John Petrie’s Collection of

H.L. Mencken Quotes

Henry Louis Mencken
Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)


For every complex problem there is a simple solution... and it is wrong.

After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations. (On Shakespeare)

Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all other philosophers are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.

The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth—that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

There is only one honest impulse at the bottom of Puritanism, and that is the impulse to punish the man with a superior capacity for happiness.

God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters.

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.

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.

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.

Demagogue: one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.

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.

Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction in stolen goods.

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.

And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.

The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.

The worst government is 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.

All government, in its essence, is organized exploitation, and in virtually all of its existing forms it is the implacable enemy of every industrious and well-disposed man.

All I ask is equal freedom. When it is denied, as it always is, I take it anyhow.

It is the fundamental theory of all the more recent American law...that the average citizen is half-witted, and hence not to be trusted to either his own devices or his own thoughts.

The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.

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

For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.

The ideal government of reflective men, from Aristotle onward, is one which lets the individual alone.

Democracy, too, is a religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.

The only way to reconcile science and religion is to set up something which is not science and something that is not religion.

As democracy is perfected, the office of 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 adorned by a downright moron.

I never lecture, not because I am shy or a bad speaker, but simply because I detest the sort of people who go to lectures and don't want to meet them.

It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.

'Tis more blessed to give than receive; for example, wedding presents.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.









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