H. L. Mencken, fully Henry Louis Mencken

H. L.
Mencken, fully Henry Louis Mencken
1880
1956

American Newspaperman, Editor, Writer, Critic, Iconoclast, Satirist, Acerbic Critic of American Life and Culture, American English Scholar

Author Quotes

The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.

The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty - and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies.

The life of man in this world is like a likable fly in a room filled with 100 boys, each armed with a flyswatter.

The older I get the more I admire and crave competence, just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology.

The smarter the politician, the more things he believes and the less he believes any of them.

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 of one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

Say what you like about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.

Thanksgiving Day: A day devoted by persons with inflammatory rheumatism to thanking a loving Father that is not hydrophobia.

The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts.

The fact that I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake.

The lunatic fringe wags the underdog.

The older I get the more I am convinced that, if I am ever to do anything worth a damn, it must be done entirely alone. Moreover, I am more comfortable that way.

The state ? or, to make matters more concrete, 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. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can?t get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting ?A? to satisfy ?B?. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction on stolen goods.

The worshiper is the father of the gods.

School days, I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence. They are full of dull, unintelligible tasks, new and unpleasant ordinances, brutal violations of common sense and common decency. It doesn't take a reasonably bright boy long to discover that most of what is rammed into him is nonsense, and that no one really cares very much whether he learns it or not.

That Americans, in the mass, have anything properly described as keen wits is surely far from self-evident. On the contrary, it seems likely that, if anything, they lie below the civilised norm.

The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore.

The first kiss is stolen by the man; the last is begged by the woman.

The majority of men prefer delusion to truth. It soothes. It is easy to grasp. Above all, it fits more snugly than the truth into a universe of false appearances?of complex and irrational phenomena, defectively grasped. But though an idea that is true is thus not likely to prevail, an idea that is attacked enjoys a great advantage. The evidence behind it is now supported by sympathy, the sporting instinct, sentimentality?and sentimentality is as powerful as an army with banners. One never hears of a martyr in history whose notions are seriously disputed today. The forgotten ideas are those of the men who put them forward soberly and quietly, hoping fatuously that they would conquer by the force of their truth; these are the ideas that we now struggle to rediscover.

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

The theory seems to be that as long as a man is a failure he is one of God's children, but that as soon as he succeeds he is taken over by the Devil.

The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.

School teachers, taking them by and large, are probably the most ignorant and stupid class of men in the whole group of mental workers.

The aim of New Deals is to exterminate the class of creditors and thrust all men into that of debtorss It is like trying to breed cattle with all cows and no bulls.

The Christian always swears a bloody oath that he will never do it again. The civilized man simply resolves to be a bit more careful next time.

Author Picture
First Name
H. L.
Last Name
Mencken, fully Henry Louis Mencken
Birth Date
1880
Death Date
1956
Bio

American Newspaperman, Editor, Writer, Critic, Iconoclast, Satirist, Acerbic Critic of American Life and Culture, American English Scholar