H. L. Mencken Quotes

H. L. Mencken

US editor (1880 - 1956)

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The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdo

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I've made it a rule never to drink by daylight and never to refuse a drink after dark.

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No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

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Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.

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Of all escape mechanisms, death is the most efficient.

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Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.

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It is evident that skepticism, while it makes no actual change in man, always makes him feel better.

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

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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 gi

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When a man laughs at his troubles he loses a great many friends. They never forgive the loss of their prerogative.

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Only a government that is rich and safe can afford to be a democracy, for democracy is the most expensive and nefarious kind of government ever heard of on earth.

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Neither sex, without some fertilization of the complimentary characters of the other, is capable of the highest reaches of human endeavor.

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And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; there in they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber stamps.

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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.

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Love: the delusion that one woman differs from another.

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The essence of a self-reliant and autonomous culture is an unshakable egoism.

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All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced upon them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.

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I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.

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Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

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The only really happy folk are married women and single men.

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

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No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

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For every problem, there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong.

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

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The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore.

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Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

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Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.

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The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.

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

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

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In this world of sin and sorrow, there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.

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God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, thehelpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters.

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The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.

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A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.

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If I had my way, any man guilty of golf would be ineligible for any office of trust in the United States.

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The only really happy folk are married women and single men.

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

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Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

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

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A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.

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

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

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Wife: one who is sorry she did it, but would undoubtedly do it again.

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Democracy: The worship of jackals by jackasses.

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Wife: a former sweetheart.

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Husbands never become good; they merely become proficient.

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Imagine the Creator as a low comedian, and at once the world becomes explicable.

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Creator: a comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.

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The best years are the forties; after fifty a man begins to deteriorate, but in the forties he is at the maximum of his villainy.

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New York: A third-rate Babylon.

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Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends

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College football would be more interesting if the faculty played instead of the students - there would be a great increase in broken arms, legs and necks.

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Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.

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Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time.

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A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.

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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.

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Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.

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

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Jury: a group of twelve men who, having lied to the judge about their hearing, health and business engagements, have failed to fool him.

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The worshiper is the father of the gods.

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Archbishop: a Christian ecclesiastic of a rank superior to that attained by Christ.

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Self-respect: the secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious.

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A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness, but after that he begins to bunch them.

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

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Every man is thoroughly happy twice in his life: just after he has met his first love, and just after he has left his last one.

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The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore.

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We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.

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Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible as baseball in Italian.

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

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Adultery is the application of democracy to love.

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Henry James would have been vastly improved as a novelist by a few whiffs of the Chicago stockyard.

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The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animals.

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No normal man ever fell in love after thirty when the kidneys begin to disintegrate.

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Lawer: one who protects us against robbery by taking away the temptation.

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The cynics are right nine times out of ten.

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

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Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.

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Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.

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When women kiss, it always reminds me of prizefighters shaking hands.

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To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia.

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If I ever marry, it will be on a sudden impulse - as a man shoots himself.

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I detest converts almost as much as I do missionaries.

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Love: The delusion that one woman differs from another.

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Alimony: the ransom the happy pay to the devil.

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The cosmos is a gigantic flywheel making 10,000 revolutions per minute. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it.

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The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore.

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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.

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The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence.

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

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Sunday: A day given over by Americans to wishing they were dead and in heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in hell.

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Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

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Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists.

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Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another

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In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.

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He marries best who puts it off until it is too late.

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Man is a natural polygamist: he always has one woman leading him by the nose, and another hanging on to his coattails.

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Judge: a law student who marks his own papers.

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Men have a much better time of it than women; for one thing, they marry later; for another thing they die earlier.

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The first kiss is stolen by the man; the last is begged by the woman.

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Platitude: an idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.

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

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The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.

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Congress consists of one third, more or less, scoundrels; two thirds, more or less, idiots; and three thirds, more or less, poltroons.

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Thanksgiving Day is a day devoted by persons with inflammatory rheumatism to thanking a loving Father that it is not hydrophobia.

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Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.

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War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebums and smaller adrenal glands.

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

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All [zoos] actually offer to the public in return for the taxes spent upon them is a form of idle and witless amusement, compared to which a visit to a penitentiary, or even to a State legislature in session, is informing, stimulating and ennobling.

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Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.

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Man is never honestly the fatalist, nor even the stoic. He fights his fate, often desperately. He is forever entering bold exceptions to the rulings of the bench of gods. This fighting, no doubt, makes for human progress, for it favors the strong and the brave. It also makes for beauty, for lesser men try to escape from a hopeless and intolerable world by creating a more lovely one of their own.

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...no man of genuinely superior intelligence has ever been an actor. Even supposing a young man of appreciable mental powers to be lured upon the stage, as philosophers are occasionally lured into bordellos, his mind would be inevitably and almost immediately destroyed by the gaudy nonsense issuing from his mouth every night.

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And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.

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

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Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

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

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Criticism is prejudice made plausible.

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Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.

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To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!

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Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong.

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Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

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After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations.

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The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.

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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.

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For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.

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Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.

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All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced on them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.

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

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There is always a well-known solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong.

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Never let your inferiors do you a favor - it will be extremely costly.

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

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A home is not a mere transient shelter: its essence lies in the personalities of the people who live in it.

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The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

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The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth--that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

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For it is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest that holds human associations together. Our friends seldom profit us but they make us feel safe... Marriage is a scheme to accomplish exactly that same end.

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Man is never honestly the fatalist, nor even the stoic. He fights his fate, often desperately. He is forever entering bold exceptions to the rulings of the bench of gods. This fighting, no doubt, makes for human progress, for it favors the strong and the brave. It also makes for beauty, for lesser men try to escape from a hopeless and intolerable world by creating a more lovely one of their own.

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All [zoos] actually offer to the public in return for the taxes spent upon them is a form of idle and witless amusement, compared to which a visit to a penitentiary, or even to a State legislature in session, is informing, stimulating and ennobling.

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Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.

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

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Platitude: an idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.

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Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists.

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Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.

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

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

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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.

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The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants beyond everything else is safety.

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

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Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.

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Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.

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Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.

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Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull.

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There comes a time when a man must spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats.

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A home is not a mere transient shelter: its essence lies in the personalities of the people who live in it.

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

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Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.

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The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

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Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.

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For every problem there is a solution which is simple, clean and wrong.

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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.

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The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.

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The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth--that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

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For it is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest that holds human associations together. Our friends seldom profit us but they make us feel safe... Marriage is a scheme to accomplish exactly that same end.

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We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.

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It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.

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The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence.

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

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Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.

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Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

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The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

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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.

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