H. L. Mencken Quotes | Quotes by H. L. Mencken

1Conscience is the accumulated sediment of ancestral faint- heartedness

2Every autobiography ... becomes an absorbing work of fiction, with something of the charm of a cryptogram.

3Life without sex might be safer but it would be unbearably dull. It is the sex instinct which makes women seem beautiful, which they are once in a blue moon, and men seem wise and brave, which they never are at all. Throttle it, denaturalize it, take it away, and human existence would be reduced to the prosaic, laborious, boresome, imbecile level of life in an anthill.

4The genuine music lover may accept the carnal husk of opera to get at the kernel of actual music within, but that is no sign that he approves the carnal husk or enjoys gnawing through it.

5I hope I need not confess that a large part of my stock in trade consists of platitudes rescued from the cobwebbed shelves of yesterday... This borrowing and refurbishing of shop-worn goods, as a matter of fact, is the invariable habit of traders in ideas, at all times and everywhere. It is not, however, that all the conceivable human notions have been thought out; it is simply, to be quite honest, that the sort of men who volunteer to think out new ones seldom, if ever, have wind enough for a full day's work.

6No matter how long he lives, no man ever becomes as wise as the average woman of forty-eight.

7I go on working for the same reason that a hen goes on laying eggs. There is in every living creature an obscure but powerful impulse to active functioning. Life demands to be lived. Inaction, save as a measure of recuperation between bursts of activity, is painful and dangerous to the healthy organism- in fact, it is almost impossible. Only the dying can be really idle.

8As long as you represent me as praising alcohol I shall not complain.

9For it is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest that holds human associations together.

10Elections are futures markets in stolen property.

H. L. Mencken Quotes

11In the United States...politics is purged of all menace, all sinister quality, all genuine significance, and stuffed with such gorgeous humors, such inordinate farce that one comes to the end of a campaign with one's ribs loose, and ready for King Lear, or a hanging, or a course of medical journals.

12Never underestimate the booberie of the booboisie.

13A society made up of individuals who were all capable of original thought would probably be unendurable.

14It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.

15Sin 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.

16Never underestimate the bad taste of the American public

17Anyhow, the hole in the donut is at least digestible.

18School days, I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence.

19A gentlemen is one who never strikes a woman without provocation.

20The cynics are right nine times out of ten.

H. L. Mencken Quotes

21The motive of fear is the be-all and end-all of religion.

22Living with a dog is easy- like living with an idealist.

23Women have simple tastes. They get pleasure out of the conversation of children in arms and men in love.

24Human progress is furthered, not by conformity, but by aberration.

25[T]here is only one sound argument for democracy, and that is the argument that it is a crime for any man to hold himself out as better than other men, and, above all, a most heinous offense for him to prove it.

26A free citizen in a free state, it seems to me, has an inalienable right to play with whomsoever he will, so long as he does not disturb the general peace. If any other citizen, offended by the spectacle, makes a pother, then that other citizen, and not the man exercising his inalienable right, should be put down by the police.

27What I admire most in any man is a serene spirit, a steady freedom from moral indignation, and all-embracing tolerance--in brief,what is commonly called sportsmanship.

28The Catholic clergy seldom bother to make their arguments plausible; it is plain that they have little respect for human intelligence, and indeed little belief in its existence.

29The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.

30Remorse - Regret that one waited so long to do it.

H. L. Mencken Quotes

31We are here and it is now. Further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine.

32The Puritan, of course, is not entirely devoid of aesthetic feeling. He has a taste for good form; he responds to style; he is even capable of something approaching a purely aesthetic emotion. But he fears this aesthetic emotion as an insinuating distraction from his chief business in life: the sober consideration of the all-important problem of conduct. Art is a temptation, a seduction, a Lorelei, and the Good Man may safely have traffic with it when it is broken to moral uses--in other words, when its innocence is pumped out of it, and it is purged of gusto.

33I never smoked a cigarette until I was nine.

34Taxation, for example, is eternally lively; it concerns nine-tenths of us more directly than either smallpox or golf, and has just as much drama in it; moreover, it has been mellowed and made gay by as many gaudy, preposterous theories

35Of government, at least in democratic states, it may be said briefly that it is an agency engaged wholesale, and as a matter of solemn duty, in the performance of acts which all self-respecting individuals refrain from as a matter of common decency.

36How to Drink Like a Gentleman: The Things to Do and the Things Not To, as Learned in 30 Years' Extensive Research.

37A man who knows a subject thoroughly, a man so soaked in it that he eats it, sleeps it and dreams it- this man can always teach it with success, no matter how little he knows of technical pedagogy.

38What makes philosophy so tedious is not the profundity of philosophers, but their lack of art; they are like physicians who soughtto cure a slight hyperacidity by prescribing a carload of burned oyster-shells.

39Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops

40To 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.

H. L. Mencken Quotes

41The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth... Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty - and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies.

42The liberation of the human mind has never been furthered by dunderheads; it has been furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world, proving to all men that doubt, after all, was safe - that the god in the sanctuary was finite in his power and hence a fraud. One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.

43School teachers, taking them by and large, are probably the most ignorant and stupid class of men in the whole group of mental workers.

44Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses.

45Youth, though it may lack knowledge, is certainly not devoid of intelligence; it sees through shams with sharp and terrible eyes.

46God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, and 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.

47I never agree with Communists or any other kind of kept men.

48[C]lass consciousness is not one of our national diseases; we suffer, indeed, from its opposite-the delusion that class barriers are not real. That delusion reveals itself in many forms, some of them as beautiful as a glass eye. One is the Liberal doctrine that a prairie demagogue promoted to the United States Senate will instantly show all the sagacity of a Metternich ... another is the doctrine that a moronrun through a university and decorated with a Ph.D. will cease thereby to be a moron.

49Wherever I sit is the head of the table.

50No 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 Quotes

51Looking for an honest politician is like looking for an ethical burglar.

52I have often argued that a poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child. I begin to suspect that there may be some truth in it.

53No government is ever really in favor of so-called civil rights. It always tries to whittle them down. They are preserved under all governments, insofar as they survive at all, by special classes of fanatics, often highly dubious.

54Christian - One who is willing to serve three Gods, but draws the line at one wife.

55That it should still be necessary, at this late stage in the senility of the human race to argue that women have a fine and fluent intelligence is surely an eloquent proof of the defective observation, incurable prejudice, and general imbecility of their lords and masters.

56One of the laudable by-products of the Freudian quackery is the discovery that lying, in most cases, is involuntary and inevitable--that the liar can no more avoid it than he can avoid blinking his eyes when a light flashes or jumping when a bomb goes off behind him.

57Watching two women kiss is like watching two prizefighters shake hands.

58The true aim of medicine is not to make men virtuous; it is to safeguard and rescue them from the consequences of their vices. The physician does not preach repentance; he offers absolution.

59I go on working for the same reason that a hen goes on laying eggs.

60[Texas is] the place where there are the most cows and the least milk and the most rivers and the least water in them, and where you can look the farthest to see the least.