born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1880 and died
there in 1956. A son of August and Anna Mencken, he was educated privately and at
Baltimore Polytechnic. In 1930 he married Sara
Powell Haardt, who died in 1935, Mencken began
his long career as journalist, critic, and
philologist as a reporter for the Baltimore
Morning Herald in 1899. In 1906 he joined the
staff of the Baltimore Sun, thus initiating an
association with the Sunpapers that would last
until a few years before his death. He was
coeditor of the Smart Set with George Jean
Nathan from 1914 to 1923, and with Nathan he
founded the American Mercury, of which he was
sole editor from 1925 to 1933. Although his main
audience was intellectuals, academics, and
college students, he was widely quoted (and
misquoted), and his opinions, often indirectly,
reached many Americans and others around the
is fundamentally opposed to everything I
hold in veneration - courage, clear
thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all,
love of the truth.
man may be a fool and not know it -- but not
if he is married.
is a wonderful institution, but who would
want to live in an institution?
- the haunting fear that someone, somewhere,
may be happy.
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.
every man a vote has no more made men wise
and free than Christianity has made them
matter how happily a woman may be married,
it always pleases her to discover that there
is a nice man who wishes that she were not.
A day given over by Americans to wishing
that they themselves were dead and in
Heaven, and that their neighbors were dead
and in Hell.
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."
is a belated acquiescence in the opinion of
one's wife's relatives.
great artists of the world are never
Puritans, and seldom respectable. No
virtuous man - that is, virtuous in the
Y.M.C.A. sense - has ever painted a picture
worth looking at, or written a symphony
worth hearing, or a book worth reading...
one scoundrel, it appears, does not deter
the next. Well, what of it? The first one is
at least disposed of.
I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole
span of human existence. They are full of
dull, unintelligible tasks, new and
unpleasant ordinances, brutal violations of
common sense and common decency. It doesn't
take a reasonably bright boy long to
discover that most of what is rammed into
him is nonsense, and that no one really
cares very much whether he learns it or not.
His parents, unless they are infantile in
mind, tend to be bored by his lessons and
labors, and are unable to conceal the fact
from his sharp eyes. His first teachers he
views simply as disagreeable policemen; his
later ones he usually sets down, quite
accurately, as asses.
kind of man who wants the government to
adopt and enforce his ideas is always the
kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.
a gorilla and it would be almost impossible,
at twenty paces, to distinguish him from a
heavyweight champion of the world. Skin a
chimpanzee, and it would take an autopsy to
prove he was not a theologian.
most common of all follies is to believe
passionately in the palpably not true. It is
the chief occupation of mankind.
older I get the more I admire and crave
competence, just simple competence, in any
field from adultery to zoology.
is the delusion that one woman differs from
hate sports as rabidly as a person who likes
sports hates common sense.
professional politician is a professionally
dishonorable man. In order to get
anywhere near high office he has to make so
many compromises and submit to so many
humiliations that he becomes
indistinguishable from a streetwalker.
universe is run idiotically, and its only
certain product is sorrow. But there are yet
men who, by their generally pleasant
spirits, by their extraordinary capacity for
making and keeping friends, yet manage to
cheat, in some measure, the common destiny
of mankind, doomed like the beasts to
human race detests thrift as it detests
intelligence. The man who accumulates more
than he needs and saves the surplus is
disliked by all who either can't or won't
follow his example, and that means the great
majority of his fellow men. He makes them
ashamed of themselves and they resent it.