Mark Twain’s Complaint

I am a mild-mannered thing who has had to learn, painstakingly over the years, to speak up for herself after erring on the side of excessive kindness more times than I care to count. I tend to keep my cool and speak logically when lodging a formal complaint, but on occasions it has been tempting to…shall we say…”stray” from that formula and unleash a torrent of sardonic witticisms instead.

The following letter, written in 1905 to J. H. Todd (a snake oil salesman whose “Elixir of Life” was alleged to cure even the most terminal of medical conditions) is especially poignant for me, as I’ve experienced enough horrid encounters with the medical system to fill a series of elaborate novels.


Nov. 20. 1905

J. H. Todd

1212 Webster St.

San Francisco, Cal.

Dear Sir,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the person who has puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain


Cannot type/talk due to severe illness (all words courtesy of voice software or kind typing helpers)…I read and appreciate all comments…Apologies for not being able to respond.


3 Responses to “Mark Twain’s Complaint”

  1. Sending this one to my dad for sure! He will enjoy Twain’s wit 🙂

  2. “…scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link.”

    Hahah! I love epic insults like that!

  3. Find more there:

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