The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
"Henry Louis" ""H. L."" "Mencken" was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satire/satirist, Social criticism/critic of American life and culture, scholar of American English, and noted curmudgeon. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose Stylistics (linguistics)/stylists of the first half of the twentieth century.
Mencken is known for The American Language, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States, and his satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial". He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements.
As an admirer of German philosopher Nietzsche, he was a detractor of religion in general, populism, and representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors. Mencken was a supporter of scientific progress, skeptical of economic theories and critical of osteopathic/chiropractic medicine.If you enjoy these quotes, be sure to check out other famous writers! More H. L. Mencken on Wikipedia.
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.
Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.
Criticism is prejudice made plausible.
All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
There comes a time when a man must spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats.
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.
Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible as baseball in Italian.
The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
The cynics are right nine times out of ten.
To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia.
Love: The delusion that one woman differs from another.
Man is a natural polygamist: he always has one woman leading him by the nose, and another hanging on to his coattails.
For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.
As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.
The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore.
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.
The worshiper is the father of the gods.
...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.
I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.
Archbishop: a Christian ecclesiastic of a rank superior to that attained by Christ.
It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.
A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know.
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.
It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull.
Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.
Alimony: the ransom the happy pay to the devil.
Creator: a comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.
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.
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.
To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!
If I had my way, any man guilty of golf would be ineligible for any office of trust in the United States.
Any man who, having a child or children he can't support, proceeds to have another should be sterilized at once.
Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.
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.
Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.
Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.
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.
Never let your inferiors do you a favor - it will be extremely costly.
Wife: one who is sorry she did it, but would undoubtedly do it again.
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.
Congress consists of one third, more or less, scoundrels; two thirds, more or less, idiots; and three thirds, more or less, poltroons.
Imagine the Creator as a low comedian, and at once the world becomes explicable.
We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.
Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.
I never lecture, not because I am shy or a bad speaker, but simply because I detest the sort of people who go to lectures and don't want to meet them.
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.
The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.
A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child.
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.
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.
If I ever marry, it will be on a sudden impulse - as a man shoots himself.
Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.
A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness, but after that he begins to bunch them.
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.
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
Jury: a group of twelve men who, having lied to the judge about their hearing, health and business engagements, have failed to fool him.
Husbands never become good; they merely become proficient.
Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.
New York: A third-rate Babylon.
War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebums and smaller adrenal glands.
An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
Sunday: A day given over by Americans to wishing they were dead and in heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in hell.
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.
Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.
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.
Platitude: an idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.
Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.
There is always a well-known solution to every human problem-neat, plausible, and wrong.
The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.
The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.
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.
The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.
Wife: a former sweetheart.
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.
It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
Democracy: The worship of jackals by jackasses.
Self-respect: the secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious.
I detest converts almost as much as I do missionaries.
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.
In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell.
Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
Lawer: one who protects us against robbery by taking away the temptation.
A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.
When women kiss, it always reminds me of prizefighters shaking hands.
No normal man ever fell in love after thirty when the kidneys begin to disintegrate.
The first kiss is stolen by the man; the last is begged by the woman.
Immortality is the condition of a dead man who doesn't believe he is dead.
He marries best who puts it off until it is too late.
Men have a much better time of it than women; for one thing, they marry later; for another thing they die earlier.
A home is not a mere transient shelter: its essence lies in the personalities of the people who live in it.
Henry James would have been vastly improved as a novelist by a few whiffs of the Chicago stockyard.
Don't overestimate the decency of the human race.
Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull.
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.
Judge: a law student who marks his own papers.
Adultery is the application of democracy to love.
A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
Suicide is belated acquiescence in the opinion of one's wife's relatives.
The cosmos is a gigantic flywheel making 10,000 revolutions per minute. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it.
Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.
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.
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.
Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.
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.
Thanksgiving Day is a day devoted by persons with inflammatory rheumatism to thanking a loving Father that it is not hydrophobia.
A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time.
There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong.
Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.