H. L. Mencken

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H. L. Mencken
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{{redirect|Mencken|other people named Mencken|Mencken (surname)}}{{short description|American journalist and writer}}{{use mdy dates|date=May 2018}}

|birth_place = Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.1956299|12}}|death_place = Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.|occupation = Journalist, satirist, critic|family = August Mencken, Sr.Father|spouse = Sara Haardt (1930-35, her death)|relatives = August Mencken, Jr.Brother|credits = The Baltimore Sun}}Henry Louis Mencken (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956) was an American journalist, essayist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of American English.{{Citation |title=Obituary |newspaper=Variety |date=February 1, 1956}} He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements. His satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial", also gained him attention.As a scholar, Mencken is known for The American Language, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States. As an admirer of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, he was an outspoken opponent of organized religion, theism, populism, and representative democracy, the latter of which he viewed as systems in which inferior men dominated their superiors. Mencken was a supporter of scientific progress, and was critical of osteopathic and chiropractic medicine. He was also an ardent critic of economics.Mencken opposed both American entry into World War I and World War II. His diary indicates that he was a racist and antisemite, who privately used coarse language and slurs to describe various ethnic and racial groups (though he believed it was in poor taste to use such slurs publicly).NEWS, Mencken Was Pro-Nazi, His Diary Shows,weblink November 23, 2015, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, December 5, 1989, Mencken at times seemed to show a genuine enthusiasm for militarism, though never in its American form. "War is a good thing," he once wrote, "because it is honest, it admits the central fact of human nature ... A nation too long at peace becomes a sort of gigantic old maid."BOOK, Fred, Siegel, The Revolt Against the Masses, Encounter Books, New York City, 25, His longtime home in the Union Square neighborhood of West Baltimore was turned into a city museum, the H. L. Mencken House. His papers were distributed among various city and university libraries, with the largest collection held in the Mencken Room at the central branch of Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library.WEB,weblink H. L. Mencken Room – Enoch Pratt Free Library,, en, April 13, 2018,

Early life

Mencken was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 12, 1880. He was the son of Anna Margaret (Abhau) and August Mencken, Sr., a cigar factory owner. He was of German ancestry and spoke German in his childhood.{{citation |last=Sowell |first=Thomas|author-link=Thomas Sowell |title=Migrations and Cultures: A World View |publisher=Basic Books |place=New York |year=1996 |page=82 |quote= ... it may be indicative of how long German cultural ties endured [in the United States] that the German language was spoken in childhood by such disparate twentieth-century American figures as famed writer H. L. Mencken, baseball stars Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and by the Nobel Prize-winning economist George Stigler.}} When Henry was three, his family moved into a new home at 1524 Hollins Street facing Union Square park in the Union Square neighborhood of old West Baltimore. Apart from five years of married life, Mencken was to live in that house for the rest of his life.{{Citation |url= |title=Detailed description |publisher=Mencken's home |place=Baltimore |deadurl=yes |archiveurl= |archivedate=October 27, 2005 |df=mdy-all}}In his best-selling memoir Happy Days, he described his childhood in Baltimore as "placid, secure, uneventful and happy."Happy Days, p. viiWhen he was nine years old, he read Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, which he later described as "the most stupendous event in my life".St. Petersburg Times â€“ September 23, 1987 He became determined to become a writer and read voraciously. In one winter while in high school he read William Makepeace Thackeray and then "proceeded backward to Addison, Steele, Pope, Swift, Johnson and the other magnificos of the Eighteenth century". He read the entire canon of Shakespeare and became an ardent fan of Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Huxley.{{Sfn | Goldberg | 1925 | pp = 90–93}} As a boy, Mencken also had practical interests, photography and chemistry in particular, and eventually had a home chemistry laboratory in which he performed experiments of his own devising, some of them inadvertently dangerous.Newspaper Days, 1899–1906, p. 58.He began his primary education in the mid-1880s at Professor Knapp's School on the east side of Holliday Street between East Lexington and Fayette Streets, next to the Holliday Street Theatre and across from the newly constructed Baltimore City Hall. The site today is the War Memorial and City Hall Plaza laid out in 1926 in memory of World War I dead. At 15, in June 1896, he graduated as valedictorian from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, at the time a males-only mathematics, technical and science-oriented public high school.He worked for three years in his father's cigar factory. He disliked the work, especially the sales aspect of it, and resolved to leave, with or without his father's blessing. In early 1898 he took a writing class at the Cosmopolitan University.{{Sfn | Goldberg | 1925 | p = 93}} This was to be the entirety of Mencken's formal education in journalism, or in any other subject. Upon his father's death a few days after Christmas in the same year, the business reverted to his uncle, and Mencken was free to pursue his career in journalism. He applied in February 1899 to the Morning Herald newspaper (which became the Baltimore Morning Herald in 1900) and was hired part-time, but still kept his position at the factory for a few months. In June he was hired as a full-time reporter.


Mencken served as a reporter at the Herald for six years. Less than two and a half years after the Great Baltimore Fire, the paper was purchased in June 1906 by Charles H. Grasty, the owner and editor of The News since 1892, and competing owner and publisher Gen. Felix Agnus, of the town's oldest (since 1773) and largest daily, The Baltimore American. They proceeded to divide the staff, assets and resources of The Herald between them. Mencken then moved to The Baltimore Sun, where he worked for Charles H. Grasty. He continued to contribute to The Sun, The Evening Sun (founded 1910) and The Sunday Sun full-time until 1948, when he stopped writing after suffering a stroke.Mencken began writing the editorials and opinion pieces that made his name at The Sun. On the side, he wrote short stories, a novel, and even poetry, which he later revealed. In 1908, he became a literary critic for The Smart Set magazine, and in 1924 he and George Jean Nathan founded and edited The American Mercury, published by Alfred A. Knopf. It soon developed a national circulation and became highly influential on college campuses across America. In 1933, Mencken resigned as editor.

Personal life


(File:Sara Haardt.jpg|thumb|right|Sara (Haardt) Mencken)In 1930, Mencken married Sara Haardt, a German American professor of English at Goucher College in Baltimore and an author eighteen years his junior. Haardt had led efforts in Alabama to ratify the 19th Amendment.{{Citation |url= |type=short biographical sketch |publisher=AL |title=Sara Haardt}} The two met in 1923, after Mencken delivered a lecture at Goucher; a seven-year courtship ensued. The marriage made national headlines, and many were surprised that Mencken, who once called marriage "the end of hope" and who was well known for mocking relations between the sexes, had gone to the altar. "The Holy Spirit informed and inspired me," Mencken said. "Like all other infidels, I am superstitious and always follow hunches: this one seemed to be a superb one."{{Citation |url= |title=Mencken |type=bio |publisher=Mencken house}} Even more startling, he was marrying an Alabama native, despite his having written scathing essays about the American South. Haardt was in poor health from tuberculosis throughout their marriage and died in 1935 of meningitis, leaving Mencken grief-stricken.{{Citation | contribution-url =weblink |title=The Real South: Famous People |publisher=AL |contribution=Literary Figures: Sally Haardt}} He had always championed her writing and, after her death, had a collection of her short stories published under the title Southern Album.

Great Depression, war and after

File:H L Mencken Carl Van Vechten.jpg|thumb|left|225px|Mencken photographed by Carl Van VechtenCarl Van VechtenDuring the Great Depression, Mencken did not support the New Deal. This cost him popularity, as did his strong reservations regarding US participation in World War II, and his overt contempt for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He ceased writing for the Baltimore Sun for several years, focusing on his memoirs and other projects as editor, while serving as an adviser for the paper that had been his home for nearly his entire career. In 1948, he briefly returned to the political scene, covering the presidential election in which President Harry S. Truman faced Republican Thomas Dewey and Henry A. Wallace of the Progressive Party. His later work consisted of humorous, anecdotal, and nostalgic essays, first published in The New Yorker, then collected in the books Happy Days, Newspaper Days, and Heathen Days.

Last days

On November 23, 1948, Mencken suffered a stroke, which left him aware and fully conscious but nearly unable to read or write and able to speak only with difficulty. After his stroke, Mencken enjoyed listening to classical music and, after some recovery of his ability to speak, talking with friends, but he sometimes referred to himself in the past tense, as if he were already dead. During the last year of his life, his friend and biographer William Manchester read to him daily.{{Citation |last=Filkins |first=Dexter | author-link = Dexter Filkins |url= |title=Ailing Churchill Biographer Says He Can't Finish Trilogy |newspaper=New York Times |date=August 14, 2001 |accessdate=July 24, 2014}}}.


Mencken died in his sleep on January 29, 1956.NEWS, HL Mencken, 75, Dies in Baltimore,weblink HL Mencken was found dead in bed early today. The 75-year-old author, editor, critic and newspaper man had lived in retirement since suffering a cerebral hemorrhage in 1948, The New York Times, January 30, 1956, June 15, 2008, He was interred in Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery.{{Find a Grave |706}}Though it does not appear on his tombstone, during his Smart Set days Mencken wrote a joking epitaph for himself:A very small, short, and private service was held, in accordance with Mencken's wishes."Mencken: The American Iconoclast" By Marion Elizabeth Rodgers. Page 549


{{expand section|date=May 2019}}Mencken was preoccupied with his legacy, and kept his papers, letters, newspaper clippings and columns, even grade school report cards. After his death, these materials were made available to scholars in stages in 1971, 1981, and 1991, and include hundreds of thousands of letters sent and received; the only omissions were strictly personal letters received from women.{{Citation needed|date=May 2019}}


In his capacity as editor, Mencken became close friends with the leading literary figures of his time, including Theodore Dreiser, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Hergesheimer, Anita Loos, Ben Hecht, Sinclair Lewis, James Branch Cabell, and Alfred Knopf, as well as a mentor to several young reporters, including Alistair Cooke. He also championed artists whose works he considered worthy. For example, he asserted that books such as Caught Short! A Saga of Wailing Wall Street (1929), by Eddie Cantor (ghost-written by David Freedman) did more to pull America out of the Great Depression than all government measures combined. He also mentored John Fante. Thomas Hart Benton illustrated an edition of Mencken's book Europe After 8:15.Mencken also published many works under various pseudonyms, including Owen Hatteras, John H Brownell, William Drayham, WLD Bell, and Charles Angoff.{{Citation |first=SL |last=Harrison |title=AKA HL Mencken: Selected Pseudonymous Writings |publisher=Wolf Den Books |year=2005}} As a ghostwriter for the physician Leonard K. Hirshberg, he wrote a series of articles and (in 1910) most of a book about the care of babies.Mencken admired German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (he was the first writer to provide a scholarly analysis in English of Nietzsche's views and writings) and Joseph Conrad. His humor and satire owe much to Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain. He did much to defend Dreiser despite freely admitting his faults, including stating forthrightly that Dreiser often wrote badly and was a gullible man. Mencken also expressed his appreciation for William Graham Sumner in a 1941 collection of Sumner's essays, and regretted never having known Sumner personally. In contrast, Mencken was scathing in his criticism of the German philosopher Hans Vaihinger, whom he described as "an extremely dull author" and whose famous book Philosophy of 'As If' he dismissed as an unimportant "foot-note to all existing systems."{{Citation |last=Mencken |first=HL |date=October 1924 |title=Philosophers as Liars |journal=The American Mercury |volume=III |number=10 |pages=253–55}}Mencken recommended for publication philosopher and author Ayn Rand's first novel, We the Living, calling it "a really excellent piece of work." Shortly afterward, Rand addressed him in correspondence as "the greatest representative of a philosophy" to which she wanted to dedicate her life, "individualism," and later listed him as her favorite columnist.{{Citation | editor-last = Berliner | editor-first = Michael |title=Letters |first=Ayn |last=Rand |publisher=Dutton |year=1995 |pages=10 (Mencken's opinion of the novel), 13–14 (Rand's praise of Mencken)}}File:Inherit333-1.JPG|thumb|Mencken is fictionalized in the play Inherit the Wind (a fictionalized version of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925) as the cynical sarcastic atheist E. K. Hornbeck (right), seen here as played by Gene Kelly in the Hollywood film version. On the left is Henry Drummond, based on Clarence Darrow and portrayed by Spencer TracySpencer TracyFor Mencken, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the finest work of American literature. He particularly relished Mark Twain’s depiction of a succession of gullible and ignorant townspeople - "boobs," as Mencken referred to them - who are repeatedly gulled by a pair of colorful con men: the (deliberately) pathetic "Duke" and "Dauphin", with whom Huck and Jim travel down the Mississippi River. These hucksters pose now as earnest fundraisers for temperance—who get drunk on the proceeds; as pious "saved" men collecting money for a far off evangelistic mission—to pirates on the high seas; and as learned doctors of phrenology, although they can barely spell. In the end the townsfolk wise up, and the scoundrels are ridden out on a rail. For Mencken the episode epitomizes the hilarious dark side of America, where democracy, as defined by Mencken, is "the worship of jackals by jackasses."Such turns of phrase evoked the erudite cynicism and rapier sharpness of language displayed by Ambrose Bierce in his darkly satiric Devil's Dictionary. A noted curmudgeon,{{Citation |newspaper=The LA Times |date=January 14, 1990 |title=Mencken |url=}} democratic in subjects attacked, Mencken savaged politics,{{Citation |title=Commentary |contribution=Moyers |publisher=PBS | contribution-url =weblink}} hypocrisy, and social convention. Master of English, he was given to bombast, once disdaining the lowly hot dog bun's descent into "the soggy rolls prevailing today, of ground acorns, plaster of paris, flecks of bath sponge and atmospheric air all compact."NEWS, PJ, O’Rourke, HL Mencken's days trilogy, expanded edition, The New York Times, New York Times Company, New York City, December 7, 2014,weblink As a nationally syndicated columnist and book author, he commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements, such as the temperance movement. Mencken was a keen cheerleader of scientific progress but skeptical of economic theories and critical of osteopathic/chiropractic medicine. He also debunked the idea of objective news reporting since "truth is a commodity that the masses of undifferentiated men cannot be induced to buy", adding a humorous description of how "Homo Boobus", like "higher mammalia", is moved by "whatever gratifies his prevailing yearnings".BOOK,weblink A gang of pecksniffs: And other comments on newspaper publishers, editors and reporters, Mencken, H. L., 1975, Arlington House Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, 978-0870003202, 2019-03-15, As a frank admirer of Nietzsche, Mencken was a detractor of populism and representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors.JOURNAL, Mencken, Henry, Notes on Democracy, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1926, Like Nietzsche, he also lambasted religious belief (and the very concept of God, as Mencken was an unflinching atheist), particularly Christian fundamentalism, Christian Science and creationism, and against the "Booboisie," his word for the ignorant middle classes.{{Citation |first=Joseph jr, PhD |last=Keating |url= |title=Because We Know Chiropractic Works ...|type=sarcastic article |journal=Dynamic Chiropractic |date=July 16, 1993 |volume=11 |issue=15 |publisher=Chiro Web}}{{Citation |first=HL |last=Mencken |url= |title=Prejudices: A Selection |publisher=Johns Hopkins University Press |year=2006}}{{Citation |first=James C |last=Whorton |url= |title=Nature Cures: The History of Alternative Medicine in America |publisher=Oxford University Press |place=US |year=2004}} In the summer of 1925, he attended the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tennessee, and wrote scathing columns for the Baltimore Sun (widely syndicated) and American Mercury mocking the anti-evolution Fundamentalists (especially William Jennings Bryan). The play Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized version of the trial, and, as noted above, the cynical reporter E.K. Hornbeck is based on Mencken. In 1926, he deliberately had himself arrested for selling an issue of The American Mercury that was banned in Boston under the Comstock laws.{{Citation |url= |publisher=Mass Moments |title=HL Mencken Arrested in Boston}} Mencken heaped scorn not only on the public officials he disliked, but also on the contemporary state of American elective politics itself.In the summer of 1926, Mencken followed with great interest the Los Angeles grand jury inquiry into the famous Canadian-American evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. She was accused of faking her reported kidnapping and the case attracted national attention. There was every expectation Mencken would continue his previous pattern of anti-fundamentalist articles, this time with a searing critique of McPherson. Unexpectedly, he came to her defense, identifying various local religious and civic groups which were using the case as an opportunity to pursue their respective ideological agendas against the embattled Pentecostal minister.{{Citation |first=Matthew Avery |last=Sutton |title=Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America |place=Cambridge |publisher=Harvard University Press |year=2007 |pages=119–20}} He spent several weeks in Hollywood, California, and wrote many scathing and satirical columns on the movie industry and the southern California culture. After all charges had been dropped against McPherson, Mencken revisited the case in 1930 with a sarcastically biting and observant article. He wrote that since many of that town's residents acquired their ideas "of the true, the good and the beautiful" from the movies and newspapers, "Los Angeles will remember the testimony against her long after it forgets the testimony that cleared her."{{Citation |last=Mencken |first=HL |title=The American Mercury |year=1930}}In 1931 the Arkansas legislature passed a motion to pray for Mencken's soul after he had called the state the "apex of moronia."Manchester, p. 252In the mid 1930s Mencken feared Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal liberalism as a powerful force. Mencken, says Charles A. Fecher, was, "deeply conservative, resentful of change, looking back upon the 'happy days' of a bygone time, wanted no part of the world that the New Deal promised to bring in."BOOK, Charles A, Fecher, Diary, HL, Mencken,weblink 2012, Knopf Doubleday, New York City, 28,


Race and elitism

In addition to his identification of races with castes, Mencken had views about the superior individual within communities. He believed that every community produced a few people of clear superiority. He considered groupings on a par with hierarchies, which led to a kind of natural elitism and natural aristocracy. "Superior" individuals, in Mencken's view, were those wrongly oppressed and disdained by their own communities, but nevertheless distinguished by their will and personal achievement, not by race or birth.{{external media | width = 210px | align = right | headerimage= | video1 = Booknotes interview with Charles Fecher on The Diary of H.L. Mencken, January 28, 1990, C-SPAN}}In 1989, per his instructions, Alfred A. Knopf published Mencken's "secret diary" as The Diary of H. L. Mencken. According to an Associated Press story, Mencken's views shocked even the "sympathetic scholar who edited it," Charles A. Fecher of Baltimore. There is a club in Baltimore called the Maryland Club which had one Jewish member, and that member died. Mencken said, "There is no other Jew in Baltimore who seems suitable," according to the article. The diary also quoted him as saying of blacks, in September 1943, that "it is impossible to talk anything resembling discretion or judgment to a colored woman. They are all essentially child-like, and even hard experience does not teach them anything."Mencken opposed lynching. For example, he had this to say about a Maryland incident:}}Mencken also wrote:}}In a book review of A Life H. L. Mencken (written by Terry Teachout), journalist Christopher Hitchens described Mencken as a German nationalist, "an antihumanist as much as an atheist," who was "prone to the hyperbole and sensationalism he distrusted in others." Hitchens also criticized Mencken for writing a scathing critique of Franklin Roosevelt but nothing equally negative of Adolf Hitler.NEWS,weblink A Smart Set of One, Hitchens, Christopher, Christopher Hitchens, November 17, 2002, The New York Times, New York Times Company, New York City, July 12, 2019, en-US, 0362-4331,


Mencken countered the arguments for Anglo-Saxon superiority prevalent in his time in a 1923 essay entitled "The Anglo-Saxon", which argued that if there was such a thing as a pure "Anglo-Saxon" race, it was defined by its inferiority and cowardice. "The normal American of the 'pure-blooded' majority goes to rest every night with an uneasy feeling that there is a burglar under the bed and he gets up every morning with a sickening fear that his underwear has been stolen."NEWS, HL, Mencken, The Anglo-Saxon, Baltimore Evening Sun, July 1923,


In the 1930 edition of Treatise on the Gods, Mencken wrote:}}That passage was removed from subsequent editions at his express direction.Hobson, Fred C. Mencken: A Life. (1995), p. 477Author Gore Vidal later deflected claims of anti-Semitism against Mencken:}}As Germany gradually conquered Europe, Mencken attacked President Roosevelt for refusing to admit Jewish refugees into the United States and called for their wholesale admission:


Rather than dismissing democratic governance as a popular fallacy or treating it with open contempt, Mencken's response to it was a publicized sense of amusement. His feelings on this subject (like his casual feelings on many other such subjects) are sprinkled throughout his writings over the years, very occasionally taking center-stage with the full force of Mencken's prose:This sentiment is fairly consistent with Mencken's distaste for common notions and the philosophical outlook he unabashedly set down throughout his life as a writer (drawing on Friedrich Nietzsche and Herbert Spencer, among others).WEB,weblink Last Words by H. L. Mencken, Mencken wrote as follows about the difficulties of good men reaching national office when such campaigns must necessarily be conducted remotely:The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre—the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.NEWS, Bayard vs. Lionheart, Baltimore Evening Sun, Mencken, H. L., July 26, 1920,

Science and mathematics

Mencken defended the evolutionary views of Charles Darwin but spoke unfavorably of many prominent physicists and had little regard for pure mathematics. Regarding Charles Angoff, Mencken said:In response, Angoff said: "Well, without mathematics there wouldn't be any engineering, no chemistry, no physics." Mencken responded: "That's true, but it's reasonable mathematics. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, division, that's what real mathematics is. The rest is baloney. Astrology. Religion. All of our sciences still suffer from their former attachment to religion, and that is why there is so much metaphysics and astrology, the two are the same, in science."Elsewhere, he spoke of the nonsense of higher mathematics and "probability" theory, after he read Angoff's article for Charles S. Peirce in the American Mercury. "So you believe in that garbage, too—theories of knowledge, infinity, laws of probability. I can make no sense of it, and I don't believe you can either, and I don't think your god Peirce knew what he was talking about."Angoff, Charles. H. L. Mencken: A Portrait from Memory. A. S. Barnes (New York, 1961), p. 194Mencken also repeated these opinions multiple times in articles for the American Mercury. He said mathematics is simply a fiction, compared with individual facts that make up science. In a review for Vaihinger's The Philosophy of "As If", he said:}}Mencken repeatedly identified mathematics with metaphysics and theology. According to Mencken, mathematics is necessarily infected with metaphysics because of the tendency of many mathematical people to engage in metaphysical speculation. In a review for A. N. Whitehead's The Aims of Education, Mencken remarked that despite his agreement with Whitehead's thesis and approval of his writing style, "now and then he falls into mathematical jargon and pollutes his discourse with equations", and "[t]here are moments when he seems to be following some of his mathematical colleagues into the gaudy metaphysics which now entertains them".{{Citation |last=Mencken |first=HL |date=June 1929 |title=What Is It All About? |journal=The American Mercury |volume=XVII |number=66 |pages=251–52 |url=}} For Mencken, theology is characterized by the fact that it uses correct reasoning from false premises. Mencken also uses the term "theology" more generally, to refer to the use of logic in science or any other field of knowledge. In a review for both A. S. Eddington's The Nature of the Physical World and Joseph Needham's Man a Machine, Mencken forcefully ridiculed the use of reasoning to establish any fact in science, because theologians happen to be masters of "logic" and yet are mental defectives:}}Mencken also wrote a review for Sir James Jeans's book, The Mysterious Universe, in which he said that mathematics is not necessary for physics. Instead of mathematical "speculation" (such as quantum theory), Mencken believed physicists should just directly look at individual facts in the laboratory like chemists:}}In the same article which he later re-printed in the Mencken Chrestomathy, Mencken primarily contrasts what real scientists do, which is to simply directly look at the existence of "shapes and forces" confronting them instead of (such as in statistics) attempting to speculate and use mathematical models. Physicists and especially astronomers are consequently not real scientists, because when looking at shapes or forces, they do not simply "patiently wait for further light", but resort to mathematical theory. There is no need for statistics in scientific physics, since one should simply look at the facts while statistics attempts to construct mathematical models. On the other hand, the really competent physicists do not bother with the "theology" or reasoning of mathematical theories (such as in quantum mechanics):Mencken ridiculed Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, believing that "in the long run his curved space may be classed with the psychosomatic bumps of Gall and Spurzheim".Mencken, Henry Louis. Minority Report, H. L. Mencken's Notebooks. Alfred A. Knopf (New York, 1956), pp. 273–74 In his private letters, he said:



Mencken's home at 1524 Hollins Street in Baltimore's Union Square neighborhood, where he lived for sixty-seven years before his death in 1956, was bequeathed to the University of Maryland, Baltimore on the death of his younger brother, August, in 1967. The City of Baltimore acquired the property in 1983, and the H. L. Mencken House became part of the City Life Museums. It has been closed to general admission since 1997, but is opened for special events and group visits by arrangement.


Shortly after World War II, Mencken expressed his intention of bequeathing his books and papers to Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library. At his death, it was in possession of most of the present large collection. As a result, his papers as well as much of his personal library, which includes many books inscribed by major authors, are held in the Library's Central Branch on Cathedral Street in Baltimore. The original third floor H. L. Mencken Room and Collection housing this collection was dedicated on April 17, 1956. The new Mencken Room, on the first floor of the Library's Annex, was opened in November 2003.The collection contains Mencken's typescripts, newspaper and magazine contributions, published books, family documents and memorabilia, clipping books, large collection of presentation volumes, file of correspondence with prominent Marylanders, and the extensive material he collected while he was preparing The American Language.Other Mencken related collections of note are at Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University, and Yale University. In 2007, Johns Hopkins acquired "nearly 6,000 books, photographs and letters by and about Mencken" from "the estate of an Ohio accountant."NEWS,weblinkweblink yes, September 10, 2016, BOOKS MENCKEN COLLECTION, Staff, 2009, Associated Press, subscription, July 8, 2016, HighBeam Research, The Sara Haardt Mencken collection at Goucher College includes letters exchanged between Haardt and Mencken and condolences written after her death. Some of Mencken's vast literary correspondence is held at the New York Public Library. "Gift of HL Mencken 1929" is stamped on The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Luce 1906 edition of William Blake, which shows up from the Library of Congress online version for reading. Mencken's letters to Louise (Lou) Wylie, a reporter and feature writer for New Orleans's The Times-Picayune newspaper, are archived at Loyola University New Orleans.WEB, H. L. Mencken Letters Finding Aid,weblink Special Collections & Archives, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans, 17 July 2018,



  • (George Bernard Shaw: His Plays) (1905)
  • The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (1907)
  • The Gist of Nietzsche (1910)
  • What You Ought to Know about your Baby (Ghostwriter for Leonard K. Hirshberg) (1910)
  • Men versus the Man: a Correspondence between Robert Rives La Monte, Socialist and H. L. Mencken, Individualist (1910)
  • Europe After 8:15 (1914)
  • A Book of Burlesques (1916)
  • A Little Book in C Major (1916)
  • A Book of Prefaces (1917)
  • In Defense of Women (1918)
  • Damn! A Book of Calumny (1918)
  • The American Language (1919)
  • Prejudices (1919–27)
    • First Series (1919)
    • Second Series (1920)
    • Third Series (1922)
    • Fourth Series (1924)
    • Fifth Series (1926)
    • Sixth Series (1927)
    • Selected Prejudices (1927)
  • Heliogabalus (A Buffoonery in Three Acts) (1920)
  • The American Credo (1920)
  • Notes on Democracy (1926)
  • (Menckeneana: A Schimpflexikon) (1928) – Editor
  • Treatise on the Gods (1930)
  • Making a President (1932)
  • Treatise on Right and Wrong (1934)
  • Happy Days, 1880–1892 (1940)
  • Newspaper Days, 1899–1906 (1941)NEWSPAPER, Jonathan Yardley's Second Reading: H. L. Mencken's 'Newspaper Days', THe Washington Post, July 3, 2009,weblink
  • A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources (1942)
  • Heathen Days, 1890–1936 (1943)
  • Christmas Story (1944)
  • The American Language, Supplement I (1945)
  • The American Language, Supplement II (1948)
  • A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
Posthumous collections
  • Minority Report (1956)
  • On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe (1956)
  • {{Citation |title=The American Scene |year=1965 | editor-first = Huntington | editor-last = Cairns}}.
  • The Bathtub Hoax and Blasts & Bravos from the Chicago Tribune (1958)
  • {{Citation |title=A Gang of Pecksniffs: And Other Comments on Newspaper Publishers, Editors and Reporters |year=1975 | editor-first = Theo jr | editor-last = Lippman}}.
  • {{Citation |title=The Impossible HL Mencken: A Selection of His Best Newspaper Stories |year=1991 | editor-first = Marion Elizabeth | editor-last = Rodgers}}.
  • {{Citation |title=My Life As Author and Editor |year=1992 | editor-link = Jonathan Yardley | editor-first = Jonathan | editor-last = Yardley}}.
  • A Second Mencken Chrestomathy (1994)
  • Thirty-five Years of Newspaper Work (1996)
  • {{Citation |title=A Religious Orgy in Tennessee: A Reporter's Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial |year=2006 |publisher=Melville House Publishing}}.

Chapbooks, pamphlets, and notable essays

  • Ventures into Verse (1903)
  • The Artist: A Drama Without Words (1912)
  • The Creed of a Novelist (1916)
  • Pistols for Two (1917)
  • The Sahara of the Bozart (1920)
  • Gamalielese (1921)
  • "The Hills of Zion" (1925)
  • The Libido for the Ugly (1927)

See also





  • Hart, D. G. (2016), Damning Words: The Life and Religious Times of H. L. Mencken, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. {{ISBN|978-0-8028-7344-6}}
  • Bode, Carl (1969). Mencken. Southern Illinois University Press. {{ISBN|0-8093-0376-0}}.
  • ENCYCLOPEDIA, Evans, Rod L., Rod L. Evans, Ronald, Hamowy, Ronald Hamowy, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, Mencken, H. L. (1880–1956),weblink 2008, SAGE Publications, SAGE; Cato Institute, Thousand Oaks, California, 978-1-4129-6580-4, 750831024, 2008009151, 324–25, 10.4135/9781412965811.n196,
  • {{Citation |last=Goldberg |first=Isaac |year=1925 |title=The Man Mencken: A Biographical and Critical Survey |publisher=Simon & Schuster |OCLC=367064}}.
  • {{Citation |last=Hobson |first=Fred |year=1974 |title=Serpent in Eden |publisher=Louisiana State University Press |ISBN=0-8071-0292-X}}.
  • {{Citation |last=Hobson |first=Fred | author-mask = 3 |year=1994 |title=Mencken: A Life |publisher=Random House |ISBN=0-8018-5238-2}}. Also published in paperback by Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Manchester, William (1951). Disturber of the Peace: The Life of HL Mencken. Harper. {{OCLC |1134366}}
  • Rodgers, Marion Elizabeth (2005). Mencken: The American Iconoclast. Oxford University Press. {{ISBN|0-19-507238-3}}.
  • Scruggs, Charles (1984). The Sage in Harlem. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. {{ISBN|978-0-80183000-6}}. {{OCLC |9412727}}.
  • Stenerson, Douglas C. (1974). HL Mencken: Iconoclast from Baltimore. University of Chicago Press. {{ISBN|0-226-77249-7}}.
  • Teachout, Terry (2002). The Skeptic : A Life of HL Mencken. Harper Collins. {{ISBN|0-06-050528-1}}.

External links

{{commons category}}{{wikisource author}} {{Mencken}}{{Scopes Trial}}{{Authority control}}

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