the human race has one really effective weapon

“The Very Best Thing in All this World”


twain_tesla_labThe 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.


Author: Laughter

I like music and philosophy. And baseball.

2 thoughts on ““The Very Best Thing in All this World”

  1. I hadn’t heard of this story before, but it reminds me of something Twain wrote in Life on the Mississippi, in Chapter 53 in which he returns to his hometown of Hannibal after becoming a famous author. Unrecognized after so many years away and traveling under an alias, he asks an elderly local resident about various people he used to know. Regarding a particular boy that the old man considered “a perfect dummy; just a stupid ass,” the man complains that the boy grew up to become a prominent lawyer in St. Louis. He says this proves just how stupid the people of St. Louis are. At last Twain asks about himself and the old man replies, “Oh, he succeeded well enough — another case of damned fool. If they’d sent him to St. Louis, he’d have succeeded sooner.”

    • Hahaha. That’s awesome. I still need to read “Life on the Mississippi.” I might steal that line for use somewhere down the line. “Another case of a damned fool. If only they had sent him to St. Louis…”

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