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H. L. Mencken Quotes - Famous Quotes by H. L. Mencken


Born: 1880-09-12
Died: 1956-01-29

H. L. Mencken Biography

...no man of genuinely superior intelligence has ever been an actor. Even supposing a young man of appreciable mental powers to be lured upon the stage, as philosophers are occasionally lured into bordellos, his mind would be inevitably and almost immediately destroyed by the gaudy nonsense issuing from his mouth every night.
- H. L. Mencken
***
A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Cynicism ]
***
A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Political ]
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A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.
- H. L. Mencken
***
A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness, but after that he begins to bunch them.
- H. L. Mencken
***
A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.
- H. L. Mencken
***
A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child.
- H. L. Mencken
***
A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Adultery is the application of democracy to love.
- H. L. Mencken
***
After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Alimony: the ransom the happy pay to the devil.
- H. L. Mencken
***
All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
- H. L. Mencken
***
All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced on them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.
- H. L. Mencken
***
All [zoos] actually offer to the public in return for the taxes spent upon them is a form of idle and witless amusement, compared to which a visit to a penitentiary, or even to a State legislature in session, is informing, stimulating and ennobling.
- H. L. Mencken
***
An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
- H. L. Mencken
***
And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Archbishop: a Christian ecclesiastic of a rank superior to that attained by Christ.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Bachelors have consciences, married men have wives.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Bachelor ]
***
Bachelors know more about women than married men; if they didn't, they'd be married too.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Marriage ] [ Bachelor ]
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College football would be more interesting if the faculty played instead of the students - there would be a great increase in broken arms, legs and necks.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Congress consists of one third, more or less, scoundrels; two thirds, more or less, idiots; and three thirds, more or less, poltroons.
- H. L. Mencken
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Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends
- H. L. Mencken
***
Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Creator: a comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Criticism is prejudice made plausible.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Criticism ]
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Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Democracy ]
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Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Democracy ]
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Democracy: The worship of jackals by jackasses.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Every man is thoroughly happy twice in his life: just after he has met his first love, and just after he has left his last one.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.
- H. L. Mencken
***
For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.
- H. L. Mencken
***
For it is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest that holds human associations together. Our friends seldom profit us but they make us feel safe... Marriage is a scheme to accomplish exactly that same end.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.
- H. L. Mencken
***
God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, thehelpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull.
- H. L. Mencken
***
He marries best who puts it off until it is too late.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Henry James would have been vastly improved as a novelist by a few whiffs of the Chicago stockyard.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Husbands never become good; they merely become proficient.
- H. L. Mencken
***
I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.
- H. L. Mencken
***
I detest converts almost as much as I do missionaries.
- H. L. Mencken
***
If I ever marry, it will be on a sudden impulse - as a man shoots himself.
- H. L. Mencken
***
If I had my way, any man guilty of golf would be ineligible for any office of trust in the United States.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Imagine the Creator as a low comedian, and at once the world becomes explicable.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time.
- H. L. Mencken
***
In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell.
- H. L. Mencken
***
In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.
- H. L. Mencken
***
It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.
- H. L. Mencken
***
It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.
- H. L. Mencken
***
It is impossible to believe that the same God who permitted His own son to die a bachelor regards celibacy as an actual sin.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Bachelor ]
***
It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.
- H. L. Mencken
***
It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.
- H. L. Mencken
***
It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.
- H. L. Mencken
***
It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Judge: a law student who marks his own papers.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Jury: a group of twelve men who, having lied to the judge about their hearing, health and business engagements, have failed to fool him.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Lawer: one who protects us against robbery by taking away the temptation.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Legend: A lie that has attained the dignity of age.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Man is a natural polygamist: he always has one woman leading him by the nose, and another hanging on to his coattails.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Man is never honestly the fatalist, nor even the stoic. He fights his fate, often desperately. He is forever entering bold exceptions to the rulings of the bench of gods. This fighting, no doubt, makes for human progress, for it favors the strong and the brave. It also makes for beauty, for lesser men try to escape from a hopeless and intolerable world by creating a more lovely one of their own.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Men have a much better time of it than women. For one thing, they marry later, for another thing, they die earlier.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Never let your inferiors do you a favor - it will be extremely costly.
- H. L. Mencken
***
New York: A third-rate Babylon.
- H. L. Mencken
***
No married man is genuinely happy if he has to drink worse whisky than he used to drink when he was single.
- H. L. Mencken
***
No normal man ever fell in love after thirty when the kidneys begin to disintegrate.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible as baseball in Italian.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Music ] [ Baseball ] [ Italian ]
***
Optimist The sort of man who marries his sister's best friend.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Optimism ]
***
Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Platitude: an idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Self-respect: the secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Strike an average between what a woman thinks of her husband a month before she marries him and what she thinks of him a year afterward, and you will have the truth about him.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Sunday: A day given over by Americans to wishing they were dead and in heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in hell.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Thanksgiving Day is a day devoted by persons with inflammatory rheumatism to thanking a loving Father that it is not hydrophobia.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore. It is not so much a war as an endless standing in line.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The best years are the forties; after fifty a man begins to deteriorate, but in the forties he is at the maximum of his villainy.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The cosmos is a gigantic flywheel making 10,000 revolutions per minute. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The cynics are right nine times out of ten.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Cynicism ]
***
The first kiss is stolen by the man; the last is begged by the woman.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Wisdom ] [ Old Age ]
***
The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants beyond everything else is safety.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The only really happy folk are married women and single men.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth--that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.
- H. L. Mencken
***
The worshiper is the father of the gods.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.
- H. L. Mencken
***
There comes a time when a man must spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats.
- H. L. Mencken
***
There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Those who can -- do. Those who can't -- teach.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Teacher ]
***
To be in love is merely to be in a state of perpetual anesthesia - to mistake an ordinary young woman for a goddess.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Love ]
***
To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!
- H. L. Mencken
***
Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -and both commonly succeed, and are right.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.
- H. L. Mencken
***
War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands.
- H. L. Mencken
***
We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.
- H. L. Mencken
***
We must respect the other fellow's religion,but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Wealth is any income that is at least one hundred dollars a year more than the income of one's wife's sister's husband.
- H. L. Mencken
More quotations on: [ Money ]
***
When women kiss, it always reminds me of prizefighters shaking hands.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Wife: a former sweetheart.
- H. L. Mencken
***
Wife: one who is sorry she did it, but would undoubtedly do it again.
- H. L. Mencken
***

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