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Saturday, January 23, 2010

H. L. Mencken quotes:

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.

A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know.

A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.

A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child.

All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

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

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.

In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell.

It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.

It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.

It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.

It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.

It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull.


It'd be easy to dismiss Mencken as a racist or anti-Semite, given some erratic and specific opinions he held. But I think further investigation is worthwhile. There is an honesty to his criticisms (which were widely distributed. No particular group was spared), which simply holds any given culture responsible for its identity. I believe, if you came to the attention of Mencken, you were doing something right. But having come to his attention, his closer scrutiny would suggest a further direction to go. i.e. you've become a victim of his observation: "A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know."

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