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H. L. Mencken

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H. L. Mencken logic
School teachers, taking them by and large, are probably the most ignorant and stupid class of men in the whole group of mental workers.
H. L. Mencken work
It was morality that burned the books of the ancient sages, and morality that halted the free inquiry of the Golden Age and substituted for it the credulous imbecility of the Age of Faith. It was a fixed moral code and a fixed theology which robbed the human race of a thousand years by wasting them upon alchemy, heretic-burning, witchcraft and .
H. L. Mencken books
Of all escape mechanisms, death is the most efficient.
H. L. Mencken death
Progress: The process whereby the human race has got rid of whiskers, theand God.
H. L. Mencken man
Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.
H. L. Mencken fiction
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
H. L. Mencken people
Bachelors know more about women than married men. If they didn't they'd be married, too.
H. L. Mencken women
Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.
H. L. Mencken time
Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; 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, most of them imaginary.
H. L. Mencken politics
The final test of truth is ridicule. Very few dogmas have ever faced it and survived.laughed the devils out of theswine. Not the laws of the United States but the mother-in-law joke brought the Mormons to surrender. Not the horror of it but the absurdity of it killed the doctrine of infant damnation. But the razor edge of ridicule is turned by the tough hide of truth. How loudly the barber-surgeons laughed at Huxley—and how vainly! What clown ever brought down the house like ? Or ? Or ? . . . They are laughing atyet . . .
H. L. Mencken truth
No healthy man, in his secret heart, is content with his destiny. He is tortured by dreams and images as a child is tortured by the thought of a state of existence in which it would live in a candy store and have two stomachs.
H. L. Mencken dreams
Philadelphia is the mostof American cities, and thus probably leads the world.
H. L. Mencken world
The bitter, of course, goes with the sweet. To be an American is, unquestionably, to be the noblest, grandest, the proudest mammal that ever hoofed the verdure of God's green footstool. Often, in the black abysm of the night, the thought that I am one awakens me with a blast of trumpets, and I am thrown into a cold sweat by contemplation of the fact. I shall cherish it on the scaffold; it will console me in Hell. But there is no perfection under Heaven, so even an American has his small blemishes, his scarcely discernible weaknesses, his minute traces of vice and depravity.
H. L. Mencken thought
Off goes the head of the king, and tyranny gives way to freedom. The change seems abysmal. Then, bit by bit, the face of freedom hardens, and by and by it is the old face of tyranny. Then another cycle, and another. But under the play of all these opposites there is something fundamental and permanent — the basic delusion that men may be governed and yet be free.
H. L. Mencken freedom
It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull.
H. L. Mencken man
How does so much [false news] get into the American newspapers, even the good ones? Is it because journalists, as a class, are habitual liars, and prefer what is not true to what is true? I don't think it is. Rather, it is because journalists are, in the main, extremely stupid, sentimental and credulous fellows -- because nothing is easier than to fool them -- because the majority of them lack the sharp intelligence that the proper discharge of their duties demands.
H. L. Mencken intelligence
The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-bye to the Bill of Rights.
H. L. Mencken good
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.
H. L. Mencken evolution
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 art
To be happy one must be (a) well fed, unhounded by sordid cares, at ease in Zion, (b) full of a comfortable feeling of superiority to the masses of one's fellow men, and (c) delicately and unceasingly amused according to one's taste. It is my contention that, if this definition be accepted, there is no country in the world wherein a man constituted as I am — a man of my peculiar weakness, vanities, appetites, and aversions — can be so happy as he can be in the United States.
H. L. Mencken men
When I mount the scaffold at last these will be my farewell words to the sheriff: Say what you will against me when I am gone, but don’t forget to add, in common justice, that I was never converted to anything.
H. L. Mencken words
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 love
The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.
H. L. Mencken work
What is any political campaign save a concerted effort to turn out a set of politicians who are admittedly bad and put in a set who are thought to be better. The former assumption, I believe is always sound; the latter is just as certainly false. For if experience teaches us anything at all it teaches us this: that a good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
H. L. Mencken experience
Suppose two-thirds of the members of the national House of Representatives were dumped into the Washington garbage incinerator tomorrow, what would we lose to offset our gain of their salaries and the salaries of their parasites?
H. L. Mencken age
The strange American ardor for passing laws, the insane belief in regulation and punishment, plays into the hands of the reformers, most of them quacks themselves. Their efforts, even when honest, seldom accomplish any appreciable good. The , despite its cruel provisions, has not diminished drug addiction in the slightest. The Mormons, after years of persecution, are still Mormons, and one of them is now a power in the Senate. Socialism in the United States was not laid by the ; it was laid by the fact that the socialists, during the war, got their fair share of the loot. Nor was the stately progress of osteopathy and chiropractic halted by the early efforts to put them down. Oppressive laws do not destroy minorities; they simply make bootleggers.
H. L. Mencken war
It is the natural tendency of the ignorant to believe what is not true. In order to overcome that tendency it is not sufficient to exhibit the true; it is also necessary to expose and denounce the false. To admit that the false has any standing in court, that it ought to be handled gently because millions of morons cherish it and thousands of quacks make their livings propagating it—to admit this, as the more fatuous of the reconcilers of science and religion inevitably do, is to abandon a just cause to its enemies, cravenly and without excuse. It is, of course, quite true that there is a region in which science and religion do not conflict. That is the region of the unknowable.
H. L. Mencken religion
Here is tragedy—and here is America. For the curse of the country, as well of all democracies, is precisely the fact that it treats its best men as enemies. The aim of our society, if it may be said to have an aim, is to iron them out. The ideal American, in the public sense, is a respectable vacuum.
H. L. Mencken society
The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel.
H. L. Mencken truth
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. The objection to it is not that it is predominantly painful, but that it is lacking in sense.
H. L. Mencken war
Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. 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 the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.
H. L. Mencken wisdom
No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.
H. L. Mencken intelligence
It is [a politician's] business to get and hold his job at all costs. If he can hold it by lying, he will hold it by lying; if lying peters out, he will try to hold it by embracing new truths. His ear is ever close to the ground.
H. L. Mencken truth
Public opinion, in its raw state, gushes out in the immemorial form of the mob's fear. It is piped into central factories, and there it is flavoured and coloured and put into cans.
H. L. Mencken fear
I believe that liberty is the only genuinely valuable thing that men have invented, at least in the field of government, in a thousand years. I believe that it is better to be free than to be not free, even when the former is dangerous and the latter safe. I believe that the finest qualities of man can flourish only in free air – that progress made under the shadow of the policeman’s club is false progress, and of no permanent value. I believe that 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 men
Shave a gorilla and it would be almost impossible, at twenty paces, to distinguish him from a heavyweight champion of the world. Skin a chimpanzee, and it would take an autopsy to prove he was not a theologian.
H. L. Mencken world
To a clergyman lying under a vow of chastity any act of sex is immoral, but hisof it naturally increases in proportion as it looks safe and is correspondingly tempting. As a prudent man, he is not much disturbed by incitations which carry their obvious and certain penalties; what shakes him is the enticement bare of any probable secular retribution. Ergo, the worst and damndest indulgence is that which goes unwhipped. So he teaches that it is no sin for a woman to bear a child to a drunken and worthless husband, even though she may believe with sound reason that it will be diseased and miserable all its life, but if she resorts to any mechanical or chemical device, however harmless, to prevent its birth, she is doomed by his penology to roast in Hell forever, along with the assassin of orphans and the scoundrel who forgets his Easter duty.
H. L. Mencken life
One hears murmurs againston the ground that he is a desperado: the real objection to him is that he is a politician. Indeed, he is probably the most perfect specimen of the genus politician on view in the world today. His career has been impeccably classical. Beginning life as a ranting Socialist of the worst type, he abjured Socialism the moment he saw better opportunities for himself on the other side, and ever since then he has devoted himself gaudily to clapping Socialists in jail, filling them with castor oil, sending blacklegs to burn down their houses, and otherwise roughing them. Modern politics has produced no more adept practitioner.
H. L. Mencken life
What are the hallmarks of a competent writer of fiction? The first, it seems to me, is that he should be immensely interested in human beings, and have an eye sharp enough to see into them, and a hand clever enough to draw them as they are. The second is that he should be able to set them in imaginary situations which display the contents of their psyches effectively, and so carry his reader swiftly and pleasantly from point to point of what is called a good story.
H. L. Mencken fiction
If he became convinced tomorrow that coming out for cannibalism would get him the votes he needs so sorely, he would begin fattening a missionary in the White House yard come Wednesday.
H. L. Mencken ya
When A annoys or injures B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.
H. L. Mencken
Having lived all my life in a country swarming with messiahs, I have been mistaken, perhaps quite naturally, for one myself, especially by the others. It would be hard to imagine anything more preposterous. I am, in fact, the complete anti-Messiah, and detest converts almost as much as I detest missionaries. My writings, such as they are, have had only one purpose: to attain for H. L. Mencken that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk. Further than that, I have had no interest in the matter whatsoever. It has never given me any satisfaction to encounter one who said my notions had pleased him. My preference has always been for people with notions of their own. I have believed all my life in free thought and free speech—up to and including the utmost limits of the endurable.
H. L. Mencken life
In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible to any public office of trust or profit in the Republic. But I do not repine, for I am a subject of it only by force of arms.
H. L. Mencken trust
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 man
I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve anything like dignity, it can happen only if superior men are given absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to limit or deny that freedom. . . [and] the superior man can be sure of freedom only if it is given to all men.
H. L. Mencken freedom
The virulence of the national appetite for bogus revelation.
H. L. Mencken
To the man with an ear for verbal delicacies — the man who searches painfully for the perfect word, and puts the way of saying a thing above the thing said — there is in writing the constant joy of sudden discovery, of happy accident.
H. L. Mencken writing
Poverty is a soft pedal upon the branches of human activity, not excepting the spiritual.
H. L. Mencken spiritual
Time is the great legalizer, even in the field of morals.
H. L. Mencken morals
I was at the job of reading it for days and days, endlessly daunted and halted by its laborious dullness, its flatulent fatuity, its almost fabulous inconsequentiality. (On H. G. Wells' Joan and Peter) Ch. 2, "The Late Mr. Wells"
H. L. Mencken reading
The public...demands certainties...But there are no certainties.
H. L. Mencken man
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
H. L. Mencken time
All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced on them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.
H. L. Mencken success
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 art
To be in love is merely to be in a state of perpetual anesthesia — to mistake an ordinary young man for a Greek god or an ordinary young woman for a goddess.
H. L. Mencken love
The 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. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.
H. L. Mencken time
There are no mute, inglorious , save in the hallucinations of poets. The one sound test of Milton is that he functions as a Milton.
H. L. Mencken fun
Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.
H. L. Mencken justice
The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
H. L. Mencken wisdom
The Gettysburg speech was at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history... But let us not forget that it is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it! Put it into the cold words of everyday! The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination – "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth". It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.
H. L. Mencken poetry
Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.
H. L. Mencken belief
A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought. He is not a mere ass; he is actually ill. Worse, he is incurable, for disappointment, being essentially an objective phenomenon, cannot permanently affect his subjective infirmity. His faith takes on the virulence of a chronic infection. What he usually says, in substance, is this: "Let us trust in God, who has always fooled us in the past.
H. L. Mencken faith
The professor must be an obscurantist or he is nothing; he has a special and unmatchable talent for dullness, his central aim is not to expose the truth clearly, but to exhibit his profundity, his esotericity - in brief to stagger sophomores and other professors.
H. L. Mencken truth
Ostensibly he is an altruist devoted whole-heartedly to the service of his fellow-men, and so abjectly public-spirited that his private interest is nothing to him. Actually, he is a sturdy rogue whose principal, and often sole aim in life is to butter his parsnips. His technical equipment consistes simply of an armamentarium of deceits. It is his business to get and hold his job at all costs. If he can hold it by lying he will hold it by lying. if lying peters out he will try and hold it by embracing new truths. His ear is ever close to the ground.
H. L. Mencken life
It is moral by his code to get into office by false pretences. It is moral to change convictions overnight. Anything is moral that furthers the main concern of his soul, which is to keep a place at the public trough.
H. L. Mencken change
For what democracy needs most of all is a party that will separate the good that is in it theoretically from the evils that beset it practically, and then try to erect that good into a workable system. What it needs beyond everything is a party of liberty. It produces, true enough, occasional libertarians, just as despotism produces occasional regicides, but it treats them in the same drum-head way. It will never have a party of them until it invents and installs a genuine aristocracy, to breed them and secure them.*
H. L. Mencken art
Liberty means self-reliance, it means resolution, it means enterprise, it means the capacity for doing without. The free man is one who has won a small and precarious territory from the great mob of his inferiors, and is prepared and ready to defend it and make it support him. All around him are enemies, and where he stands there is no friend. He can hope for little help from other men of his own kind, for they have battles of their own to fight. He has made of himself a sort of god in his little world, and he must face the responsibilities of a god, and the dreadful loneliness.
H. L. Mencken god
I have spoken hitherto of the possibility that democracy may be a self-limiting disease, like measles. It is, perhaps, something more: it is self-devouring. One cannot observe it objectively without being impressed by its curious distrust of itself—its apparently ineradicable tendency to abandon its whole philosophy at the first sign of strain. I need not point to what happens invariably in democratic states when the national safety is menaced. All the great tribunes of democracy, on such occasions, convert themselves, by a process as simple as taking a deep breath, into despots of an almost fabulous ferocity.
H. L. Mencken philosophy
Nature abhors a moron.
H. L. Mencken nature
The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
H. L. Mencken passion
Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.
H. L. Mencken science
Immorality is the morality of those who are having a better time. You will never convince the average farmer's mare that the late Maud S. was not dreadfully immoral.
H. L. Mencken time
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 age
A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know.
H. L. Mencken man
Platitude — An idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.
H. L. Mencken true
Remorse — Regret that one waited so long to do it.
H. L. Mencken regret
Self-respect — The secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious.
H. L. Mencken respect
Truth — Something somehow discreditable to someone.
H. L. Mencken truth
We are here and it is now: further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine.
H. L. Mencken knowledge
Historian — An unsuccessful novelist.
H. L. Mencken success
Christian — One who is willing to serve three Gods, but draws the line at one wife.
H. L. Mencken will
The New Deal began, like the Salvation Army, by promising to save humanity. It ended, again like the Salvation Army, by running flop-houses and disturbing the peace.
H. L. Mencken peace
Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.
H. L. Mencken art
The theory seems to be that so long as a man is a failure he is one of God's chillun, but that as soon as he has any luck he owes it to the Devil.
H. L. Mencken evil
Judge — A law student who marks his own examination-papers.
H. L. Mencken law
Jury — A group of twelve men who, having lied to the judge about their hearing, health and business engagements, have failed to fool him.
H. L. Mencken men
Lawyer — One who protects us against robbers by taking away the temptation.
H. L. Mencken law
Jealousy is the theory that some other fellow has just as little taste.
H. L. Mencken jealousy
Wealth — Any income that is at least $100 more a year than the income of one's wife's sister's husband.
H. L. Mencken wife
Misogynist — A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.
H. L. Mencken women
A man may be a fool and not know it — but not if he is married.
H. L. Mencken man
Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
H. L. Mencken men
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.
H. L. Mencken world
Theology — An effort to explain the unknowable by putting it into terms of the not worth knowing.
H. L. Mencken win
Creator — A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.
H. L. Mencken media
Sunday — A day given over by Americans to wishing that they themselves were dead and in Heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in Hell.
H. L. Mencken dead
A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.
H. L. Mencken crazy
Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.
H. L. Mencken science
Q: If you find so much that is unworthy of reverence in the United States, then why do you live here? A: Why do men go to zoos?
H. L. Mencken men

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