Mark Twain Did Not Write Valentines

Mark Twain is deservedly remembered for his barbed wit, for lines like these from his Notebooks:

"Familiarity breeds contempt -- and children."

"There has been only one Christian. They caught him and crucified him -- early."

But every now and then he's picked as the avatar of inspiration or even what Oscar Wilde called "more than usually revolting sentimentality."

Exhibit A, found all over the Internet, including that inexhaustible source of misquotations Goodreads:

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Could anyone who's read Twain or even read about Twain possibly think he'd say something this smarmy and illogical? And if so, how?

It's as incongruously Twain's as this other quotation that's run amok across the Internet, spread by people eager to associate any thought at all with some distinguished American author, preferably dead:

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Yes, unbeknownst to most scholars of Gilded Age authors, the great satirist really wanted to write soap operas and greeting cards....

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The maudlin violets quote has been been sadly mis-attributed to Twain for some decades with the help of the Dear Abby advice column. More recently, it got the imprimatur on NPR of self-improvement guru Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (W for Wikiquote?).

You'd think that someone looked up to for enlightenment by tens of millions of people might want to get his facts straight. All he'd have to do was consult Google to see the quote show up as problematic right away (forget that Dyer has a tin ear).

If you want to check a Twain quote, it's very easy: There's Barbara Schmidt's web site TwainQuotes.com. Then you get the real man, not a fake reeking of crushed violets and Victorian sentimentality.

Lev Raphael is the author of the Gilded Age novel Rosedale in Love and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery which you can find on Amazon.