wunderkind.

  • How great that these two shared the date. It reminds me of a recent ('09?) biography of Andrew Carnegie, born Nov. 25, who was a great friend of Twain. They began their letters "Dear Saint Andrew" and "Dear Saint Mark." Sorry to admit that the name of the biographer escapes me... shouldn't, when it was a huge book and it's at home on my shelves.

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