Famous Quotes By H. L. Mencken


  1. A bad man is the sort who weeps every time he speaks of a good woman.
  2. A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
  3. A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness, but after that he begins to bunch them.
  4. A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.
  5. A society made up of individuals who were all capable of original thought would probably be unendurable.
  6. Adultery is the application of democracy to love.
  7. All government, of course, is against liberty.
  8. All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
  9. Bachelors know more about women than married men if they didn't they'd be married too.
  10. Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely made up of prophecies.
  11. Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
  12. Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.
  13. Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
  14. Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
  15. Every man sees in his relatives, and especially in his cousins, a series of grotesque caricatures of himself.
  16. Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.
  17. 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.
  18. Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.
  19. Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.
  20. Honor is simply the morality of superior men.
  21. Husbands never become good they merely become proficient.
  22. I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.
  23. 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.
  24. I hate all sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense.
  25. If women believed in their husbands they would be a good deal happier and also a good deal more foolish.
  26. Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time.
  27. In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.
  28. In war the heroes always outnumber the soldiers ten to one.
  29. It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.
  30. It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.
  31. It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.
  32. 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.
  33. It is not materialism that is the chief curse of the world, as pastors teach, but idealism. Men get into trouble by taking their visions and hallucinations too seriously.
  34. Legend: A lie that has attained the dignity of age.
  35. Love is an emotion that is based on an opinion of women that is impossible for those who have had any experience with them.
  36. Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.
  37. Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.
  38. Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
  39. Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?
  40. Men have a much better time of it than women. For one thing, they marry later for another thing, they die earlier.
  41. Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered there is only error to be exposed.
  42. No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.
  43. Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
  44. 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.
  45. Poetry has done enough when it charms, but prose must also convince.
  46. Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
  47. Strike an average between what a woman thinks of her husband a month before she marries him and what she thinks of him a year afterward, and you will have the truth about him.
  48. Temptation is an irresistible force at work on a movable body.
  49. 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.
  50. The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore.
  51. The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.
  52. The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
  53. The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety.
  54. The only really happy folk are married women and single men.
  55. The opera is to music what a bawdy house is to a cathedral.
  56. The theory seems to be that as long as a man is a failure he is one of God's children, but that as soon as he succeeds he is taken over by the Devil.
  57. The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
  58. The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.
  59. There are men so philosophical that they can see humor in their own toothaches. But there has never lived a man so philosophical that he could see the toothache in his own humor.
  60. There is a saying in Baltimore that crabs may be prepared in fifty ways and that all of them are good.
  61. Time stays, we go.
  62. To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia - to mistake an ordinary young woman for a goddess.
  63. To die for an idea it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!
  64. War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands.
  65. We are here and it is now. Further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine.
  66. We must be willing to pay a price for freedom.
  67. 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 smart.
  68. What men value in this world is not rights but privileges.
  69. When women kiss it always reminds one of prize fighters shaking hands.
  70. Whenever a husband and wife begin to discuss their marriage they are giving evidence at a coroner's inquest.
  71. Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it.
  72. Women always excel men in that sort of wisdom which comes from experience. To be a woman is in itself a terrible experience.
  73. Women have simple tastes. They get pleasure out of the conversation of children in arms and men in love.

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