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 plain fact is that I am not a fair man and don't want to hear both sides.

The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves one of the most useful men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigator. What actually urges him on is not some brummagem idea of Service, but a boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but a dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes.

There are people who read too much: the bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.

To wage a war for a purely moral reason is as absurd as to ravish a woman for a purely moral reason.

The believing mind is externally impervious to evidence. The most that can be accomplished with it is to induce it to substitute one delusion for another. It rejects all overt evidence as wicked.

The double standard of morality will survive in this world so long as the woman whose husband has been lured away is favoured with the sympathetic tears of other women, and a man whose wife has made off is laughed at by other men.

The ideal way to get rid of any infectious disease would be to shoot instantly every person who comes down with it.

The most erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.

The priest, realistically considered, is the most immoral of men, for he is always willing to sacrifice every other sort of good to the one good of his arcanum - the vague body of mysteries that he calls the truth.

The verdict of a jury is the a priori opinion of that juror who smokes the worst cigars.

There are two kinds of Europeans: The smart ones, and those who stayed behind.

Today every such man knows that the laws which prevail in the universe, whatever their origin in some remote and incomprehensible First Purpose, manifest themselves in complete impersonality, and that no representation to any superhuman Power, however imagined, can change their operation in the slightest. He knows that when they seem arbitrary and irrational it is not because omnipotent and inscrutable Presences are playing with them, as a child might play with building blocks; but because the human race is yet too ignorant to penetrate to their true workings. The whole history of progress, as the modern mind sees it, is a history of such penetrations. ... Each in its turn has narrowed the dominion and prerogative of the gods.

In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell.

It takes a long while for a naturally trustful person to reconcile himself to the idea that after all God will not help him.

Life without sex might be safer but it would be unbearably dull.

Men are the only animal that devote themselves, they can and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists

No government, of its own motion, will increase its own weakness, for that would mean to acquiesce in its own destruction... governments, whatever their pretensions otherwise, try to preserve themselves by holding the individual down ... Government itself, indeed, may be reasonably defined as a conspiracy against him. It?s one permanent aim, whatever its form, is to hobble him sufficiently to maintain itself.

Of all the classes of men, I dislike most those who make their livings by talking - actors, clergymen, politicians, pedagogues, and so on. All of them participate in the shallow false pretenses of the actor who is their archetype. It is almost impossible to imagine a talker who sticks to the facts. Carried away by the sound of his own voice and the applause of the groundlings, he makes inevitably the jump from logic to mere rhetoric.

People will believe what they want to believe.

Religion deserves no more respect than a pile of garbage.

Suppose two-thirds of the members of the national House of Representatives were dumped into the Washington garbage incinerator tomorrow, what would we lose to offset our gain of their salaries and the salaries of their parasites?

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.

It takes no more actual sagacity to carry on the everyday hawking and haggling of the world, or to ladle out its normal doses of bad medicine and worse law, than it takes to operate a taxi cab or fry a pan of fish.

Living with a dog is messy ? like living with an idealist.

Men have a much better time of it than women. For one thing, they marry later; for another thing, they die earlier.

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