September 27, 2011
THE ECONOMICS OF COMPLIMENTS
Mark Twain, Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 (The Mark Twain Papers), edited by Harriet Elinor Smith and other editors of the Mark twain Project (Berkeley, Los Angeles & London: U. of California Press, 2010) ("Although I am finding so much fault with this matter I am not ignorant of the fact that compliments are not often given away. A return is expected. And one get it, too--though not always when the compliments are sent by letter. When an audience applauds, it isn't aware that it is requiring pay for that compliment. But it is; and if the applause is not in some way thankfully acknowledged by the recipient of it,--by bow and smile, for instance--the audience will discover that it was expecting an equivalent. Also, it will withdraw its trade, there and then; it is not going to give something for nothing, not if it knows itself. When a beautiful girl caches a compliment in our eye, she pays spot cash for it with a dear little blush. We did not know we were expecting pay, but if she should flash offended dignity at us, instead of that little blush, we should then know better. She would get no more our trade on those terms. But in truth, compliments are sometimes actually given away, and no bill presented. I know it can occur as much as once in a century, for it has happened to me once, and I am not a century old, yet. I was twenty-nine years ago . I was lecturing in London at the time. I received a most lovely letter, sparkling and glowing with cordial and felicitous praises--and there was no name signed, and no address!" Id. at 183.).