Henry Louis Mencken was 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 world. 

  • Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration - courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth.

  •  A man may be a fool and not know it -- but not if he is married.

  • Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?

  • Puritanism - the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

  • 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.

  • Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.

  • No 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.

  • Sunday: 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.

  • "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."

  • Suicide is a belated acquiescence in the opinion of one's wife's relatives.

  • ...the 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...

  • Hanging one scoundrel, it appears, does not deter the next. Well, what of it? The first one is at least disposed of.

  • School-days, 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.

  • The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.

  • Shave 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.

  • The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.

  • The older I get the more I admire and crave competence, just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology.

  • Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.

  • I hate sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense.

  • A 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.

  • The 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 perish."

  • The 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.

 

 


 

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