The following is from Mark Twain’s short story “Luck,” first published in Harper’s Magazine in 1891.
Just to provide a little context, the story begins at a banquet in London, where a war hero, alias Arthur Scoresby, is being honored for his bravery and intelligence in battle. His renown is so great that he is described as a “demigod” unconscious of the “sincere worship” lavished upon him by the military and the public alike. During the ceremony, a clergyman leans over to the narrator and informs him that Scoresby is, in reality, “an absolute fool.” As proof, the clergyman offers up an account of his time in the military, where he served as Scoresby’s tutor and unwitting accomplice. Right at the end of the story, we get this brilliant and bitter summary of Scoresby’s success. It made my morning commute through the snow a bit more tolerable:
He is just as good and sweet and lovable and unpretending as a man can be, but he doesn’t know enough to come in when it rains. Now that is absolutely true. He is the supremest ass in the universe; and until half an hour ago nobody knew it but himself and me. He has been pursued, day by day and year by year, by a most phenomenal and astonishing luckiness. He has been a shining soldier in all our wars for a generation; he has littered his whole military life with blunders, and yet has never committed one that didn’t make him a knight or a baronet or a lord or something. Look at his breast; why, he is just clothed in domestic and foreign decorations. Well, sir, every one of them is the record of some shouting stupidity or other; and taken together, they are proof that the very best thing in all this world that can befall a man is to be born lucky.