H. L. Mencken, fully Henry Louis Mencken

H. L.
Mencken, fully Henry Louis Mencken

American Newspaperman, Editor, Writer, Critic, Iconoclast, Satirist, Acerbic Critic of American Life and Culture, American English Scholar

Author Quotes

To wage a war for a purely moral reason is as absurd as to ravish a woman for a purely moral reason.

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.

Whenever a woman begins to talk of anything, she is talking to, of, or at a man.

Today every such man knows that the laws which prevail in the universe, whatever their origin in some remote and incomprehensible First Purpose, manifest themselves in complete impersonality, and that no representation to any superhuman Power, however imagined, can change their operation in the slightest. He knows that when they seem arbitrary and irrational it is not because omnipotent and inscrutable Presences are playing with them, as a child might play with building blocks; but because the human race is yet too ignorant to penetrate to their true workings. The whole history of progress, as the modern mind sees it, is a history of such penetrations. ... Each in its turn has narrowed the dominion and prerogative of the gods.

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

Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it.

Tombstone: An ugly reminder of one who has been forgotten.

What men value in this world is not rights but privileges.

Why assume so glibly that the God who presumably created the universe is still running it? It is certainly perfectly conceivable that He may have finished it and then turned it over to lesser gods to operate. In the same way many human institutions are turned over to grossly inferior men. This is true, for example, of most universities, and of all great newspapers.

True enough, even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided only he does not try to inflict them upon other men by force. He has a right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has a right to teach them to his children. But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them. He has no right to demand that they be treated as sacred. He has no right to preach them without challenge. Did Darrow, in the course of his dreadful bombardment of Bryan, drop a few shells, incidentally, into measurably cleaner camps? Then let the garrisons of those camps look to their defenses. They are free to shoot back. But they can't disarm their enemy.

What the meaning of human life may be I don't know: I incline to suspect that it has none.

Wife: a former sweetheart.

Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.

What the South really needs is fewer scrub bulls ? on the human level.

Wife: one who is sorry she did it, but would undoubtedly do it again.

Truth: Something somehow discreditable to someone.

When A annoys or injures B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.

Women always excel man in that sort of wisdom which comes from experience. To be a woman is in itself a terrible experience.

Those who can -- do. Those who can't -- teach.

Two avenues of approach to these rewards lie open to the ambitious fictioneer. On the one hand, he may throw all intelligible standards of merit to the winds, and devote himself to new manufacturing que stories are frankly bad, trusting to collegues nine persons out of ten are utterly devoid of esthetic sense and HENCE unable to tell the bad from the good. And on the other hand, he may take stories, or parts of stories have been told before que, que or, in Themselves, are scarcely worth the telling, and so encrust Them with the ornaments of wit, of shrewd observation, of human sympathy and of style - in brief, so develop Them - that readers of good taste will forget the unsoundness of the stuff in admiration of the ingenious and workmanlike way in Which it is handled.

When a husband's story is believed, he begins to suspect his wife.

Women decide the larger questions of life correctly and quickly, not because they are lucky guessers, not because they are divinely inspired, not because they practice a magic inherited from savagery, but simply and solely because they have sense. They see at a glance why most men could not see with searchlights and telescopes... They are the supreme realists of the race.

Time stays, we go.

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to prove that the other party is unfit to rule-- and both commonly succeed, and are right. The United States has never developed an aristocracy really disinterested or an intelligentsia really intelligent. Its history is simply a record of vacillations between two gangs of frauds.

When a man laughs at his troubles he loses a good many friends. They never forgive the loss of their prerogative.

Author Picture
First Name
H. L.
Last Name
Mencken, fully Henry Louis Mencken
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American Newspaperman, Editor, Writer, Critic, Iconoclast, Satirist, Acerbic Critic of American Life and Culture, American English Scholar