37 Famous HL Mencken Quotes

37 Famous HL Mencken Quotes

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Henry Louis H.L. Mencken was a journalist, magazine editor, and English scholar from the early 1900′s. He is most famous his writing of The American Language, which is a study of how the English language is spoken in different English speaking countries. He died in 1956 at the age of 75.

“A man may be a fool and not know it — but not if he is married.”

“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.”

“All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him.”

“By what route do otherwise sane men come to believe such palpable nonsense? How is it possible for a human brain to be divided into two insulated halves, one functioning normally, naturally
and even brilliantly, and the other capable only of such ghastly balderdash which issues from the minds of Baptist evangelists?”

“Creator — A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.”

“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.”

“I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech — alike for the humblest man and the mightiest, and in the utmost freedom of conduct that is consistent with living in organized

“I believe that 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 be ignorant.”

“I 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.”

“I have seen many theoretical objections to democracy, and sometimes urge them with such heat that it probably goes beyond the bound of sound taste, but I am thoroughly convinced,
nonetheless, that the democratic nations are happier than any other. The United States today, indeed, is probably the happiest the world has ever seen. ”

“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. ”

“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.”

“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.”

“In every unbeliever’s heart there is an uneasy feeling that, after all, he may awake after death and find himself immortal. This is his punishment for his unbelief. This is the agnostic’s

“Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.”

“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.”

“It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull.”

“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.”

“Liberty and democracy are eternal enemies, and every one knows it who has ever given any sober reflection to the matter.”

“Of all the religions ever devised by the great practical jokers of the race, [Christianity] is the one that offers most for the least money, so to speak, to the inferior man. It starts out
by denying his inferiority in plain terms: all men are equal in the sight of God. It ends by erecting that inferiority into a sort of actual superiority: it is a merit to be stupid, and
miserable, and sorely put upon—of such are the celestial elect. Not all the eloquence of a million Nietzsches, nor all the painful marshalling of evidence of a million Darwins and Harnacks,
will ever empty that great consolation of its allure. The most they can ever accomplish is to make the superior orders of men acutely conscious of the exact nature of it, and so give them
armament against the contagion.”

“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.”

“One of the main purposes of laws in a democratic society is to put burdens upon intelligence and reduce it to impotence. Ostensibly, their aim is to penalize anti-social acts; actually
their aim is to penalize heretical opinions.”

“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.”

“Religion, after all, is nothing but an hypothesis framed to account for what is evidentially unaccounted for. ”

“Science, at bottom, is really anti-intellectual. It always distrusts pure reason, and demands the production of objective fact.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. ”

“The more noisy Negro leaders, by depicting all whites as natural and implacable enemies to their race, have done it a great disservice. Large numbers of whites who were formerly very
friendly to it, and willing to go to great lengths to help it, are now resentful and suspicious.”

“The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance,
cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their
heads in shame.”

“There are no mute, inglorious Miltons, save in the hallucinations of poets. The one sound test of Milton is that he functions as a Milton.”

“There is, in fact, nothing about religious opinions that entitles them to any more respect than other opinions get. On the contrary, they tend to be noticeably silly.”

“This combat between proletariat and plutocracy is, after all, itself a civil war. Two inferiorities struggle for the privilege of polluting the world.”

“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.”

“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.”