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Mencken

Mencken

[meng-kuhn]
Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis Mencken), 1880-1956, American editor, author, and critic, b. Baltimore, studied at the Baltimore Polytechnic. Probably America's most influential journalist, he began his career on the Baltimore Morning Herald at the age of 18, became editor of the Baltimore Evening Herald, and from 1906 until his death was on the staff of the Baltimore Sun or Evening Sun. He also played a key role in the production of two extremely influential national magazines. From 1914 to 1923 he was coeditor of the Smart Set with George Jean Nathan; together they founded the American Mercury in 1924, and Mencken was its sole editor from 1925 to 1933.

Mencken's pungent, iconoclastic criticism and scathing invective, although aimed at all smugly complacent attitudes, was chiefly directed at what he saw as the ignorant, self-righteous, and overly credulous American middle class, members of which he dubbed Boobus americanus. His essays were collected in a series of six volumes, Prejudices (1919-27). In the field of philology he compiled a monumental and lively study, The American Language (1st ed. 1919; 4th ed. 1936; with supplements, 1946, 1948). Among his other works are George Bernard Shaw: His Plays (1905), In Defense of Women (1917), Treatise of the Gods (1930), and the autobiographical trilogy Happy Days, 1880-1892 (1940), Newspaper Days, 1899-1906 (1941), and Heathen Days, 1890-1936 (1943), collected in one volume in 1947. Mencken also fought against the strain of Puritanism in American literature and was an important literary champion of such writers as Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, and Eugene O'Neill. His keen interest in and intelligent appraisal of 20th-century American letters are evident in the posthumously collected essays of H. L. Mencken on American Literature (2002).

Bibliography

See his letters (ed. by G. L. Forgue, 1961) and diary (ed. by C. A. Fecher, 1990); biographies by W. Manchester (1950), C. Angoff (1956), S. Mayfield (1968), C. Bode (1969), F. C. Hobson, Jr. (1994), and T. Teachout (2002); studies by D. C. Stenerson (1971), F. C. Hobson, Jr. (1974), C. Scruggs (1984), and E. A. Martin (1984); A. Bulsterbaum, H. L. Mencken: A Research Guide (1988).

H.L. Mencken.

(born Sept. 12, 1880, Baltimore, Md., U.S.—died Jan. 29, 1956, Baltimore) U.S. controversialist, humorous journalist, and critic. Mencken worked on the staff of the Baltimore Sun for much of his life. With George Jean Nathan (1882–1958), he coedited The Smart Set (1914–23) and cofounded and edited (1924–33) the American Mercury, both important literary magazines. Probably the most influential U.S. literary critic in the 1920s, he often used criticism to jeer at the nation's social and cultural weaknesses. Prejudices (1919–27) collects many of his reviews and essays. In The American Language (1919; supplements 1945, 1948) he brought together American expressions and idioms; by the time of his death he was perhaps the leading authority on the language of the U.S.

Learn more about Mencken, H(enry) L(ouis) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

H.L. Mencken.

(born Sept. 12, 1880, Baltimore, Md., U.S.—died Jan. 29, 1956, Baltimore) U.S. controversialist, humorous journalist, and critic. Mencken worked on the staff of the Baltimore Sun for much of his life. With George Jean Nathan (1882–1958), he coedited The Smart Set (1914–23) and cofounded and edited (1924–33) the American Mercury, both important literary magazines. Probably the most influential U.S. literary critic in the 1920s, he often used criticism to jeer at the nation's social and cultural weaknesses. Prejudices (1919–27) collects many of his reviews and essays. In The American Language (1919; supplements 1945, 1948) he brought together American expressions and idioms; by the time of his death he was perhaps the leading authority on the language of the U.S.

Learn more about Mencken, H(enry) L(ouis) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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