Mark Twain’s Rescue Etiquette

In light of the recent discussion on who should be rescued first from danger, this humorous “rescue etiquette” guide from Mark Twain is apropos. Twain wryly lists the order in which 26 types of people should be rescued. 

“Rescue Etiquette”
By: Mark Twain

In assisting at a fire in a boarding house, the true gentleman will always save the young ladies first—making no distinction in favor of personal attractions, or social eminence, or pecuniary predominance—but taking them as they come, and firing them out with as much celerity as shall be consistent with decorum. There are exceptions, of course, to all rules; the exceptions to this one are:

Partiality, in the matter of rescue, to be shown to:

1. Fiancées.
2. Persons toward whom the operator feels a tender sentiment, but has not yet declared himself.
3. Sisters.
4. Stepsisters.
5. Nieces.
6. First cousins.
7. Cripples.
8. Second cousins.
9. Invalids.
10. Young-lady relations by marriage.
11. Third cousins, and young-lady friends of the family.
12. The Unclassified.

Other material in boarding house is to be rescued in the following order:

13. Babies.
14. Children under 10 years of age.
15. Young widows.
16. Young married females.
17. Elderly married ditto.
18. Elderly widows.
19. Clergymen.
20. Boarders in general.
21. Female domestics.
22. Male ditto.
23. Landlady.
24. Landlord.
25. Firemen.
26. Furniture.
27. Mothers-in-law.

From Lists of Note

Hat tip to Evan W. for this link.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather January 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I notice “wife” didn’t make the list. I wonder if that was intentional? Or would she be classified as either number 16 or 17 depending upon her age?

James January 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Probably comes under Female Domestics.

John January 31, 2012 at 6:49 am

Dear Heather,
I never waivered from number 1, Fiancées as the same catagory as Wife. The person to whom you are Engaged or Betrothed. The rest is just paperwork.

Bill M January 31, 2012 at 7:53 am

Cripples are sandwiched in between first and second cousins. …I would love to know his reasoning. .. Twain is a riot.

Karl February 1, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Politicians weren’t mentioned on his list as worth saving. His regard for them was not high. Twain once said, “Fleas can be taught nearly anything a Congressman can.”

Kenny February 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I pretty much agree, but personally, I would rescue firemen long before babies.

ARthur is 15 February 2, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Kenny, I would do the reverse.

Morgan February 5, 2012 at 10:24 am

Firemen are much more able to save themselves than babies. Come to think of it, that’s the entire list. But I digress, it’s humor.

EssDee February 15, 2012 at 5:14 am

Shouldn’t fathers-in-law precede mothers-in-law :)

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Peter September 23, 2015 at 7:19 am

in the list of 26 the pun is of course in number 27 :-)
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