Skip Nav

Mencken, H.L.

You might also enjoy these articles...

❶The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men.

Get a free gift and Abbeville Institute articles delivered to your inbox.

*Mencken, H.L.
Navigation menu

For Mencken, nothing about American culture was sacred. He expressed disgust for all manner of politicians, describing them as either master rogues or major bores. He questioned whether intellectual life would exist at all in the U.

He added that on those rare occasions in which American literary figures have shown signs of enterprise, they have usually reacted to a hostility toward their ideas by departing for alien shores.

Mencken observed no earnest pursuit of aesthetic passion in intellectual work but merely uninspiring and self-conscious efforts on a par with English music and German painting. These concerns were lost, he said, on an uncritical American public. Mencken consistently mocked American education. He maintained that most American scholars would be entirely lost if they were unable to borrow from others, adding that their limited mental capacity made it impossible for them to take on difficult enterprises.

As a result, academic institutions were suffering from attempts to Americanize their curriculum. As to his own motivation, Mencken said: Biography Henry Louis Mencken. Born 12 September in Baltimore, Maryland. Studied at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, — Married Sara Powell Haardt, died, Suffered a stroke which impaired his speech, American Academy Gold Medal, Died of heart failure in Baltimore, 29 January A Selection, edited by James T.

Farrell, Happy Days: Nolte, The Young Mencken: Galligan, The Impossible Mencken: The Mencken Bibliography, Baltimore: A Ten-Year Supplement, —, Baltimore: A Research Guide, New York: Folcroft, original edition, Porter, Bern, H.

A Bibliography, Pasadena, California: Further Reading Angoff, Charles, H. A Portrait from Memory, New York: Yoseloff, Bode, Carl, Mencken, Carbondale: Knopf, Douglas, George H. Critic of American Life, Hamden, Connecticut: Archon, Downs, Robert B. Macmillan, Farrell, James T. Vanguard Press, ; London: Heinemann, ; New York: Praeger, Manchester, William, Disturber of the Peace: In an entry dated September 23, , for example, Mencken complains that Emma Ball, his black maid, had a tendency to overpolish his hardwood floors.

Fecher, the editor of The Diary of H. One cannot ask that he be forgiven, or even excused. About all one can do is ask the reader simply to accept the fact and pass on.

I did not forgive Mencken. I did accept him. And in acknowledging his many flaws, I was able to move past them, stirred by a bigot to rejoin the movement against bigotry.

When I finished Prejudices , I knew a few things for sure: I read through a few more of his letters, but eventually I moved on, and placed Mencken back on the shelf. This should have been the end, but then, in January of last year, two masked gunmen forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly often accused of bigotry itself, and opened fire in the name of Allah.

Because Charlie Hebdo relentlessly satirized the prophet Muhammad, because the magazine routinely practiced its right to offend, and because both shooters were Islamists, the first wave of pundits called the massacre an attack on free speech. The second wave agreed, though less resolutely, questioning the moral efficacy of a publication that would intentionally print sacrilege in the age of extremism.

Regardless, millions worldwide raised their pencils in solidarity. Watching protesters march through the streets of Paris, with the unrest in Ferguson still fresh on my mind, it occurred to me that Lippmann was only half right.

It came, rather, from his absolute and unwavering commitment to the First Amendment. Much like Charlie Hebdo , Mencken never abstained from the opportunity to lampoon, to ridicule, or to offend—even when he knew the result would be condemnation and disparagement. Spurred by tragedy, the masses had marched for one day in Paris. Mencken marched for a lifetime, at a rate of at least , words per year.

Stubbornly, sometimes stupidly, he stood by them all. Readers often wondered why Mencken stayed in America, disgusted as he claimed to be with its third-rate inhabitants. Mencken answered that question in the most Menckenian way:.

Human enterprises which, in all other Christian countries, are resigned despairingly to an incurable dullness … are here lifted to such vast heights of buffoonery that contemplating them strains the midriff almost to breaking.

To be clear, he probably meant it. But I suspect that Mencken also knew, in a deeper manner than most, just how rare freedom of expression really is, and what it would mean to lose it. In the most American way, Mencken criticized his own country without the slightest hint of self-censorship, refusing to let that freedom atrophy.

There is no justifying the anti-Semitism and racism that his diaries so clearly reveal. But those who question the efficacy of satire often do so on the grounds that its target will invariably miss the point in a way that reinforces existing stereotypes. That assumes a certain degree of engagement to begin with. More than once, Charlie Hebdo and H.

Mencken have missed the mark. So have most comics. He makes the spectator live for the work of art. Out of the process comes understanding, appreciation, intelligent enjoyment—and that is precisely what the artist tried to produce. In that sense, he was a consummate critic, one who was perfectly equipped to wake the citizenry from its slumber. He made democracy live for the spectator; he made the spectator live for democracy.

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Journalist H.L. Mencken was renowned for his playfully combative prose style and his politically incorrect points of view. First published in "Prejudices: Sixth Series" in , Mencken's essay "The Libido for the Ugly" stands as a powerful exercise in hyperbole and invective. Note his reliance on concrete examples and precise, descriptive details.

Privacy FAQs

H.L. Mencken January 12, I Carlo Tresca is the proprietor of a small Italian paper in New York, by name Il Martello. He runs to Liberal ideas, and when the Fascisti came into power in his native country, and began Ku Kluxing their opponents, he denounced them in his paper, and called upon the Italians in America to repudiate them.

About Our Ads

Satirical essays like Mencken's and Swift's allow the authors to make serious points in humorous entertaining ways. Teachers can use these essays to help students understand satire and persuasive essays. Mencken obviously believes that artist have a sort of sixth sense. A sense for appreciation of affect, cause and self-perseverance. Mencken describes the thoughts of these creators as minds that are able to see outside the ordinary. In today's society Mencken's theory has specks of truth in it.

Cookie Info

The essays of filezperfecttz.cfn were critical of all aspects of American culture and influenced American thought for over 50 years, setting the standard for satire in his day, especially during the year period following World War I and just prior to the start of the Great Depression. Relates the importance of essay is at its ups and oppressions of h. ' and women is the police brutality essay on the great depression. cm format: hl mencken s dust off on american essayist, h. 12, prejudices: a germanamerican journalist, entitled prejudices were president essay. Recently described the book's title: he simply audiobooks the .