A Choice of Days (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
Henry Louis Mencken was one of the foremost men of letters of the United States and certainly the most memorable. His witty, precise style penetrated to the heart of the American character, exposing its eccentricities and pretenses, revealing its dignity. Through the perceptive pen of this Baltimorean, the nation could behold itself in a spirit of humor. Mencken portrayed the humanity, frail yet powerful, of congressmen and saloonkeepers, policemen and livery stable attendants alike. No one was immune from this master of irony—not even himself. He discerned and portrayed the preposterousness of humanity as could only a person who took himself no more seriously than he deserved. In the Preface to Happy Days, Mencken described himself asa larva of the comfortable and complacent bourgeoisie, though I was quite unaware of the fact until I was along in my teens, and had begun to read indignant books. To belong to that great order of mankind is vaguely discreditable today, but I still maintain my dues-paying membership in it, and continue to believe that it was and is authentically human. . . .
H. L. Mencken was, at the very least, a prodigy. He was reading the works of Mark Twain by the age of eight and he tackled Charles Dickens before he was ten. He was also very determined to enter the world of letters. He appeared at the Baltimore...
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