Let’s find out what does sleepy conscience mean from Mark Twain‘s quote, “Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life“.
This quote is taken from 1933 “Mark Twain’s Notebook” filled with random notes, maxims, squibs, hearsay, travelogues, and lectures.
Mark Twain said to have kept approximately 40 to 50 pocket notebooks in his lifetime.
Before I explain the meaning of ‘a sleepy conscience‘, let’s check on the quotation:
“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life”
(The Complete Works Of Mark Twain: Mark Twain’s Notebook, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935, Ch.XXXI, In Vienna, P. 347) source
(The quote is also found here and here.)
Note: The quote was written in the Austrian Archduchess Marie Theresa‘s album.
Mark Twain and his family must have met Archduchess Marie Theresa when they were staying in Austria for nearly two years, from September 1897 to May 1899.
The quotation is Mark Twain‘s personal view on what constitutes an ideal life.
An ideal life means a perfect or most suitable life, but not likely to become a reality.
In this quote, American writer and humorist Mark Twain regarded the the most suitable or desirable life should make up of these three things:
Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience.
The first two, ‘good friends‘ and ‘good books‘ are easy to understand.
Having Good Friends
We all know the importance and the joy of having good friends during your life time.
They are there to celebrate good times together, and provide support and comfort when you are going through a rough patch.
Friendships can be a beneficial to your health and well-being.
As the Holy Bible says:
“Sweet friendships refresh the soul and awaken our hearts with joy, for good friends are like the anointing oil that yields the fragrant incense of God’s presence.”
(Proverbs 27:9 – The Passion Translation) source
This is another simple friendship quote by flamboyant American writer-artist-philosopher Elbert Hubbard:
“Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.”
(The Note Book Of Elbert Hubbard: Mottoes, Epigrams, Short Essays, Passages, Orphic Sayings And Preachments, New York: N.Y., W.H. Wise & Co, 1927, P. 112) source
Joys Of Reading
As for good books, if you are a bibliophile (book lover), then you would definitely agree with Mark Twain.
For those of you who derive great pleasure from reading for leisure, this quotation will resonate with you.
For me, there are no good or bad books; only books I love to read, or books I don’t give a flip or rather a fib.
This is what William Somerset Maugham have to say about reading:
“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”
(Books And You By W. Somerset Maugham, London & Toronto: William Heinemann Ltd., 1940, I, P. 7) source
(The quote is also found here and here.)
This is what American academic Charles William Eliot said about books:
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
(The Happy Life: An Address By Charles William Eliot, Delivered At The Woman’s College, Baltimore, On College Day, November 7th, 1895, New York: The Independent, 1895, P.20) source
Sleepy Conscience Mean
What did Mark Twain mean by a sleepy conscience?
To understand the meaning of ‘a sleepy conscience‘ from Mark Twain’s quote, let’s break up the two words.
First, let’s talk about the word ‘conscience‘.
In the simplest definition, your conscience is your inner feeling or voice acting as a guide to your actions or intentions are either morally right or wrong.
It is your so-called moral compass to remind you of the difference between the right and the wrong direction.
This voice of conscience is also known as the superego as define in Sigmund Freud‘s psychoanalytic theory.
Conscience is the moral part of your personality, which determines your personal standards of right and wrong.
Now, let’s check on the word ‘sleepy‘.
When you feel sleepy or drowsy, your mind is too tired to be overly concerned with what’s happening, and what’s right or wrong.
You would just brush off, and muttered, “Well, whatever“.
So, having a ‘a sleepy conscience‘ means it’s not that you stop having conscience; it’s just that you tolerate and take it easy.
In this context, the word ‘sleepy‘ can mean complacent, easy-going or uninterested.
In other words, you just let go and not to treat life too seriously.
In short, take it easy, and live and let live.
To sum it up, Mark Twain’s definition of a perfect or desired life, he needed the company of good friends around, enjoy reading good books, and take life easy.
This is what I mean by sleepy conscience in Mark Twain’s quote which he wrote in the Austrian Archduchess Marie Theresa‘s album.
Mark Twain Conscience Quotes
Here are two more conscience quotes by Mark Twain:
“An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.” – Mark Twain
(The Complete Works Of Mark Twain: Mark Twain’s Notebook, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935, Ch.XXXV, Closing Years, P. 392) source
“…conscience, man’s moral medicine chest…” – Mark Twain
(Mark Twain’s Autobiography, With An Introduction By Albert Bigelow Paine, In Two Volumes, Volume II, London& New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1924, The Character Of Man, P. 8 ) source
Here is a list of selected verified authentic quotes by Mark Twain.