H. L. Mencken - Quotes

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I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.

I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.

Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.

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. ---->>>

Every man sees in his relatives, and especially in his cousins, a series of grotesque caricatures of himself.

Every man sees in his relatives, and especially in his cousins, a series of grotesque caricatures of himself.

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. ---->>>

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 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.

In war the heroes always outnumber the soldiers ten to one.

In war the heroes always outnumber the soldiers ten to one.

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.

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.

Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.

Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.

Honor is simply the morality of superior men.

Honor is simply the morality of superior men.

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out... without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out... without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. ---->>>

No one in this world, so far as I know - and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me - has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.

No one in this world, so far as I know - and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me - has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain 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.

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.

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?

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

The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety. ---->>>

It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.

It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.

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.

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.

If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl. ---->>>

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. ---->>>

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. ---->>>

Whenever a husband and wife begin to discuss their marriage they are giving evidence at a coroner's inquest.

Whenever a husband and wife begin to discuss their marriage they are giving evidence at a coroner's inquest.

A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier. ---->>>

I never smoked a cigarette until I was nine. ---->>>

A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness, but after that he begins to bunch them. ---->>>

Adultery is the application of democracy to love. ---->>>

A bad man is the sort who weeps every time he speaks of a good woman. ---->>>

If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner. ---->>>

Democracy is only a dream: it should be put in the same category as Arcadia, Santa Claus, and Heaven. ---->>>

Man weeps to think that he will die so soon; woman, that she was born so long ago. ---->>>

There is always an easy solution to every problem - neat, plausible, and wrong. ---->>>

Temptation is a woman's weapon and man's excuse. ---->>>

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

Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods. ---->>>

It doesn't take a majority to make a rebellion; it takes only a few determined leaders and a sound cause. ---->>>

We are here and it is now. Further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine. ---->>>

The only really happy folk are married women and single men.

The only really happy folk are married women and single men.

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. ---->>>

To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia - to mistake an ordinary young woman for a goddess. ---->>>

It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise, just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods.

It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise, just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods.

Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.

Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.

Have you ever watched a crab on the shore crawling backward in search of the Atlantic Ocean, and missing? That's the way the mind of man operates. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

It is not materialism that is the chief curse of the world, as pastors teach, but idealism. Men get into trouble by taking their visions and hallucinations too seriously. ---->>>

Bachelors know more about women than married men; if they didn't they'd be married too.

Bachelors know more about women than married men; if they didn't they'd be married too.

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. ---->>>

We must be willing to pay a price for freedom.

We must be willing to pay a price for freedom.

A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin. ---->>>

I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time. ---->>>

God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. ---->>>

Criticism is prejudice made plausible. ---->>>

I hate all sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

Wealth - any income that is at least one hundred dollars more a year than the income of one's wife's sister's husband. ---->>>

War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands.

War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands.

Legend: A lie that has attained the dignity of age.

Legend: A lie that has attained the dignity of age.

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

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

The common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor. ---->>>

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.

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.

No matter how happily a woman may be married, it always pleases her to discover that there is a nice man who wishes that she were not. ---->>>

A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married. ---->>>

A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers. ---->>>

Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. ---->>>

A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. ---->>>

A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in. ---->>>

Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another. ---->>>

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.

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.

Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time. ---->>>

Before a man speaks it is always safe to assume that he is a fool. After he speaks, it is seldom necessary to assume it. ---->>>

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 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.

Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses. ---->>>

No matter how long he lives, no man ever becomes as wise as the average woman of forty-eight. ---->>>

Women have simple tastes. They get pleasure out of the conversation of children in arms and men in love.

Women have simple tastes. They get pleasure out of the conversation of children in arms and men in love.

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. ---->>>

A church is a place in which gentlemen who have never been to heaven brag about it to persons who will never get there. ---->>>

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

No married man is genuinely happy if he has to drink worse whisky than he used to drink when he was single. ---->>>

A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents. ---->>>

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

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

Most people want security in this world, not liberty.

Most people want security in this world, not liberty.

When a new source of taxation is found it never means, in practice, that the old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had one before. ---->>>

I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone. ---->>>

Don't overestimate the decency of the human race. ---->>>

Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good. ---->>>

Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends. ---->>>

All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it. ---->>>

Alimony - the ransom that the happy pay to the devil. ---->>>

Every man is his own hell. ---->>>

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 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.

What men value in this world is not rights but privileges. ---->>>

A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground. ---->>>

Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages. ---->>>

All government, of course, is against liberty. ---->>>

I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. ---->>>

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone might be looking. ---->>>

Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it. ---->>>

A society made up of individuals who were all capable of original thought would probably be unendurable. ---->>>

Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of dilemmas. ---->>>

Women always excel men in that sort of wisdom which comes from experience. To be a woman is in itself a terrible experience.

Women always excel men in that sort of wisdom which comes from experience. To be a woman is in itself a terrible experience.

Let's not burn the universities yet. After all, the damage they do might be worse. ---->>>

If women believed in their husbands they would be a good deal happier and also a good deal more foolish.

If women believed in their husbands they would be a good deal happier and also a good deal more foolish.

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

When women kiss it always reminds one of prize fighters shaking hands. ---->>>

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

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

Temptation is an irresistible force at work on a movable body. ---->>>

The cynics are right nine times out of ten. ---->>>

Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that 99 % of them are wrong. ---->>>

A prohibitionist is the sort of man one couldn't care to drink with, even if he drank. ---->>>

Archbishop - A Christian ecclesiastic of a rank superior to that attained by Christ. ---->>>

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable. ---->>>

Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what sting is justice. ---->>>

Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only error to be exposed. ---->>>

The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated. ---->>>

Life is a dead-end street. ---->>>

Platitude: an idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true. ---->>>

Poetry has done enough when it charms, but prose must also convince.

Poetry has done enough when it charms, but prose must also convince.

Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible as baseball in Italian. ---->>>

The only cure for contempt is counter-contempt. ---->>>

To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!

To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!

I write in order to attain that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk. ---->>>

It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf. ---->>>

Self-respect: the secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious. ---->>>

There is a saying in Baltimore that crabs may be prepared in fifty ways and that all of them are good. ---->>>

As the arteries grow hard, the heart grows soft. ---->>>

It is hard for the ape to believe he descended from man. ---->>>

Love is an emotion that is based on an opinion of women that is impossible for those who have had any experience with them. ---->>>

In the duel of sex woman fights from a dreadnought and man from an open raft. ---->>>

Man is always looking for someone to boast to; woman is always looking for a shoulder to put her head on. ---->>>

One may no more live in the world without picking up the moral prejudices of the world than one will be able to go to hell without perspiring. ---->>>

A professor must have a theory as a dog must have fleas.

A professor must have a theory as a dog must have fleas.

Nevertheless, it is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man. ---->>>

For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing. ---->>>

The opera is to music what a bawdy house is to a cathedral. ---->>>

Each party steals so many articles of faith from the other, and the candidates spend so much time making each other's speeches, that by the time election day is past there is nothing much to do save turn the sitting rascals out and let a new gang in.

Each party steals so many articles of faith from the other, and the candidates spend so much time making each other's speeches, that by the time election day is past there is nothing much to do save turn the sitting rascals out and let a new gang in.

Husbands never become good; they merely become proficient. ---->>>

No man ever quite believes in any other man. One may believe in an idea absolutely, but not in a man. ---->>>

There are men so philosophical that they can see humor in their own toothaches. But there has never lived a man so philosophical that he could see the toothache in his own humor.

There are men so philosophical that they can see humor in their own toothaches. But there has never lived a man so philosophical that he could see the toothache in his own humor.

Most people are unable to write because they are unable to think, and they are unable to think because they congenitally lack the equipment to do so, just as they congenitally lack the equipment to fly over the moon. ---->>>

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.

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.

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. ---->>>

One of the most mawkish of human delusions is the notion that friendship should be eternal, or, at all events, life-long, and that any act which puts a term to it is somehow discreditable. ---->>>

Man is a beautiful machine that works very badly. ---->>>

Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely made up of prophecies.

Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely made up of prophecies.

Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing. ---->>>

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

I go on working for the same reason that a hen goes on laying eggs. ---->>>

Judge: a law student who marks his own examination-papers. ---->>>

Time stays, we go. ---->>>

Biography

Nationality: American
Born: September 12, 1880
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Die: 01-29, 1956
Occupation: Writer
Website:

Henry Louis Mencken (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956) was an American journalist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of American English. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the twentieth century (wikipedia)