The Coldest Summer?

Mark Twain said: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” He did say that, right? Well, actually, he probably didn't. 

While it’s true that Twain didn’t like San Francisco much, there is no proof that he ever said this about our city. He did write something similar about Paris, although even then he was quoting someone else.

In 1880, ten years after leaving California, Twain wrote a letter to his friend Lucius Fairchild who was leaving his post as U.S. consul general in Paris, saying:

…anywhere is better than Paris. Paris the cold, Paris the drizzly, Paris the rainy, Paris the damnable. More than a hundred years ago somebody asked Quin*, “Did you ever see such a winter in all your life before?”  “Yes,” said he, "Last summer."  I judge he spent his summer in Paris.

The Quin he refers to is James Quin, an English actor in the 1700s who was famous for his wit and widely quoted. Thanks to the Mark Twain Project of the University of California's Bancroft Library for helping set the record straight.

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