Mark Twain (1835–1910)
Reprinted in Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays 1852–1890
“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" is one of the more famous of the quotes Mark Twain never actually said or wrote. Twain included a similar quip in an April 1880 letter: “‘Did you ever see such a winter in all your life before?’ ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘last summer.’” Yet Twain was merely quoting (with credit) the English actor James Quin (1693–1766)—and they both were actually referring to Paris.
The irony here is that San Francisco was Twain’s destination late in the summer of 1863, when he was trying to escape the Lake Tahoe region of Nevada to recuperate from a cold that had plagued him for six weeks. And while he was recuperating in the city he wrote one of his most famous and enduring comic pieces, “How to Cure a Cold,” in which he is presented with a plethora of folk remedies—and desperately decides to try all of them.
Image, above: “Mark Twain, America’s best humorist,” cartoon by Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, from the December 16, 1885, issue of Puck. Courtesy of Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.