Quotes by H. L. Mencken

Get quotes of the day


How do you feel today?    I feel ...

Henry Louis Mencken (September 12, 1880 - January 29, 1956), better known as H. L. Mencken, was a twentieth-century journalist, satirist, social critic, cynic, and freethinker, known as the "Sage of Baltimore" and the "American Nietzsche". He is often regarded as one of the most influential American writers of the early 20th century.

Add to my favourites Get these quotes on a PDF
The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

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.
Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.
Life is a dead-end street.
Love is an emotion that is based on an opinion of women that is impossible for those who have had any experience with them.
To be in love is merely to be in a perpetual state of anesthesia.
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.
Man is always looking for someone to boast to; woman is always looking for a shoulder to put her head on.
Men have a much better time of it than women. For one thing, they marry later, for another thing, they die earlier.
Man weeps to think that he will die so soon; woman, that she was born so long ago.
A metaphysician is one who, when you remark that twice two makes four, demands to know what you mean by twice, what by two, what by makes, and what by four. For asking such questions metaphysicians are supported in oriental luxury in the universities, and respected as educated and intelligent men.
The most valuable of all human possessions, next to a superior and disdainful air, is the reputation of being well-to-do.
The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.
Time is the great equalizer in the field of morals.
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 opera is to music what a bawdy house is to a cathedral.
A nun, at best, is only half a woman, just as a priest is only half a man.
Nothing is so abject and pathetic as a politician who has lost his job, save only a retired stud-horse.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed [and Hence Clamorous To Be Led To Safety] by an endless series of hobgoblins.
A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
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.
The public, with its mob yearning to be instructed, edified and pulled by the nose, demands certainties; it must be told definitely and a bit raucously that this is true and that is false. But there are no certainties.
The truth is, as every one knows, that the great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. No virtuous man -- that is, virtuous in the Y.M.C.A. sense -- has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading, and it is highly improbable that the thing has ever been done by a virtuous woman.
Unionism, seldom if ever, uses such powers as it has to ensure better work; almost always it devotes a large part of that power to safeguard bad work.
After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations.
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.
Self-respect: the secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious.
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.
Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.
The truth is that the average schoolmaster, on all the lower levels, is and always must be essentially and next door to an idiot, for how can one imagine an intelligent man engaging in so puerile an avocation?
Lying is not only excusable; it is not only innocent; it is, above all, necessary and unavoidable. Without the ameliorations that it offers, life would become a mere syllogism and hence too metallic to be borne.
The truth that survives is simply the lie that is pleasantest to believe.
I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone.
The idea that leisure is of value in itself is only conditionally true. The average man simply spends his leisure as a dog spends it. His recreations are all puerile, and the time supposed to benefit him really only stupefies him.
Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.
One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.
When women kiss it always reminds one of prize-fighters shaking hands.
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 curse of man, and the cause of nearly all his woe, is his stupendous capacity for believing the incredible.
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. If such a board actually exists it operates precisely like the board of a corporation that is losing money.
There is nothing worse than an idle hour, with no occupation offering. People who have many such hours are simply animals waiting docilely for death. We all come to that state soon or late. It is the curse of senility.
An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it is also more nourishing.
Hygiene is the corruption of medicine by morality. It is impossible to find a hygienist who does not debase his theory of the healthful with a theory of the virtuous. The true aim of medicine is not to make men virtuous; it is to safeguard and rescue them from the consequences of their vices.
Husbands never become good; they merely become proficient.
Man is a beautiful machine that works very badly.
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.
Historian -- an unsuccessful novelist.
In war the heroes always outnumber the soldiers ten to one.
As the arteries grow hard, the heart grows soft.
We must be willing to pay a price for freedom.
No one hates his job so heartily as a farmer.
Every man sees in his relatives, and especially in his cousins, a series of grotesque caricatures of himself.
A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know.
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what They want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
It is impossible to think of a man of any actual force and originality, universally recognized as having those qualities, who spent his whole life appraising and describing the work of other men.
The common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor.
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.
Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.
Let's not burn the universities yet. After all, the damage they do might be worse.

Get Quotes of the Day

Your daily dose of thought, inspiration and motivation.