On the Decay of the Art of Lying by Mark Twain 

★★★★☆ (4/5)

Mark Twain’s commentary on America’s Gilded Age is succinct, good-natured and sufficiently  humorous to make one deliberate upon the nature of Lying. Lack of verity, rooted in societal structures, will only lead to corruption of the self. This short read was quite reminiscent of the writings of Francis Bacon.

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man’s best and surest friend, is immortal, and cannot perish from the earth
  • It had been my intention, at this point, to mention names and to give illustrative specimens, but indications observable about me admonished me to beware of the particulars and confine myself to generalities
  • An awkward, unscientific lie is often as ineffectual as the truth.
  • The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying
  • The man who speaks an injurious truth lest his soul be not saved if he do otherwise, should reflect that that sort of a soul is not strictly worth saving
  • Lying is universal—we all do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others’ advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling
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