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H.L. Mencken

1880-1956 ,  American columnist & cultural critic
H.L. MenckenAmerican journalist, satirist and cultural critic
Known as the “Sage of Baltimore”, he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the twentieth century. He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements.

As a scholar, Mencken is known for The American Language, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States.

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Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.

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

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

on Shakespeare

All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.

Adultery is the application of democracy to love.

A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child.

A professor must have a theory as a dog must have fleas.

A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.

A nation too long at peace becomes a sort of gigantic old maid.

A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know.

A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.

Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.

Creator: A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.

Criticism is prejudice made plausible.

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey-cage.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Democracy is the worship of jackals by jackasses.

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

Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.

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

I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.

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.

I never smoked a cigarette until I was nine.

If the average man is made in God's image, then such a man as Beethoven or Aristotle is plainly superior to God.

If we assume that man actually does resemble God, then we are forced into the impossible theory that God is a coward, an idiot and a bounder.

Immortality is the condition of a dead man who doesn’t believe he is dead.

In the duel of sex, woman fights from a dreadnought and man from an open raft.

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.

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

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.

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

Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

Man is a beautiful machine that works very badly.

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?

Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.

Morality is doing what is right regardless of what you are told. Obedience is doing what is told regardless of what is right.

Never drink before sunset; Never drink more than 3 days in a row.

Never let your inferiors do you a favor - it will be extremely costly.

New York: A third-rate Babylon.

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

One horse-laugh is worth ten-thousand syllogisms.

Opera in English, is about as sensible as baseball in Italian.

Progress: The process whereby the human race has got rid of whiskers, the vermiform appendix and God.

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

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

The average man does not want to be free. he simply wants to be safe.

The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.

The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts.

The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore.

The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.

The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.

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.

The older I get the more I admire and crave competence, just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology.

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

The opera…is to music what a bawdy house is to a cathedral.

The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians.

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

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.

There are two kinds of Europeans: The smart ones, and those who stayed behind.

There is always a well-known solution to every human problem: neat, plausible, and wrong.

To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!

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.

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

We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.

When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.

You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.


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