H.L. Mencken

Literary Birthday – 12 September – H.L. Mencken

H. L. Mencken was born 12 September 1880, and died 29 January 1956.


  1. There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers.
  2. To the man with an ear for verbal delicacies — the man who searches painfully for the perfect word, and puts the way of saying a thing above the thing said — there is in writing the constant joy of sudden discovery, of happy accident.
  3. Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.
  4. 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.
  5. I have often argued that a poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child. I begin to suspect that there may be some truth in it.
  6. It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favour of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.
  7. Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.
  8. 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.
  9. The best teacher is not the one who knows most but the one who is most capable of reducing knowledge to that simple compound of the obvious and wonderful.
  10. Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.
  11. The fact is that the average man’s love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice, and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honour. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty — and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies.
  12. I never lecture, not because I am shy or a bad speaker, but simply because I detest the sort of people who go to lectures and don’t want to meet them.
  13. Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

H.L. Mencken was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American life and culture, and scholar of American English. He was known as the ‘Sage of Baltimore’. He is regarded as one of the most influential American writers of the first half of the twentieth century. Mencken is known for writing The American Language, a study of how the English language is spoken in the United States.

Source for Image


Ben Pinchot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 12th September 2013