Henry Louis Mencken Quotes

Henry Louis Mencken, 1880 – 1956

Born: 12 September 1880, Baltimore, Maryland
Died: 29 January 1956, Baltimore, Maryland

The son of a cigar merchant, Mencken worked for his father’s company but gave it up for journalism when his father died, although he never gave up cigars. His clear wording, insight, and wit puts him in the same class with Shaw and Voltaire, and for the same reasons I’ve saved a lot of his quotes.

In A Mencken Chrestomathy he recorded a collection of 176 “maxims, epigrams and apothegms” which he titled Sententiae, which I have saved as a separate collection.

Henry Louis Mencken quotes:

A comedian is not an actor: he is a sort of reductio ad absurdum of an actor. His work bears the same relation to acting properly as that of a hangman, a midwife, or a divorce lawyer bears to poetry, or that of a Bishop to religion.
    Henry Louis Mencken – “the comedian”, Baltimore Evening Sun (18 November 1929)

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

A home is not a mere transient shelter: its essence lies in the personalities of the people who live in it.
    Henry Louis Mencken

A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought. He is not a mere ass; he is actually ill. Worse, he is incurable.
    Henry Louis Mencken

A man loses his sense of direction after four drinks; a woman loses hers after four kisses.
    Henry Louis Mencken

A man’s women folk, whatever their outward show of respect for his merit and authority, always regard him secretly as an ass, and with something akin to pity. His most gaudy sayings and doings seldom deceive them; they see the actual man within, and know him for a shallow and pathetic fellow. In this fact, perhaps, lies one of the best proofs of feminine intelligence, or, as the common phrase makes it, feminine intuition.
    Henry Louis Mencken

A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.
    Henry Louis Mencken

A prohibitionist is the sort of man one wouldn’t care to drink with — even if he drank.
    Henry Louis Mencken

A society made up of individuals who were all capable of original thought would probably be unendurable.
    Henry Louis Mencken

A sound American is simply one who has put out of his mind all doubts and questionings, and who accepts instantly, and as incontrovertible gospel, the whole body of official doctrine of his day, whatever it may be and no matter how often it may change.
    Henry Louis Mencken

A woman usually respects her father, but her view of her husband is mingled with contempt, for she is of course privy to the transparent devices by which she snared him.
    Henry Louis Mencken – “Wagner”, Smart Set (July 1922)

All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; if it be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is inferior in every way against both. One of its primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives.
    Henry Louis Mencken

All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them.
    Henry Louis Mencken

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

All the charming and beautiful things, from the Song of Songs, to bouillabaisse, and from the nine Beethoven symphonies to the Martini cocktail, have been given to humanity by men who, when the hour came, turned from tap water to something with color in it, and more in it than mere oxygen and hydrogen.
    Henry Louis Mencken

All the great enterprises of the world are run by a few smart men: their aides and associates run down by rapid stages to the level of sheer morons. Everyone knows that this is true of government, but we often forget that it is equally true of private undertakings. In the average great bank, or railroad, or other corporation the burden of management lies upon a small group. The rest are ciphers.
    Henry Louis Mencken

All the great villainies of history, from the murder of Abel onward, have been perpetrated by sober men, chiefly by Teetotalers.
    Henry Louis 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.
    Henry Louis Mencken

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.
    Henry Louis Mencken

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

As long as you represent me as praising alcohol I shall not complain. It is, I believe, the greatest of human inventions, and by far — much greater than Hell, the radio or the bichloride tablet.
    Henry Louis Mencken

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.
    Henry Louis Mencken

Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely made up of prophecies.
    Henry Louis Mencken

Criticism is prejudice made plausible.
    Henry Louis Mencken

Demagogue: One who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.
    Henry Louis Mencken

Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses.
    Henry Louis Mencken

Democracy is the pathetic belief in the wisdom of collective ignorance.
    Henry Louis Mencken

Equality before the law is probably forever inattainable. It is a noble ideal, but it can never be realized, for what men value in this world is not rights but privileges.
    Henry Louis Mencken

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

Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem: neat, plausible, and wrong.
    Henry Louis Mencken

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