H. L. Mencken Quotes
Most popular H. L. Mencken Quotes
Change is not progress.
Adultery. Democracy applied to love.
Criticism is prejudice made plausible.
The cynics are right nine times out of ten.
Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull.
As the arteries grow hard, the heart grows soft.
Adultery is the application of democracy to love.
The only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.
Alimony: The ransom that the happy pay to the devil.
Most people want security in this world, not liberty.
Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.
Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.
Of all escape mechanisms, death is the most efficient.
Time is a great legalizer, even in the field of morals.
Creator. A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.
A professor must have a theory as a dog must have fleas.
Nothing can come out of an artist that is not in the man.
Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.
Women do not like timid men. Cats do not like prudent rats.
The only really happy folk are married women and single men.
Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.
A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.
A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.
A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
Immorality. The morality of those who are having a better time.
I go on working for the same reason that a hen goes on laying eggs.
Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.
Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
When women kiss it always reminds one of prize fighters shaking hands.
Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
For every problem there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong.
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.
Conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.
Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.
Poetry is a comforting piece of fiction set to more or less lascivious music.
The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.
Great artists are modest almost as seldom as they are faithful to their wives.
In the duel of sex woman fights from a dreadnaught, and man from an open raft.
I...hate all sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense.
No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
Tis always more blessed to give than to receive; for example, wedding presents.
Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible as baseball in Italian.
It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.
The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.
A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.
The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable.
Whenever A attempts by law to impose his moral standards on B, A is most likely a scoundrel.
Sunday school: a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
The notion that anything is gained by fixing a language in a groove is cherished only by pedants.
For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.
A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
Love is based on a view of women that is impossible to those who have had any experience with them.
Nothing is so abject and pathetic as a politician who has lost his job, save only a retired stud-horse.
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
Every autobiography...becomes an absorbing work of fiction, with something of the charm of a cryptogram.
No matter how much a woman loved a man, it would still give her a glow to see him commit suicide for her.
Voting is simply a way of determining which side is the stronger without putting it to the test of fighting.
It is hard to believe that man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.
Whenever a husband and a wife begin to discuss their marriage they are giving evidence at a coroner's inquest.
The chief knowledge that a man gets from reading books is the knowledge that very few of them are worth reading.
War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands.
Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
My guess is that well over 80 percent of the human race goes through life without having a single original thought.
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
Men have a much better time of it than women. For one thing, they marry later; for another thing, they die earlier.
To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia - to mistake an ordinary young woman for a goddess.
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.
An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
It is impossible to believe that the same God who permitted His own son to die a bachelor regards celibacy as an actual sin.
Perhaps the most valuable of all human possessions, next to an aloof and sniffish air, is the reputation of being well-to-do.
Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.
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.
Science, at bottom, is really anti-intellectual. It always distrusts pure reason, and demands the production of objective fact.
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.
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.
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.
Explanations exist, they have existed for all times, for there is always a well-known solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Women do not like timid men. Cats do not like prudent mice.
When women kiss it always reminds one of prize-fighters shaking hands.
Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible a plea as baseball in Italian.
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.