H. L. Mencken Quotes

Most popular H. L. Mencken Quotes

Change is not progress.
— H. L. Mencken

change

Adultery. Democracy applied to love.

infidelity

Criticism is prejudice made plausible.
— H. L. Mencken

criticism

The cynics are right nine times out of ten.
— H. L. Mencken

cynics

Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull.

happiness love

As the arteries grow hard, the heart grows soft.

age

Adultery is the application of democracy to love.
— H. L. Mencken

infidelity

The only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.

martini

Alimony: The ransom that the happy pay to the devil.

alimony

Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.
— H. L. Mencken

conscience

Most people want security in this world, not liberty.
— H. L. Mencken

freedom safety

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
— H. L. Mencken

love

Of all escape mechanisms, death is the most efficient.
— H. L. Mencken

death

Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.
— H. L. Mencken

love

Creator.  A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.

God

Time is a great legalizer, even in the field of morals.

time morals

A professor must have a theory as a dog must have fleas.
— H. L. Mencken

teaching

Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.

love

Nothing can come out of an artist that is not in the man.
— H. L. Mencken
Women do not like timid men. Cats do not like prudent mice.
— H. L. Mencken

men

Women do not like timid men. Cats do not like prudent rats.
— H. L. Mencken

risk-taking

The only really happy folk are married women and single men.
— H. L. Mencken

happiness

Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.

justice injustice

A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.
— H. L. Mencken

courts

A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.
— H. L. Mencken

Fools marriage

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

politicians

Immorality.  The morality of those who are having a better time.

immorality

I go on working for the same reason that a hen goes on laying eggs.
— H. L. Mencken

work

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.
— H. L. Mencken

conscience

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
— H. L. Mencken

funny religion

When women kiss it always reminds one of prize fighters shaking hands.
— H. L. Mencken

women

Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
— H. L. Mencken

judging

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

kiss

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
— H. L. Mencken

taste

A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.
— H. L. Mencken

cynicism

For every problem there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong.

solutions problems

Conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.

conscience

Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.
— H. L. Mencken

democracy

Poetry is a comforting piece of fiction set to more or less lascivious music.

poetry

Great artists are modest almost as seldom as they are faithful to their wives.
— H. L. Mencken

artists modesty

In the duel of sex woman fights from a dreadnaught, and man from an open raft.

sex men and women

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.
— H. L. Mencken

power

Tis always more blessed to give than to receive; for example, wedding presents.
— H. L. Mencken

charity

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

sports

No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
— H. L. Mencken

America

It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.
— H. L. Mencken

sports

Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible as baseball in Italian.
— H. L. Mencken

opera

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
— H. L. Mencken

age wisdom

Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible a plea as baseball in Italian.

opera

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.
— H. L. Mencken

faith

A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.
— H. L. Mencken

politicians

The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable.
— H. L. Mencken

artists

Whenever A attempts by law to impose his moral standards on B, A is most likely a scoundrel.

law

Sunday school: a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
— H. L. Mencken

theology

For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.
— H. L. Mencken

theology

The notion that anything is gained by fixing a language in a groove is cherished only by pedants.

language

A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
— H. L. Mencken

parents religion

Love is based on a view of women that is impossible to those who have had any experience with them.
— H. L. Mencken

cynical women love

Nothing is so abject and pathetic as a politician who has lost his job, save only a retired stud-horse.

politicians

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
— H. L. Mencken
Every autobiography...becomes an absorbing work of fiction, with something of the charm of a cryptogram.

autobiography

No matter how much a woman loved a man, it would still give her a glow to see him commit suicide for her.
— H. L. Mencken

women

Voting is simply a way of determining which side is the stronger without putting it to the test of fighting.

voting

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

marriage

It is hard to believe that man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.
— H. L. Mencken
War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands.
— H. L. Mencken

peace cynical war

The chief knowledge that a man gets from reading books is the knowledge that very few of them are worth reading.
— H. L. Mencken

books

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
— H. L. Mencken

society human nature

Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
— H. L. Mencken

action

My guess is that well over 80 percent of the human race goes through life without having a single original thought.
— H. L. Mencken

originality

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

men

To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia - to mistake an ordinary young woman for a goddess.
— H. L. Mencken
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.
— H. L. Mencken
An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
— H. L. Mencken

idealist

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

folly

It is impossible to believe that the same God who permitted His own son to die a bachelor regards celibacy as an actual sin.
— H. L. Mencken

Catholicism

Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.
— H. L. Mencken

morals

Perhaps the most valuable of all human possessions, next to an aloof and sniffish air, is the reputation of being well-to-do.

reputation

The artist is not a reporter, but a Great Teacher.  It is not his business to depict the world as it is, but as it ought to be.

artists

Science, at bottom, is really anti-intellectual. It always distrusts pure reason, and demands the production of objective fact.
— H. L. Mencken

science experiments

A large part of altruism, even when it is perfectly honest, is grounded upon the fact that it is uncomfortable to have unhappy people about one.
— H. L. Mencken

charity

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.
— H. L. Mencken

the human condition boredom

Explanations exist, they have existed for all times, for there is always a well-known solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.

problems

Why writers write I do not know. As well ask why a hen lays an egg or why a cow stands patiently while an underprivileged farmer burglarizes her.

writers

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.
— H. L. Mencken

Catholicism

Sin is a dangerous toy in the hands of the virtuous.  It should be left to the congenitally sinful, who know when to play with it and when to let it alone.

sin

To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia—to mistake an ordinary young man for a Greek god or an ordinary young woman for a goddess.

love

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule—and both commonly succeed, and are right.
— H. L. Mencken

politics democracy

A man's women folk, whatever their outward show of respect for his merit and authority, always regard him secretly as an ass, and with something akin to pity.
— H. L. Mencken

men

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong.

certainty

War may make a fool of man, but it by no means degrades him; on the contrary, it tends to exalt him, and its net effects are much like those of motherhood on women.
— H. L. Mencken

war

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the same sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.
— H. L. Mencken

religion

An author, like any other so-called artist, is a man in whom the normal vanity of all men is so vastly exaggerated that he finds it a sheer impossibility to hold it in.

authors vanity

The allurement that women hold out to men is precisely the allurement that Cape Hatteras holds out to sailors: they are enormously dangerous and hence enormously fascinating.

men and women

The effort to reconcile science and religion is almost always made, not by theologians, but by scientists unable to shake off altogether the piety absorbed with their mother's milk.
— H. L. Mencken

science & religion

Why do men delight in work?  Fundamentally, I suppose, because there is a sense of relief and pleasure in getting something done—a kind of satisfaction not unlike that which a hen enjoys on laying an egg.

work

The most valuable of human possessions, next to a superior and disdainful air, is the reputation of being well-to-do. Nothing else so neatly eases one's way through life, especially in democratic countries.
— H. L. Mencken

wealth society

It is the place where all the aspirations of the Western World meet to form one vast master aspiration, as powerful as the suction of a steam dredge.  It is the icing on the pie called Christian civilization.

New York City

A living language is like a man suffering incessantly from small hemorrhages, and what it needs above all else is constant transfusions of new blood from other tongues. The day the gates go up, that day it begins to die.

language

God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in his arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters.

God

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.

religion

A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man.  In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker.
— H. L. Mencken
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.

gods

Capitalism undoubtedly has certain boils and blotches upon it, but has it as many as government?  Has it as many as marriage?  Has it as many as religion?  I doubt it.  It is the only basic institution of modern man that shows any genuine health and vigor.

capitalism

As democracy is perfected, the office [of U. S. president] represents more and more closely, the inner soul of the 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.

president

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."

doubt morals progress

It is the sex instinct that makes women seem beautiful, which they are only once in a blue moon, and men seem wise and brave, which they never are at all. Throttle it, denaturize it, take it away, and human existence would be reduced to the prosaic, laborious, boresome, imbecile level of life in an anthill.

sex