H.L. Mencken Quotes

Who was H.L. Mencken?

Hiram Lincoln Mencken (1880 – 1956) was an American journalist, author, and critic of the twentieth century.

Mencken began his career as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun in 1899. He later became the city editor and then the managing editor of the newspaper.

What is H.L. Mencken most famous for?

H.L. Mencken is most famous for his writings on politics, literature, and culture and was an outspoken opponent of organized religion.

Mencken is also famous for The American Language, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States, and for his satirical reporting style.

H.L. Mencken Quotes

Mencken’s quotes are often cynical and critical of society. Here are some of his most famous quotes:


“I know some who are constantly drunk on books as other men are drunk on whiskey.” H.L. Mencken


“Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull.” H.L. Mencken


“You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.” H. L. Mencken


“Imagine the Creator as a stand-up comedian – and at once the world becomes explicable.” H.L. Mencken


“The best teacher is not the one who knows most but the one who is most capable of reducing knowledge to that simple compound of the obvious and wonderful.” H.L. Mencken


“The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” H.L. Mencken


“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.” H.L. Mencken


“Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely made up of prophecies.” H.L. Mencken


“Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.” H.L. Mencken


“A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.” H.L. Mencken


“A home is not a mere transient shelter its essence lies in the personalities of the people who live in it.” H.L. Mencken


“All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.” H.L. Mencken


“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


“All zoos actually offer to the public in return for the taxes spent upon them is a form of idle and witless amusement, compared to which a visit to a penitentiary, or even to a State legislature in session, is informing, stimulating and ennobling.” H.L. Mencken


“A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child.” H.L. Mencken


“An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.” H.L. Mencken


“Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” H.L. Mencken


“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.” H.L. Mencken


“In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell.” H.L. Mencken


“For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.” H.L. Mencken


“Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists.” H.L. Mencken


“It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.” H.L. Mencken


“Man is never honestly the fatalist, nor even the stoic. He fights his fate, often desperately. He is forever entering bold exceptions to the rulings of the bench of gods. This fighting, no doubt, makes for human progress, for it favors the strong and the brave. It also makes for beauty, for lesser men try to escape from a hopeless and intolerable world by creating a more lovely one of their own.”  H.L. Mencken


“The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.” H.L. Mencken


“The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.” H.L. Mencken


“Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.” H.L. Mencken


“Never let your inferiors do you a favor – it will be extremely costly.” H.L. Mencken


“Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” H.L. Mencken


“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


“We are here, and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.” H.L. Mencken


“The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” H.L. Mencken


“To die for an idea, it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true.” H.L. Mencken


“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.” H.L. Mencken


“Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.” H.L. Mencken


“For every human problem, there is a neat, simple solution and it is always wrong.” H.L. Mencken


Funny H.L. Mencken Quotes

“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.” H.L. Mencken


“The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail. If it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence.” H.L. Mencken


“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.” H.L. Mencken


“A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn’t know.” H.L. Mencken


“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.” H.L. Mencken


“Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.” H.L. Mencken


“It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.” H.L. Mencken


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


“Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.” H.L. Mencken


H.L. Mencken Quotes on Politics


“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.” H.L. Mencken


“A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.” H.L. Mencken


“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace in a continual state of alarm (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing them with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” H.L. Mencken


“JUDGE. A law student who marks his own papers.” H.L. Mencken


“Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.” H.L. Mencken


“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable…” H.L. Mencken


“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” H.L. Mencken


“Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.” H.L. Mencken


“I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.” H.L. Mencken


“It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.” H.L. Mencken


“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.” H.L. Mencken


“Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” H.L. Mencken


“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” H.L. Mencken


“Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed and are right.” H.L. Mencken


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