H. L. Mencken

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Henry Louis "H. L." Mencken (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956) was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American life and culture, and scholar of American English. 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. Many of his books remain in print. Mencken is known for writing The American Language, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States, and for his satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial". He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians, pseudo-experts, the temperance movement, and uplifters. A keen cheerleader of scientific progress, he was very skeptical of economic theories and particularly critical of anti-intellectualism, bigotry, populism, fundamentalist Christianity, creationism, organized religion, the existence of God, and osteopathic/chiropractic medicine. In addition to his literary accomplishments, Mencken was known for his controversial ideas. As a frank admirer of German philosopher Nietzsche, he was not a proponent of representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors. During and after World War I, he was sympathetic to the Germans, and was very distrustful of British propaganda. However, he also referred to Adolf Hitler and his followers as "ignorant thugs." Mencken, through his wide criticism of actions taken by government, has had a strong impact on the American left and the American libertarian movement.



Quotes by H. L. Mencken
Democracy is also a form of religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses. H. L. Mencken

It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull. 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 men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth. H. L. Mencken

Jealousy is the theory that some other fellow has just as little taste. H. L. Mencken

It is hard for the ape to believe he descended from man. H. L. Mencken

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

I go on working for the same reason that a hen goes on laying eggs. H. L. Mencken

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom. H. L. Mencken
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On one issue at least, men and women agree; they both distrust women. H. L. Mencken

A prohibitionist is the sort of man one couldn't care to drink with, even if he drank. 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

I write in order to attain that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk. H. L. Mencken

The curse of man, and the cause of nearly all his woe, is his stupendous capacity for believing the incredible. H. L. Mencken

It is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake. H. L. Mencken

No man could bring himself to reveal his true character, and, above all, his true limitations as a citizen and a Christian, his true meannesses, his true imbecilities, to his friends, or even to his wife. Honest autobiography is therefore a contradiction in terms: the moment a man considers himself, even in petto, he tries to gild and fresco himself. Thus a man's wife, however realistic her view of him, always flatters him in the end, for the worst she sees in him is appreciably better, by the time she sees it, than what is actually there. H. L. Mencken

Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of dilemmas. H. L. Mencken

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

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

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


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