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On the Decay of the Art of Lying   By: (1835-1911)

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In "On the Decay of the Art of Lying," Mark Twain masterfully explores the intricacies of lying and its role in society. As an essay, it is a concise yet thought-provoking work that showcases Twain's wit and astute observations.

The book begins with a satirical tone as Twain states that he intends to speak the "truth" and explores the idea that lying has become inelegant and less sophisticated over time. Through clever anecdotes and humorous examples, the author challenges the notion that lying is inherently immoral or unethical.

Twain delves into various aspects of lying, discussing its many different forms and purposes. He highlights the difference between lying for personal gain or sheer malicious intent, and lying as a means to protect someone's feelings or to promote harmony in social interactions. He argues that such "white lies" are often essential for maintaining relationships and upholding social etiquette.

Moreover, Twain skillfully dissects the art of lying, examining the role of exaggeration and embellishment in storytelling. He argues that these creative liberties not only enhance the narrative experience but also serve as a form of social lubricant, bringing people closer together through shared fictional experiences.

Throughout the essay, Twain poses thought-provoking questions and challenges conventional beliefs surrounding lying. He presents arguments that skeptically scrutinize the unquestioned virtue of always telling the truth. Instead, he advocates for a more nuanced approach, acknowledging the importance of honesty but suggesting that lying has its place in society.

While "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" is an essay published over a century ago, its relevancy remains undiminished. Twain's insights into the complex nature of lying and its societal implications still resonate today. His wit and clever prose make this book an enjoyable and captivating read, even for those who may initially be skeptical of a book on the topic of lying.

Overall, "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" is a remarkable piece of literature that sparks contemplation and challenges conventional wisdom. Mark Twain's unique perspective, combined with his sharp humor and undeniable intelligence, make this essay a fascinating exploration of a topic that continues to be relevant in our lives.

First Page:


by Mark Twain [Sameul Clemens]


[] Did not take the prize.

Observe, I do not mean to suggest that the custom of lying has suffered any decay or interruption no, for the Lie, as a Virtue, A Principle, is eternal; 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 while this club remains. My complaint simply concerns the decay of the art of lying. No high minded man, no man of right feeling, can contemplate the lumbering and slovenly lying of the present day without grieving to see a noble art so prostituted. In this veteran presence I naturally enter upon this theme with diffidence; it is like an old maid trying to teach nursery matters to the mothers in Israel. It would not become to me to criticise you, gentlemen who are nearly all my elders and my superiors, in this thing if I should here and there seem to do it, I trust it will in most cases be more in a spirit of admiration than fault finding; indeed if this finest of the fine arts had everywhere received the attention, the encouragement, and conscientious practice and development which this club has devoted to it, I should not need to utter this lament, or shred a single tear... Continue reading book >>

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