Quotations by Mencken, H.L.


In brief, she assumed that, being a man, I was vain to the point of imbecility, and this assumption was correct, as it always is.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“A Popular Virtue,” Prejudices: Second Series (1920)
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My country ’tis of thee
Sweet land of felony
Of thee I sing —
Land where my father fried
Young witches and applied
Whips to the Quaker’s hide
And made him spring.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“A Rational Anthem,” Black Beatles in Amber (1892)

See original.
Added on 16-Oct-13 | Last updated 16-Oct-13
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PURITANISM: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Arcana Coelestia,” A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
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I don’t think the boy of lively mind is hurt much by going to college. If he encounters mainly jackasses, then he learns the useful lesson that this is a jackass world.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Editorial,” The American Mercury (April 1926)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Prejudices: Sixth Series (1927).
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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.
H L Mencken - epitaph

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Epitaph,” Smart Set (3 Dec 1921)
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When things get so balled up that the people of a country got to cut loose from some other country, and go it on their own hook, without asking no permission from nobody, excepting maybe God Almighty, then they ought to let everybody know why they done it, so that everybody can see they are not trying to put nothing over on nobody. All we got to say on this proposition is this: first, me and you is as good as anybody else, and maybe a damn sight better; second, nobody ain’t got no right to take away none of our rights; third, everyman has got a right to live, to come and go as he pleases, and to have a good time whichever way he likes, so long as he don’t interfere with nobody else. That any government that don’t give a man them rights ain’t worth a damn; also, people ought to choose the kind of government they want themselves, and nobody else ought to have no say in the matter. That whenever any government don’t do this, then the people have got a right to give it the bum’s rush and put in one that will take care of their interests.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Essay in American,” Baltimore Evening Sun (7 Nov 1921)
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It is common to assume that human progress affects everyone — that even the dullest man, in these bright days, knows more than any man of, say, the Eighteenth Century, and is far more civilized. This assumption is quite erroneous. The men of the educated minority, no doubt, know more than their predecessors, and some of them, perhaps, it may be said that they are more civilized — though I should not like to be put to giving names — but the great masses of men, even in this inspired republic, are precisely where the mob was at the dawn of history. They are ignorant, they are dishonest, they are cowardly, they are ignoble. They know little if anything that is worth knowing, and there is not the slightest sign of a natural desire among them to increase their knowledge.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Homo Neandertalensis,” Baltimore Evening Sun (29 Jun 1925)
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Every step in human progress, from the first feeble stirrings in the abyss of time, has been opposed by the great majority of men. Every valuable thing that has been added to the store of man’s possessions has been derided by them when it was new, and destroyed by them when they had the power. They have fought every new truth ever heard of, and they have killed every truth-seeker who got into their hands.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Homo Neanderthalensis,” Baltimore Evening Sun (29 Jun 1925)

Full text.
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The ideal government … is one which lets the individual alone — one which barely escapes being no government at all.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Matters of State: Le Contrat Social,” Prejudices: Third Series (1922)
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Political revolutions … do not often accomplish anything of genuine value; their one undoubted effect is simply to throw out one gang of thieves and put in another. After a revolution, of course, the successful revolutionists always try to convince doubters that they have achieved great things, and usually they hang any man who denies it.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Matters of State: Le Contrat Social,” Prejudices: Third Series (1922)
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The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Mr. Mencken Sounds Off,” interview, LIFE Magazine (5 Aug 1946)
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One man prefers the Republic because it pays better than Bulgaria. Another because it has laws to keep him sober and his daughter chaste. Another because the Woolworth Building is higher than the cathedral at Chartres. Another because, living here, he can read the New York Evening Journal. Another because there is a warrant out for him somewhere else. Me, I like it because it amuses me to my taste. I never get tired of the show. It is worth every cent it costs.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“On Being an American,” Prejudices: Third Series (1922)
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The chief business of the nation, as a nation, is the setting up of heroes, mainly bogus.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“On Being an American” (1), Prejudices: Third Series (1922)
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The Bill of Rights was designed trustfully to prohibit forever two of the favorite crimes of all known governments: the seizure of private property without adequate compensation and the invasion of the citizen’s liberty without justifiable cause and due process.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“On Government,” Prejudices: Fourth Series (1924)
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The Bill of Rights was designed  trustfully to prohibit forever two of the favorite crimes of all known governments: the seizure of private property without adequate compensation and the invasion of the citizen’s liberty without justifiable cause and due process.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“On Government” (2), Prejudices: Fourth Series (1924)
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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 (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“On the Nature of Man: The Altruist,” Prejudices: Fourth Series (1924)
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The man who is unable to laugh at his god is a man who does not quite believe in his god. In the Middle Ages, when Christians were really Christians, the burlesque mass flourished, and even bishops took part in it. Today, with not enough faith left in Christendom to make a single martyr, a burlesque mass would end in a lynching — and Jews and Protestants would help pull the rope.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Pertinent and Impertinent,” Smart Set (Jun 1913) [as Owen Hatteras]
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Democracy is the theory that intelligence is dangerous. It assumes that no idea can be safe until those who can’t understand it have approved it. It defines truth as anything which at least fifty-one men in every hundred believe. Thus it is firmly committed to the doctrines that one bath a week is enough, that “I seen” is the past tense of “I see,” and that Friday is an unlucky day.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Pertinent and Impertinent,” Smart Set (Jun 1913) [as Owen Hatteras]
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No man is genuinely happy, married, who has to drink worse gin than he used to drink when he was single.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Reflections on Monogamy,” Prejudices (1919-27)
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The man who is thought to be poor never gets a fair chance. No one wants to listen to him. No one gives a damn what he thinks or knows or feels. No one has any desire for his good opinion. I discovered this principle early in life, and have put it to use ever since.
I have got a great deal more out of men (and women) by having the name of being a well-heeled fellow than I have ever got by being decent to them, or by dazzling them with my sagacity, or by hard industry, or by a personal beauty that is singular and ineffable.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Smart Set” (May 1920)
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Thus I advise against suicide. Life may not be exactly pleasant, but it is at least not dull. Heave yourself into Hell today, and you may miss, tomorrow or next day, another Scopes trial, or another War to End War, or perhaps a rich and buxom widow with all her first husband’s clothes.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!” The American Mercury (Apr 1928)

Review of R. Cavan, Suicide. Full text.
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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.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Blushful Mystery: Art and Sex,” Prejudices: First Series (1919)
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Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Citizen and the State,” A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
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The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Coolidge Buncombe” (6 Oct 1924)
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The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Disease of Democracy,” Notes on Democracy (1926)

Full text.

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

Mencken - neat plausible and wrong - wist_info quote

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Divine Afflatus,” New York Evening Mail (16 Nov 1917)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Prejudices: Second Series (1920) and A Mencken Chrestomathy, ch. 25 (1949).

Variants:
  • "There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong."
  • "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong."
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The legislature, like the executive, has ceased to be even the creature of the people: it is the creature of pressure groups, and most of them, it must be manifest, are of dubious wisdom and even more dubious honesty. Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle — a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game…. If the right pressure could be applied to him he would be cheerfully in favor of chiropractic, astrology or cannibalism.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Library,” The American Mercury (May 1930)

Book review of The Dissenting Opinions of Mr. Justice Holmes (1930)
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Personally, I hate to have to think of any man as of a definite race, creed, or color; so few men are really worth knowing that it seems a shameful waste to let an anthropoid prejudice stand in the way of free association with one who is.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Library,” The American Mercury (May 1931)
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When you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Mind of Man,” A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
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It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull.

Mencken - dull man who is sure - wist_info quote

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The National Letters,” Prejudices: Second Series (1920)
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A good half of the humor of the late Mark Twain consisted of admitting frankly the possession of vices and weaknesses that all of us have and few care to acknowledge. Practically all of the sagacity of George Bernard Shaw consists of bellowing vociferously what everyone knows.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Ulster Problem,” Prejudices: The First Series (1919)
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CONSCIENCE: The inner voice which warns us someone may be looking.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“This and That,” A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
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The row was over Darwinism, but before it ended Darwinism was almost forgotten. What Huxley fought for was something far greater: the right of civilized men to think freely and speak freely, without asking leave of authority, clerical or lay. How new that right is! And yet how firmly held! Today it would be hard to imagine living without it. No man of self-respect, when he has a thought to utter, pauses to wonder what the bishops will have to say about it. The views of bishops are simply ignored. Yet only sixty years ago they were still so powerful that they gave Huxley the battle of his life.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Thomas Henry Huxley,” Baltimore Evening Sun (4 May 1925)
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The principle is surely not new in the world: everyone ought to know by this time that a mountebank, thinking only of tomorrow’s cakes, is far safer with power in his hands than a prophet and martyr, his eyes fixed frantically upon the rewards beyond the grave.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“What I Believe,” sec. 2, Forum and Century (Sep 1930)
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Men become civilized not in proportion to their willingness to believe but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“What I Believe,” sec. 4, Forum and Century (Sep 1930)
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I believe it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than to be ignorant.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“What I Believe,” sec. 6, Forum and Century (Sep 1930)
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I believe any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Why Liberty?” Chicago Tribune (30 Jan 1927)
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As democracy is perfected, the office [of the President] represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. 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.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Bayard vs. Lionheart,” The Baltimore Evening Sun (26 Jul 1920)

Variant: "As democracy is perfected, the office of the 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 occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron."

Verification and discussion of this quotation here, here, and here.
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The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth. A Galileo could no more be elected President of the United States than he could be elected Pope of Rome. Both high posts are reserved for men favored by God with an extraordinary genius for swathing the bitter facts of life in bandages of soft illusion.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(1918)
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A home is not a mere transient shelter: its essence lies in the personalities of the people who live in it.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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HISTORIAN: an unsuccessful novelist.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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CLERGYMAN: A ticket speculator outside the gates of Heaven.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)

(also attrib Susan Ertz)
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The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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Most people want security in this world, not liberty.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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If I have been wrong in my agnosticism, when I die I’ll walk up to God in a manly way and say, “Sir, I made an honest mistake.”

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)

Quoted by John Kenneth Galbraith, interview with N. Attallah, Singular Encounters (1990)
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Never argue with a man whose job depends on not being convinced.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)

Quoted by C. Matthews, Hardball: How Politics Is Played, ch. 6 (1988)

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Man is never honestly the fatalist, nor even the stoic. He fights his fate, often desperately. He is forever entering bold exceptions to the rulings of the bench of gods. This fighting, no doubt, makes for human progress, for it favors the strong and the brave. It also makes for beauty, for lesser men try to escape from a hopeless and intolerable world by creating a more lovely one of their own.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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The older I get the more I admire and crave competence, just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)
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The only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
(Attributed)

Referring to the dry martini cocktail.
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SELF-RESPECT: The secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Book of Burlesques, ch. 11 (1920)
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Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major (1916)
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It is hard to believe that a man is telling you the truth when you know you would lie if you were in his place.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major (1916)
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An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it is also more nourishing.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major (1916)

He later changed this to "... concludes that it will also make better soup." (A Book of Burlesques (1924); also attributed to Chrestomathy.)
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major (1916)
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The objection to Puritans is not that they try to make us think as they do, but that they try to make us do as they think.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major, 5.22 (1916)
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It is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major, 5.23 (1916)
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CREATOR: A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Mencken Chrestomathy, ch. 30 (1949)

Sometimes attributed to Voltaire.
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The fact is that the average man’s love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. 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.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Baltimore Evening Sun (12 Feb 1923)
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What should be obvious and indisputable requires a public ceremonial to prove it! Why not a day for wearing little tin bathtubs to prove that one bathes, in the patriotic American manner, once a week? Why not white hatbands for gentlemen who are true to their wives? It is precisely the mark of the cad that he makes a public boast of what is inseparable from decency. He is the fellow who marches grandly in preparedness parades to show off his valor, his patriotism, his willingness to die for his country. He is the fellow who insults his mother by making a spectacle of the fact that he is on good terms with her.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Baltimore Evening Sun (13 Jun. 1916)

(on Mothers Day and wearing carnations to proclaim love for one's mother)
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We owe to capital the fact that the medical profession, for example, is now really useful to mankind, whereas formerly it was useful only to the charlatans who practiced it. It took accumulated money to provide the long training that medicine began to demand as it slowly lifted itself from the level of a sorry trade to that of a dignified art and science — money to keep the student while he studied and his teachers while they instructed him, and more money to pay for the expensive housing and materials that they needed. In the main, all that money came from private capitalists. But whether it came from private capitalists or from the common treasury, it was always capital, which is to say, it was always part of an accumulated surplus. It never could have been provided out of the hand-to-mouth income of a non-capitalistic society.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Baltimore Evening Sun (14 Jan 1935)
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The most a lawyer ever demands of the victim before him is that he be hanged, but the meekest clergyman is constantly proposing to doom his opponents to endless tortures in lakes of boiling brimstone.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Baltimore Evening Sun (17 Dec. 1927)
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The Fathers who invented it [democracy], if they could return from Hell, would never recognize it. It was conceived as a free government of free men; it has become simply a battle of charlatans for the votes of idiots.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Baltimore Evening Sun (26 Apr 1937)
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The curse of man, and the cause of nearly all his woes, is his stupendous capacity for believing the incredible.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
In Defense of Women (1918)
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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, most of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
In Defense of Women, ch. 13 (1918)
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Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized a man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. 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.”

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report : H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks (1956)
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Fear of death and fear of life both become piety.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks (1956)
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When I hear a man applauded by the mob, I always feel a pang of pity for him. All he has to do to be hissed is to live long enough.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks (1956)
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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 are smart.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks, # 1 (1956)
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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.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks, #34 (1956)
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The chief difference between free capitalism and State socialism seems to be this: that under the former a man pursues his own advantage openly, frankly, and honestly, whereas under the latter he does so hypocritically and under false pretences.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks, #397 (1956)
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The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report, #323 (1956)
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I’ve made it a rule never to drink by daylight and never to refuse a drink after dark.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
New York Post (18 Sep 1945)
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The finest fruits of human progress, like all of the nobler virtues of man, are the exclusive possession of small minorities, chiefly unpopular and disreputable.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Notes on Democracy, 1.8 (1926)
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Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Prejudices, Third Series (1922)
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There comes a time in every normal man’s life when he must be tempted to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Prejudices: First Series (1919)
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All the great villainies of history, from the murder of Abel to the Treaty of Versailles, have been perpetrated by sober men, and chiefly by teetotalers. But all the charming and beautiful things, from the Song of Songs to Terrapin à la Maryland, and from the nine Beethoven symphonies to the Martini cocktail, have been given to humanity by men who, when the hour came, turned from well water to something with color to it, and more in it than mere oxygen and hydrogen.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Prejudices: Fourth Series (1924)
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Every third American devotes himself to improving and uplifting his fellow-citizens, usually by force.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Prejudices
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The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves one of the most useful men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigator. What actually urges him on is not some brummagem idea of Service, but a boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but a dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Smart Set (Aug 1919)
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The Gettysburg speech is at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history. Put beside it, all the whoopings of the Websters, Sumners and Everetts seem gaudy and silly. It is eloquence brought to a pellucid and almost gem-like perfection — the highest emotion reduced to a few poetical phrases.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Smart Set (May 1920)
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Man is always looking for someone to boast to; woman is always looking for someone to complain to.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
The New York Evening Mail (15 Nov 1917)

A year later he wrote: "Man is always looking for someone to boast to; woman is always looking for a shoulder to put her head on." [In Defense of Women (1918)]
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We are apt to forget that a great man is thus not only great, but also a man: that a philosopher, in a life time, spends less hours pondering the destiny of the race than he gives over to wondering if it will rain tomorrow and to meditating upon the toughness of steaks.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
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The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Baltimore Evening Sun (15 Jun 1936)

Full text.
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The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true desserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity and damnfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of infamy. If these villains could be put down, he holds, he would at once become rich, powerful and eminent. Nine politicians out of every ten, of whatever party, live and have their being by promising to perform
this putting down. In brief, they are knaves who maintain themselves by preying on the idiotic vanities and pathetic hopes of half-wits.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Baltimore Evening Sun (15 Jun 1936)
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I have long been convinced that the idea of liberty is abhorrent to most human beings. What they want is security, not freedom. Thus it seldom causes any public indignation when an enterprising tyrant claps down on one of his enemies. To most men it seems a natural proceeding.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Letter to Edgar R. Dawson (3 Dec 1937)
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No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Notes on Journalism, Chicago Tribune (19 Sep 1926)

Popularly, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."
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