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

There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers.

To me the scientific point of view is completely satisfying, and it has been so as long as I can remember. Not once in this life have I ever been inclined to seek a rock and a refuge elsewhere. It leaves a good many dark spots in the universe, to be sure, but not a hundredth time as many as theology. We may trust it, soon or late, to throw light upon many of them, and those that remain dark will be beyond illumination by any other agency. It also fails on occasion to console, but so does theology...

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.

The average man never really thinks from end to end of his life. The mental activity of such people is only a mouthing of clich‚s. What they mistake for thought is simply a repetition of what they have heard. My guess is that well over 80 percent of the human race goes through life without having a single original thought.

The cynics are right nine times out of ten.

The highfalutin aims of democracy, whether real or imaginary, are always assumed to be identical with its achievements. This, of course, is sheer hallucination. Not one of those aims, not even the aim of giving every adult a vote, has been realized. It has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.

The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on - I am not too sure.

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.

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.

There are no institutions in America: there are only fashions.

To sum up: 1. The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10,000 revolutions a minute. 2. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it. 3. Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him the ride.

Wealth: Any income that is at least $100 more a year than the income of one's wife's sister's husband.

The average newspaper, especially of the better sort, has the intelligence of a hillbilly evangelist, the courage of a rat, the fairness of a prohibitionist boob-jumper, the information of a high school janitor, the taste of a designer of celluloid valentines, and the honor of a police-station lawyer.

The delusion of immortality is what ruined Egypt.

The honeymoon is the time during which the bride believes the bridegroom's word of honor.

The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.

The plain fact is that education is itself a form of propaganda - a deliberate scheme to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite for gulping ideas ready-made. The aim is to make 'good' citizens, which is to say, docile and uninquisitive citizens.

The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.

There are now only two classes of men in the United States: those who work for their livings, and those who vote for them.

To the man with an ear for verbal delicacies - the man who searches painfully for the perfect word, and puts the way of saying a thing above the thing said - there is in writing the constant joy of sudden discovery, of happy accident.

What I admire most in any man is a serene spirit, a steady freedom from moral indignation, an all-embracing tolerance... when he fights he fights in the manner of a gentleman fighting a duel, not in that of a longshoreman cleaning out a waterfront saloon. That is to say, he carefully guards his amour-prope by assuming that his opponent is as decent a man as he is, and just as honest - and perhaps, after all, right.

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. The objection to it is not that it is predominantly painful, but that it is lacking in sense.

The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.

The human race is in such a dreadful state that no rational person can talk about it without resorting to seditious and obscene language.

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest insane and intolerable and so if he is romantic he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.

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