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.
Platitude: an idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.
When women kiss it always reminds one of prize fighters shaking hands.
We must be willing to pay a price for freedom.
The cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy.
My guess is that well over 80 percent of the human race goes through life without having a single original thought.
There are two kinds of books those that no one reads and those that no one ought to read.
Legend: A lie that has attained the dignity of age.
The theory seems to be that as long as a man is a failure he is one of God's children, but that as soon as he succeeds he is taken over by the Devil.
The average man does not get pleasure out of an idea because he thinks it is true he thinks it is true because he gets pleasure out of it.
The common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor.
Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible as baseball in Italian.
No man is genuinely happy, married, who has to drink worse gin than he used to drink when he was single.
Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
Man weeps to think that he will die so soon; woman, that she was born so long ago.
Men have a much better time of it than women. For one thing, they marry later; for another thing, they die earlier.
One may no more live in the world without picking up the moral prejudices of the world than one will be able to go to hell without perspiring.
The lunatic fringe wags the underdog.
It is not materialism that is the chief curse of the world, as pastors teach, but idealism. Men get into trouble by taking their visions and hallucinations too seriously.
Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time.
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.
A judge is a law student who grades his own papers.
To be in love is merely to be in a perpetual state of anesthesia.
There is perhaps one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.
Before a man speaks it is always safe to assume that he is a fool. After he speaks, it is seldom necessary to assume it.
Fame is an embalmer trembling with stage fright.
I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.
Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.
Women always excel men in that sort of wisdom which comes from experience. To be a woman is in itself a terrible experience.
There are people who read too much bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze. . .
A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
A sense of humor always withers in the presence of the messianic delusion, like justice and truth in front of patriotic passion.
What the mob thirsts for is not good government in itself, but the merry chase of a definite exponent of bad government.
Life is a dead-end street.
The man of creative imagination pays a ghastly price for all his superiorities and immunities. . .
Man is always looking for someone to boast to; woman is always looking for a shoulder to put her head on.
The truth is that the average schoolmaster, on all the lower levels, is and always must be essentially and next door to an idiot, for how can one imagine an intelligent man engaging in so puerile an avocation.
Whenever a husband and wife begin to discuss their marriage they are giving evidence at a coroner's inquest.
If I ever marry it will be on a sudden impulse, as a man shoots himself.
The true function of art is to edit nature and so to make it coherent and lovely. The artist is a sort of impassioned proofreader, blue-pencilling the bad spelling of God.
If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.
'Hamlet' has been played by 5,000 actors -- no wonder he's crazy.
Self-respect: the secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious.
If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.
Character in decay is the theme of the great bulk of superior fiction.
A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.
No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
Here, indeed, was his one really notable talent. He slept more than any other President, whether by day or by night. . . . Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored. . . . He had no ideas, and he was not a nuisance.
It takes a long while for a naturally trustful person to reconcile himself to the idea that after all God will not help him.
More H. L. Mencken Quotations (Based on Topics)
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Niccolo Machiavelli - William Arthur Ward - Thomas Paine - Thomas Kuhn - Mitch Albom - Karen Armstrong - Joseph Addison - Ayn Rand - Antiphanes - Anne Frank