“I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” – Mark Twain
But it’s not Twain.
To be more precise, there is no record of its being Twain.
When I first saw the quote Sunday night, I almost tried to track it down. It was too perfect, too seductive, the perfect way to express joy in another’s death.
And it set my crap detector (thank you, Howard Rheingold) abuzz.
But I was too busy reading commentary and then working on a @Storify tale of the relationship between the news and Twitter to give it much thought.
The quote continued to punctuate my Twitter timeline tonight. The itch demanded scratching.
A straight search from Google was not helpful. Given the search engine’s desire to serve up real-time info, that’s what I got: a bunch of tweets and Facebook status updates. So I went straight to WikiQuote. No joy. Next, TwainQuotes. No joy. Finally, BrainyQuote and ThinkExist. No joy here, either.
I changed my search. I broke the phrase into two parts.
“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” – Clarence Darrow
Note the first clause has morphed.
The two were contemporaries: Darrow, 1857-1938; Twain, 1835-1910. Both were known for their wit, although one was a lawyer while the other was a writer/humorist.
But it’s still not Twain.
It turns out Twain expressed a similar sentiment, according to online sources of quotations (and Scott, in the comments):