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26 Henry Mencken Quotes

26 Henry Mencken Quotes

Libertarian Country |


Being a social critic from Baltimore myself, I have to tip my hat to a particularly unique individual who came before me, H.L. Mencken. With his scathing commentary and high intellect, he was often regarded as The Sage of Baltimore. He was most noted for his work covering The Scopes Trial, but the range of topics he wrote about was rather vast and most were quite entertaining.


Here are a few of my favorite Mencken Quotes: 

  • “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” 
  • “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.” 
  • “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.”
  • “Civilization grows 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."
  • “Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull.”
  • “The plain fact is that education is itself a form of propaganda - a deliberate scheme to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite for gulping ideas ready-made. The aim is to make 'good' citizens, which is to say, docile and uninquisitive citizens.”
  • “Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.”
  • “The will to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs seek: not the chance to serve."
  • “A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.”

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  • “The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore. It is not so much a war as an endless standing in line."
  • “The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable.”
  • “Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of a dilemma.”
  • “Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.”
  • “The majority of men prefer delusion to truth. It soothes. It is easy to grasp. Above all, it fits more snugly than the truth into a universe of false appearances—of complex and irrational phenomena, defectively grasped. But though a true idea is thus not likely to prevail, an idea that is attacked enjoys a great advantage. The evidence behind it is now supported by sympathy, the sporting instinct, and sentimentality—and sentimentality is as powerful as an army with banners. One never hears of a martyr in history whose notions are seriously disputed today. The forgotten ideas are those of the men who put them forward soberly and quietly, hoping fatuously that they would conquer by the force of their truth; these are the ideas that we now struggle to rediscover.”
  • “A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.”
  • “Lawyer: one who protects us against robbery by removing the temptation.”
  • "Never drink more than 3 days in a row"  (For Baltimore Residents Only)
  • “The lunatic fringe wags the underdog.”
  • “It doesn't take a majority to make a rebellion; it takes only a few determined leaders and a sound cause.”
  • “Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.”
  • “The demagogue preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.”
  • “There are some politicians who promise something for everyone. If their constituents were cannibals, would promise them missionaries for dinner, fattened at public expense.”
  • “The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”
  • “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
  • “In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for any public office of trust or profit in the Republic. But I do not repine, for I am a subject of it only by force of arms.”
  • "The common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor."


 There are volumes more from Mencken that are worth reading, but if you liked any of these quotes, you should check him out on a broader scale. It's a privilege to look into the minds of great thinkers of the past. 


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